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#407420 - 08/06/01 01:34 PM
Just the other side of the coin...
2000 Post Club Member
Loc: Denver, Colorado
A while back someone here started a thread about starting piano late but loved it so much that he/she even considered making a career switch. It's heart-warming to see lots of support and encouragement. I'm older than many posters here that I think I have seen a thing or two about music careers (or lack of). When someone said things along the line of "If you have a desire you can do ANYTHING I start to wonder...
Here is an article scratching the other side that we probably want to be aware. It's quite long though...
From today's New York Times:
August 5, 2001
EDUCATION LIFE: CAREERS
How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?
By ROBERTA HERSHENSON
With his tan fedora set atop a headful
of dark curls and a wine-colored
velvet corduroy blazer worn over a T-shirt,
Justin Kantor resembles a roving troubador
with a cello. ''I just love music,'' he said,
shrugging. ''I want to play whatever comes
my way.'' A year away from completing a
bachelor's degree at the Manhattan School
of Music, he can perhaps afford to be
dreamy. But one afternoon in May, after a
four-hour practice session, Mr. Kantor
looked in on the job-networking fair in the
''I'm curious to know what's out there,'' he
Free pizza attracted some of the students
buzzing around tables, where unions touted
health benefits, temp agencies promised
office jobs with time off for auditions, and CD producers, publicity
photographers and loan repayment officers all shined as glaring a light on the
music business as the noon sun bouncing off the white linoleum floor.
A catchy head shot may not seem crucial to a musician's future, but John
Blanchard, career development director at the Manhattan School, believes
otherwise. ''A musician today needs to be a small-business person and build
a career that way,'' he said. ''Managers don't take young potential talents
under their wings and develop them the way they used to do. It's up to the
musician now to get the work, to decide what the head shot should look like,
to write the bio. Competition has driven the level of musicianship up. What
sets you apart now is business savvy.''
Earlier this year, the National Association of Schools of Music, an
accrediting organization, revised its guidelines to state that students should
acquire the entrepreneurial skills necessary to advance their careers. In an
attempt to create a new paradigm for the classical music marketplace, the
Manhattan School, the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School and
other conservatories have begun equipping young concert artists with
practical communication tools, as well as steeping them in musical theory,
history and musicianship. At the Mary Pappert School of Music at
Duquesne, students learn about copyright law and retirement planning. At the
Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, they attend lectures in management
and finance. The Catherine Filene Shouse Arts Leadership Program at the
Eastman School of Music balances ''big thoughts'' -- like contemplating the
future of the American orchestra -- with grant-seeking classes and Web-
casting, says James Undercofler, the school's dean and director. ''We call it
leadership because we don't want it to sound like music business or
management,'' he said.
Career development officers have become missionaries of change, but many
conservatories remain stubbornly tradition-bound. The typical school is still
grounded in the European ethos of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms: Practice is
seen as the surest path to the concert hall, and artistic sensibility rules. Some
fear that a more holistic approach will draw energy away from virtuosity.
Catherine Fitterman, a pianist with a degree in arts administration, thought
she knew a thing or two about the world of music when she founded the
Entrepreneurship Center for Music at the University of Colorado at Boulder
in 1998. What better gift than to share her business knowledge with talented
but inexperienced young people? But when she began talking to aspiring
virtuosos about employment probabilities and backup plans, they didn't want
to hear about it. ''Let's face it, if Liszt walked through here today he would
not be uncomfortable,'' Ms. Fitterman said. ''The students didn't want to
know what to expect when they go out into the world. The performance
majors want to screen out the rest of the world, hunker down and build their
musicianship. They don't even like to leave the building.''
While the notion that ''art and business do not mix'' is loosening, ''it is still
with us,'' Ms. Fitterman said. ''The students said, 'The word business makes
us think we can't succeed as performers.' ''
Amanda Ford, the career development officer at Duquesne in Pittsburgh,
remembers her own struggles after studying composing at Carnegie Mellon
University. ''It was the day after graduation and I woke up,'' she said. ''What
was I going to do? So what if I could write a song or a quartet? I had no
clue about resumes, networking, terms we use every day now. During four
years of undergraduate school no one talked to us about how to get out
there. So I worked on commission, did part-time teaching, was a jingle
writer in Chicago. I made it work, and that's how I want the students to be.
It's good to be optimistic, but you have to be realistic.''
According to the National Association of Schools of Music, 94,307 students
were enrolled in undergraduate or graduate music programs in fall 2000,
nearly a 12,000 student increase from 1996. If the nearly 4,000 concert
performers who graduated in June 2000 had hoped to play in an orchestra,
they would have had to compete not only with one another but also with
thousands of equally well-trained graduates from previous years. Yet only
400 to 500 jobs were available in the country's major orchestras -- that is,
those that pay a living wage. The players keep their jobs for decades, and
hundreds audition for each spot. This, along with decreased government aid
to the arts, strained budgets and the explosion of entertainment choices for
consumers, has contributed to the need for better informed and articulate
musicians who can, say, argue their case for a grant or put together a living
from various sources.
As Ms. Ford put it, ''It's not just how great your chops are but how well you
can sell yourself.''
At the same time, the classical music scene itself is evolving. More money is
being earmarked for community and educational projects, rather than the
traditional full-dress concert. Musicians are taking on roles that they were
never trained for and that were not mentioned in orchestra auditions. These
include teaching in school programs that the government has abandoned,
serving as mentors to disadvantaged children and socializing at fund-raising
''The mid-20th-century artist could just show up at the hall and then leave,''
said Joseph W. Polisi, Juilliard's president. ''Today's artists must be
knowledgeable about the world around them -- they should be passionate
and effective advocates for the arts. Technique and artistry are not the whole
Mr. Polisi is the architect of Juilliard's holistic approach, including a
heightened emphasis on the liberal arts. A $10 million humanities program is
to begin this fall that will stress writing, public speaking and other
The career office at Juilliard is now as much concerned with the inner lives of
performers as with their technical polish. Last semester, Derek Mithaug, the
career development director since 1999, administered personality tests to
students. Then, with the goal of an increased self-awareness that would lead
to smarter career choices, he led a workshop on the differences between
extroverts and introverts. The students, including several dancers, were
asked to group themselves according to personality type. There was laughter
as 16 ''introverts'' crowded together on one side of the room, while only four
students went to the ''extrovert'' side.
''That's impossible!'' Mr. Mithaug exclaimed. ''Seventy-five percent of the
U.S. population is extroverted.''
After dissecting the preferences and ''core needs'' of both personality types,
the students concluded that, contrary to their first impression, introverts and
extroverts alike could pursue chamber music. The intimacy of the form
satisfied extroverts' need for social relationships and introverts' need for
intense communication. Also, both types could find satisfaction in an
orchestra, which required working with others but also provided moments of
''I think there's a balance in the best performers,'' one girl said. ''I don't like
either ****y soloists or the ones with the quiet, scratchy sound.''
The extroverts admitted feeling jealous if they were not included in an
ensemble, and the introverts said they were easily hurt by others. For
Juilliard, with its reputation for cut-throat competition, such revelations were
Art and commerce mixed in another class, led by Aaron Flagg, a trumpeter
and educational consultant at Juilliard. An artist has to build bridges to get
jobs, he told the students. ''It's not enough to play your Prokofiev and go
home. Even as a soloist, you have to schmooze at a reception or you won't
be invited back. You have to talk to them about their grandkids.'' One girl
frowned at the thought. Another murmured, ''That's scary.''
Mr. Flagg explained that because artists are ''not worshipped'' in America
anymore -- people don't come in contact with them often enough to worship
them, he said -- performers must show they are human. ''I'm talking about
breaking down the ivory tower,'' he said. ''You will last much longer, make
more money, work much more if you learn these skills.''
This led to a discussion of artistry. How did the students envision themselves:
as unapproachable figures or regular folks who could laugh at their own
wrong notes? Alpin Hong, a charismatic pianist with long, flowing black hair,
thought an aura was necessary before vulnerability could matter. ''You have
to have a little mystique,'' he said, ''so it's a surprise when you turn out to be
At the Manhattan School, Karen Beardsley, a singer, presents her own
introspective approach, teaching imaging techniques to help voice students
overcome audition fears.
''I have them bring up positive experiences in their lives where they had a
huge success,'' Ms. Beardsley said. ''Nothing good comes of saying to
yourself, 'I hope I don't forget the words, I hope my voice works today, I
hope I don't blow my high notes.' You can make choices about how you
There is only anecdotal evidence that the new entrepreneurial approach
keeps music graduates happily and gainfully employed in the field they love.
But Anna Elashvili, who graduated from Juilliard with a master's in May, is
testament to the need to learn about grants and networking.
She always dreamed of starting her own chamber en-semble but hadn't a
clue how to begin, other than assembling the musicians. At the career office,
her plan got under way. She took a class that covered the publicity bases:
resume writing, press kits, photography. She discovered the Foundation
Center, a crucial source of grants, and began networking, eventually reaching
someone who had begun his own music festival. ''I needed the ABC's,'' she
Ms. Elashvili's group, the Fountain Chamber Music Society -- wind, strings,
percussion, voice and brass -- will start its first official season this fall.
Roberta Hershenson is a frequent contributor to the Westchester section
of The Times.
[ August 06, 2001: Message edited by: AndrewG ]
#407421 - 08/06/01 02:57 PM
Re: Just the other side of the coin...
Loc: Cape Cod, MA, USA
How late do you consider too late to start?
I haven't seen enough situations to decide.
And what exactly do you think the article is trying to say? I just basically take it as: don't go into the music world expecting to get anywhere by just knowing how to play a piece, you got to know how to deal with the other parts that enable you to become successful playing it. I guess it depends alot on connections and the originality of an individual. (then again I'm not really sure originality is exactly what people are looking for now adays when I think of the number of boy bands being produced by the minute) But we're speaking in classical terms here. I don't think it's the same. I have backup plans in case my music career doesn't work. I am also a web designer and am currently doing that as a living now and while I go to college for music this fall. I'm really scared about choosing music as a career, but I have decided to take that chance.
What exactly does one do after graduating from a college of music?
Glenn Gould in regards to music:
The problem begins when one forgets the artificiality of it all, when one neglects to pay homage to those designations that to our minds-to our reflect senses, perhaps-make of music an analyzable commodity. The trouble begins when we start to become so impressed by the strategies of ours systematized thought that we forget that it does relate to an obverse, that it is hewn from negation, that it is but a very small security against the void of negation which surrounds it.
#407422 - 08/06/01 05:40 PM
Re: Just the other side of the coin...
Great article Andrew. Worth every word of reading. Its daunting to see how, even though its always been tough, the luxuries afforded by the truely successful seem to continue falling away.
[ August 06, 2001: Message edited by: Chris W ]