Artistry of Delusion

In today’s society, pursuing a career in music is extremely difficult and often times disparaging. There are a lot, and by a lot I mean a majority, of musicians that have fostered quite a few delusions about being a musician. There is this glamour and enchantment that often surrounds the world of music. I have seen many good musicians change their life paths and pursue other endeavors.

Of course, these problems that plague the career of musicians, that sense of delusion, can be corrected or more importantly prevented.

How can it prevented, how can we insure amateur musicians of today that, while you cannot avoid some struggle as there is with any field, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will find a sense of security.

The impetus behind this subject is the result of many years of seeing friends and colleagues who pursue degrees, often in higher ed, that – and I hate to say this – have no business doing so. Nothing frustrates me more than someone who pursues a doctoral degree in music with the intention of only winning an orchestra job. After letting my frustrating go from a boil to a simmer, I started looking at the situation and problems related to music as a whole. I have observed college student after college student graduate without the necessary skills to be successful.

More often than not, it’s not realized until they’re knee deep in debt.

As I mentioned early, that sense of delusion can be avoid. How? It can be prevented at the very very beginning by showing our younger students the necessity of growth, the importance of being multifaceted, and that there are more jobs available other than playing in an Orchestra. There are music educators, private teachers, there are college positions…but what else? Pursuing a chamber career is not viable…or is it? Why yes, yes it is! And it’s easy to accomplish. You establish yourself, or group, as a nonprofit organization and you’ve just open the doors to millions and millions of dollars in grant funding.

What about starting a music school of your own? Again, work with a few people, establish nonprofit status, write some grants and you could potentially have more than 20k dollars in start-up funds.

It all revolves around this concept of being an entrepreneur. I wrote an article a long time ago about the evolution of the musician. The key points were that the musicians of yesterday are becoming more and more of a rare breed in this industry. There are only a small handful of successful soloists, a career that is only offered to the lucky few, the ones that are really and truly a virtuoso.

How many orchestras and symphonies in this country are fiscally stable? Not to mention that there are immense problems rooted in the business structure of orchestras across the country. Notably, orchestra musicians feel that they can be both performer and administrator. You can, but your orchestra will struggle in a lot of areas. The level of expertise and training that goes into marketing, PR, and advertising is stifling – and at this point, orchestras need the most well equipped and experienced marketing specialists to ensure survival. But that comes at an expense, because those upper level executives in marketing are getting paid big bucks at big companies.

I could go on and on regarding the issues revolving around all the orchestra debacles, I’ll save that for a later date.

Musicians of today and tomorrow are not only great instrumentalists, they are great writers, great teachers, critics, clinicians, and entrepreneurs.  Musicians know how to manage their own performing careers, how to recruit students, how to communicate with their community, and how to live.

If they don’t have all or some of these skills, then they will likely struggle to survive.

These are this skills WE should be teaching our students, these are the concepts we should be emphasizing. Not to mention that, as musicians and teachers, we should be STRONGLY encouraging our students to go out in the community and play…everywhere. It’s one things to have the skills to succeed, it’s another to not contribute to building and fostering the audience necessary to support your career.

There’s no one to blame but ourselves if we don’t change.

How many orchestral musicians do you know that are working with public schools? And I’m talking about the orchestra where musicians are full-time, not per service, and make enough to survive. I know only a few.

It’s time to change. 


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