In September 2019 I will move to London to start a 4 year undergraduate course in Classical Guitar Performance at the Royal College of Music.
"I first picked up a Ukulele at the age of 4, and a guitar at the age of 6. I started to learn by watching and copying YouTube videos of incredible guitarists like Rodrigo y Gabriela, Sungha Jung and Tommy Emmanuel. I would sit for hours and hours trying to play like them.
My first busking experience was at the Edinburgh Festival at the age of 8, and for many years I was the youngest street performer at the Fringe, I met and learned a lot from some incredibly talented musicians in those early years.
On my 9th birthday I went to the Dominion Theatre in London, to see the musical 'We Will Rock You' - unbeknown to me at the time, this was my first connection with a band, and a song, which would change the direction of my life.
A couple of years later I decided to try to learn a new piece of music. I had seen a video of an American classical guitarist named Edgar Cruz, playing his own incredible instrumental arrangement of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
It took months to learn, hours and hours of practise, and eventually I made my own video (looking back now it's not that great, but hey I was only 12! Find newer versions on my YouTube channel - I still play it regularly!) - Anyway a few months later it was spotted by Queen's management team and they shared it on the band's official Facebook page, it was also tweeted by Brian May.
I did play on!
By now I had a couple of great teachers and my playing was improving rapidly. I started to gig regularly and to compose some of my own pieces. Every August I would return to perform at the Fringe in Edinburgh.
During one of those visits, in 2015, another video of Bohemian Rhapsody emerged (at the top of this page) - filmed on The Royal Mile by an audience member and uploaded to Facebook. There are now many copies of this online, some with tens of millions of views.
In 2016 I reached the final of a TV Guitar Talent show for Sky Arts called "Guitar Star" - and had some fantastic opportunities to work with guitar legends including Tony Iommi, George Benson and Miloš Karadaglic.
In 2018 I recorded my first full length CD, I did everything myself, played all instruments, mixed and mastered the tracks, using skills learned whilst studying A level Music Technology. I funded this 100% using money earned from busking and gigging.
I went on to arrange and record several other Queen tracks and am currently working on an EP of Queen arrangements for classical guitar - watch this space for that! Teaser video at the bottom of this page...
Throughout all this time I continued to study classical guitar, and in December 2018, at the age of 17, auditioned for a place at "The Royal College of Music" in London.
The audition was tough and took months to prepare for, but it paid off, and they offered me a place on the spot, a 4 year undergraduate course in classical guitar performance. An incredible opportunity, to continue my musical studies at one of the World's top conservatoires.
So why do I need your help?
Well living and studying in London for the next 4 years will not be cheap, and most musicians don't earn a lot!
According to the estimates on the RCM website, the living costs and accommodation will likely be between £12-18,000 per year - and the course fees are on top of that at £9250 per year. So in total £20-27000 per year - a 4 year course could easily rack up £100K of student debt.
I will receive £1000 per year support from an RCM scholarship fund, and I can borrow around £17,000 per year as a student loan (which of course will have to be paid back eventually) - this will just about cover the course fees and the accommodation - so I am still short of any money to cover day to day living, transport, food etc for the next 4 years.
I already have a summer job to start saving some money between now and September but the amount required overall is quite daunting, so all support is very greatly appreciated.
I am offering various rewards in return for pledges, listed below.
- My 13 track Riversong CDs which I self produced and independently released last year.
- Custom Wooden USB Sticks (these are super cool!) containing all of my recorded work (covers and original compositions) along with HD videos of performances, interviews etc.
- Live performances, private gigs, festivals, corporate events etc.
- Personal online video performances.
Thanks for reading my story, if you are able to pledge anything it will be very greatly appreciated, if not please just continue to enjoy the music, if you can subscribe to my YouTube channel, and add me to your Spotify favourites etc, like my Facebook page etc, it all helps, there is a list of social media links below.
Please visit my website http://billywatman.com/ or visit some of the links below:
Youtube subscribe: Billy Watman Music YouTube Channel
Instagram follow : https://www.instagram.com/billywatmanguitar/
Facebook page like : https://www.facebook.com/BillyWatmanMusic/
Follow on Twitter : https://twitter.com/billywguitar
If I can exceed my initial target, any extra pledges will be used to fund 2 new recording projects. I want to release an EP of all original material, classical / flamenco style music, I have 3 pieces already written and several more in the pipeline.
I really want to release an EP of my Queen cover arrangements, I have Bohemian Rhapsody, The Show Must go On, Don't Stop me Now and Love of My Life already recorded, I am working on a few more, including a really cool arrangement of Radio GAGA - but to release covers on CD or for Spotify iTunes etc is complicated and there are extra costs involved in licensing the tracks, copyright etc - it would be so cool though. I will probably issue those as a limited edition, perhaps with a dedication to all who contributed to this fund.
Anyway that's for the future, right now I need to concentrate on hitting my initial target of £1500. Thanks again for reading - Billy :-)