A question about Patrons in the SCA was raised on a bardic list I’m actively a part of.
“Is there a tradition anywhere out there about being a bardic Patron? I know some folks have students, and Laurels can take apprentices… but is anyone/does anyone have a patron? How has that worked? Thanks!”
I decided to post my own answer below.
I would say that patronage is fluid. I view Master Julien de la Pointe and his lady Mistress Carolyne as my first Patrons – it was he who put me in situations where I would be Heard by people beyond the campfire in my home shire. He asked me to perform in challenging locations (the exhibition area at King & Queens A&S, for example, as an exhibition) and at the well-attended Eastern scotch & cigar night at Pennsic. Those were likely the first times anyone heard me outside my little home. They helped me become better known outside my own circle by their work as Patrons. I worked because I wanted to please and entertain them, and that work set the ground for my next Patronage.
Afie (Amanda Lord) and Toki were my next Patrons of a sort, meeting me at Pennsic just three years back or so. They encouraged me greatly, and ultimately my work to become Eastern Bardic Champion was inspired by their encouragement. I still turn to them for advice and assistance. I suspect I ever will.
As Champion I found all of my monarchs to be excellent Patrons. They requested things of me, I complied, and it was quite formal feeling, as was proper and mostly as expected.
However I did have another person who I think really fit, for a time, a very specific role as patron. Shortly after I was named Champion, Baron Angus Pembridge really took on a role as Patron, I think, much more what would have been medieval in style. It was not formalized in a ceremony or anything, but he commissioned a piece not long after we became friends, and provided in exchange a rich muse in the fighting community, which remains a source of constant inspiration to me today. I wrote and performed for him – sometimes by request and sometimes at my own wish – at his encampment and others. He introduced me to many people in that community as a Patron would – taking me to small gatherings, introducing me to people on the field, asking for a performance after the woods battle, and so on. A strong political ally, he helped me navigate the larger sea of Kingdom-level involvement with better grace than I would have had on my own, certainly. (With added help from Toki and Afie.) I would certainly not be the bard I am now without his patronage. Now that I am better-known by the people he wanted me to know, I think that aspect of our relationship has changed from Patron to something more nebulous – but if I am a tower, he is certainly a cornerstone in my foundation.
I think Patronage does exist, formally for some, and less formally for others, but I found it invaluable in every instance and would hope that others have the opportunity to experience it with someone as well.