Monday, September 26, 2005

Ok, I can play a scale...but how do I get a job?

I was reminiscing with a friend the other day about our musical education together. Both of us were violinists at Indiana University Bloomington's School of Music, and she actually managed to escape alive - and is still pursuing violin. Done with her master's, she's taking auditions now, and trying to sort out offers, and contracts, and requirements and rehersals. And of course, she has no real idea how.

"It's like - ok, now I can play a scale...but how do I get a job?"

Music schools are still a step behind the rest of the universe it seems, because very few of them have any sense that a practical education is necessary in addition to the artistic one. Here is a group of people who will definitely NOT be entering any sort of corporate world - who will, for the most part, be self employed. They are going to be juggling teaching and gigs and part time orchestra jobs. They will be piecing together their musical life in drips and drabs - and most of them will have no idea how to handle it.

Why not have classes about what an orchestra wants to see on your resume, as well as hear in your sound? What kind of contracts are negotiable? How to set up your own business, your own website?

Well, music seems like it's always had a "hands off" approach to reality. They certainly aren't very good about presenting the fact that most people who graduate WON'T be getting the big New York Philharmonic jobs we've all wanted. There is this tacit agreement that because we are in the pursuit of art, the real world can wait. But then you get there, and what do you do?

For me, it was obviously a different path. My real world didn't include being a performer - I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn't good enough to make it. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do - and to an extent, I did it alone. How can you tell your teacher, whose job it is to train you to be one thing, that you're thinking of moving on? That in their, and your eyes, you are failing?

Music may be an ethereal process, a being beyond the common human experience, but we all need to eat. There is a certain reality that is missing - maybe it has to be. Maybe if we added to much realism, the magic would disappear. But, maybe there is a medium to be found - a place where music can be made, but in the real world.

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