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I first came into contact with Spartan Press through a conversation with Tim Knight, one of their composers who specialises in choral and educational music, whilst looking for work placements for my Year in Industry scheme. The opportunity to work at Spartan Press immediately excited me as I was keen to get a broad experience of the Music Publishing process. Spartan Press could provide exactly that with an overview of the whole process and an exciting adventure in the highlands as a bonus. Over the course of a few emails I spoke with Mark Goddard, director and founder of Spartan Press Music Publishers, and we had arranged for him, his wife Pat Goddard and myself to meet for drinks and dinner in London to discuss a possible summer placement.
On meeting we talked about the music publishing industry, how sheet music publishing works, Spartan Press's place within it, the day-to-day of Spartan Press and what I hoped to gain from a placement with them. We also chatted about our mutual love of cricket and Mark's dogs—a subject I would soon understand as an integral part of their lives whilst on placement. On departure, as I was heading for my train, Mark and Pat both agreed that they'd love to have me, and on follow up emails Mark and I confirmed a 6 week period of work.
On arriving at Spartan Press, Mark had a series of projects and activities that I was able to get involved with. The biggest of which being a typesetting project for Julian Lloyd Webber. During my 6 weeks I was to typeset 6 Vivaldi Concerti Julian had edited and recorded for Naxos, for two solo cellos and string orchestra. I completed them at a rate of one per week and, in doing so, my typesetting skills and fluency with Sibelius improved dramatically. By showing me the Spartan Press formatting standards, both in line with common printing practices and company style, and how the Sibelius files are then processed once complete through the line using plugins for Adobe Acrobat Pro, Mark showed me how to produce scores to a professional and publishable standard. A skill I will be sure to find useful in my future career. By the end of my time, 2nd proofs of the first two Concerti were sent to Julian, in addition to 1st proofs of the rest of the Concerti.
I was also given experience in all the other areas of the company. From printing and stitching new products in the print room, packing and posting orders in the post room, and doing various stock top-ups and stock checks, both Tess and Jay were incredibly helpful with showing me how products are handled in the business.
My most notable experience, however, outside of the typesetting project, was covering for Dave on the trade sales desk whilst he enjoyed his holiday. Being the summer, I was able to take the helm at a relatively quiet time for the business. Having said that, this responsibility gave me a strong working knowledge of the mighty Zeus database—Zeus is the database in which all knowledge of the business is held. Products, customers, and sales are all stored and logged in Zeus—a good report with customers on the phone and a working knowledge of all the stock in the forward stock room.
Mark, Pat, Dave, Annette, Tess and Jay were all very accommodating and generous with their time and experience when showing me the ins and outs of the Spartan machine. I was able to learn an awful lot about the business in my time there and gained invaluable experience of the Music Publishing Industry.
Socially, they were also very generous. Mark and Pat providing both food and accommodation and welcoming me into their family home, I immediately felt at ease with the family and the place. Being a keen cricketer, Mark was able to give me a game of cricket at the foot of Ben Nevis with his local team! Tess and Jay both showed me the local villages of Newtonmore and Kingussie on their regular trips to post office. Dave and his family were also very welcoming, taking me to Avimore for an evening and inviting me 'round for evenings.
As a place, Strathmashie was simply stunning. In the evenings and weekends, I would explore the local area, going for runs and bike rides and was never disappointed with the next stunning view that greeted me. I also made the most of the local attractions visiting the Highland Folk Museum, Ruthven Barracks, and joining one of the Quad-Bike Tours just 5 miles down the road. Another particular highlight during my time there as well as the cricket game and trip to Avimore, was when Tess and Jay took me up to their favourite view point where you can see the river Spey meandering through the whole valley, framed by mountain upon mountain. I would recommend a visit whole-heartedly and am sure it's a part of the world I will one day find myself in again.
Overall, my time at Spartan Press proved to be an excellent use of 6 weeks. Through Mark, Pat, and the rest of the company's generosity, I gained great industry experience, applicable skills, and was able to experience a beautiful part of the world.