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Through all the careers she has had over the years, music had always been Mishael Figueira’s passion. When she left high school she wanted to study music and pursue the arts but instead found herself briefly studying child psychology. Down the line, she worked as a computer programmer for several years before becoming a bookkeeper, putting aside her creative aspirations for a safer, more accepted path. But music was always waiting—and while life had made other plans, Mishael kept her passion alive by singing in bands and performing in musicals outside of her 9-5’s.
Over the last couple of years, Mishael noticed technology was starting to take over the tasks that bookkeepers used to take care of, so she started thinking about a career change as a way to stay ahead of the curb. After co-producing a musical that propelled her back into the industry, she realised that she didn’t want to upskill as a bookkeeper and become an accountant—it was time to let her creative talent take centre stage.
Researching the best route, Mishael stumbled upon Collarts and found herself applying to a two-year accelerated Bachelor of Music Performance. At 40-something, the mother of two made a decision to not only invest in her career in music, but her time, energy and care. It’s safe to sat, it took a bit of a run-up to find the courage to apply. “It took me about six months to get the gumption to put an application in and talk to them,” she shares. “It’s quite a scary thing to do.”
Explaining the first year of her studies, it was a change leaving the comfort of routine. “I had to sit down with my family and say, this is what Mummy’s doing. Everybody has to pitch in, otherwise, the house is going to fall down around your ears,” recalls Mishael.
“Do it… change is always scary but if you are prepared for it you’ll be fine.”
While Mishael was completing an accelerated degree full-time, Collarts was flexible enough to allow her to keep on tabs with work outside of study. Looking after a few bookkeeping clients as well as teaching the odd singing lesson, she was able to continue her lifestyle while completing her qualification as fast as possible. “I chose Collarts because it was only two years,” she says. “I knew it would be full-on, but, especially as a mature-age student, it means you can get into the industry quicker. That was a real selling point for me.”
Of course, it wasn’t always easy. Juggling work, study and home life is a hard balance that requires excellent time management skills. “I do everything in 15 minute lots,” says Mishael. “I’ve got to be really good with my diary and putting things in. If I don’t keep on top of it, it stuffs it all up.” While keeping time was an important tool that maturity had fortified, she found herself faced with the tightrope from time-to-time. She says that remembering that it’s only temporary helps her and her family keep going.
“There was nothing to worry about. I can sit down at lunch with them and have great laughs and conversations and no one treats me differently. We’ve all got music as a common interest.”
Although finding balance was hard at first, the anxieties of going back to study found Mishael questioning if she would fit in with younger students, but found that they had more in common than they had differences. “Before I started that was one of the things I was dubious about,” says Mishael. “What are they going to think of me being mature age? Are they going to accept me? There was nothing to worry about. I can sit down at lunch with them and have great laughs and conversations and no one treats me differently. We’ve all got music as a common interest.”
Mishael notes she was also surprised by the way technology has changed things in education. “If I need sheet music I’ll just go online,” she nodded. “Or you’re in rehearsal and you can just record straight onto your phone. There is no reasonable excuse why you can’t do well. You don’t even have to go to the library—it’s on your phone.”
When asked about her final piece of advice for returning back to study, Mishael recognised the intial change and challenge is what makes it the most rewarding. “Do it,” she says. “It is really scary and you definitely need to plan and consider how it’s going to affect your life. But I think there are lots of people in my situation where they have to upskill because they are either losing a job or the industry is going under. Change is always scary but if you are prepared for it you’ll be fine.”