Congratulations, new music graduate! You have your music degree at last. You are now officially prepared to commence life as a musician. Do you feel prepared?
I came across this thought-provoking story in the newspaper recently. Several recent graduates of Widener Law School are suing the school for false advertising. They are claiming that the school misrepresented the employment statistics for its graduates. These new lawyers have expensive educations and no jobs. Here is my thought: if lawyers can’t find work, how much harder will it be for newly minted musicians?!
All schools want their students to be successful. After all, a successful alum makes the school look good.
But your success is your responsibility.
Here are five things I think are essential to have as you start on your path. (The first two are things you should already have learned in school, and none of them is a calendar or a website.)
1. A firm technical foundation. This is not just having a good technique. It is having a solid understanding of the mechanics of playing your instrument. You should have a repertoire of studies to keep in shape, as well as to rehabilitate your technique when needed, and ways to keep your technical standard high.
2. Know the important repertoire. You should know the standard repertoire for your instrument and genre. All the orchestra excerpts, solos and concertos. The usual jazz standards or wedding classics. One friend of mine is spending the last few weeks of his undergrad years learning student concertos that he never learned but may need to teach someday. A wise plan!
3. Find a mentor. Your mentor should be someone you can trust for advice, opinions and new ideas. A teacher is good, but even better is a colleague on a path similar to yours but a few steps further down the road. This person will have valuable experience you can learn from and model.
4. Have a plan. Don’t let life just happen to you. It will anyway, but if you have a plan, you are less likely to be thrown off course. Your plan should clearly state how you want to grow musically and professionally (as in business, income, etc.). Maybe grad school is a part of your plan. Good for you, as long as it’s not just a delaying tactic but a strategy to achieve your goal.
5. Be open. Follow your plan, but be open to unexpected opportunities. Take advantage of what the world offers you. When you’re prepared (see steps 1-4), all kinds of possibilities will present themselves. And you will be ready!
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