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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000302.txt from 2002/06

From: "Forest E. Aten Jr." <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Majoring in Clarinet Performance
Date: Sun, 9 Jun 2002 12:45:15 -0400

Well said Kevin. I've had several students pursue double degrees and most
come out with MBA's or law degrees (as well as a music performance degree).
Several have had very similar experiences to those you describe.

F. Aten

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kevin Fay" <>
Subject: Re: [kl] Majoring in Clarinet Performance

> posted:
> <<<I've been told that I could become a very good musician, but I've also
> been told I could be a very good businessman . . . . Having a career as a
> symphony player would be a very rewarding "job". That's something that I
> was shooting for before I added business as a double major (the business
> world interests me as well). It's unfortunate that I feel like I would
> never "make it . . . . So, I battle constantly between majoring in
> performance or in business administration. Did some of you on the list
> mixed feelings pursuing the clarinet instead of another interest that
> make you more money? Do you regret, perhaps spending money/time on that
> education?>>>
> These are many questions, which together show a marked level of maturity,
> think. Points to consider --
> 1) You are *not* going to get a chair in a major symphony. Now, I don't
> know you (or even who you are) and have never heard you play. But if you
> are at a school where you can do a double major with biz admin, you're not
> at a major conservatory. Those folks are miles ahead of you already --
> evidenced by the talent + practice that got them in there -- and *their*
> chances are none too good. The chances of you getting such a "job" are
> about the same as winning the lottery; yes, it could happen, but reality
> bites.
> Piece of advice # 1 - before you decide to spend the next X years
> exclusively studying clarinet, take a field trip to Eastman, Julliard or
> wherever Howard Klug is teaching. Hear the students in that studio, and
> yourself the hard question if you will *ever* play that well. Then ask if
> you will ever play as well as they will once they have done their hard
> to be included in the 150 that show up for the National audition.
> I was a music major in college for a while, thought myself a pretty good
> clarinet player. Then I met a girl who not only was a looker, but could
> play rings around most everyone else. She went to Eastman for grad work,
> went to law school. (She taught me a lot in nine years of marriage, too.)
> 2) Just because you're not going to get a chair in a major symphony
> mean that you can't make a living playing clarinet. You must realize,
> however, that this is still really, really difficult. Sean Osborn noted
> that 8 people do it in Seattle - I live here too, and I think he's about
> right. 8 out of 6 million isn't quite a one in a million long shot, but
> close.
> You can enhance your earning power through performing music if you start
> doubling, now (you should have started a few years ago, but no matter).
> You'll need 4 sizes of saxophone plus a flute at a minimum. Here in
> (a fairly representative city) you could add and additional 20 people to
> that total if you look at the stable of commercial musicians in town.
> . . . of course, you should do the research there too. Gigging musicians
> spend a lot of time in smoky bars and cruise ships, and while they make a
> living it's not a great deal of money.
> 3) You can *vastly* enhance your earning power if you teach, either
> privately or public school music. I don't know of many musicians who do
> supplement their income through teaching. Note, however, that even the
> expensive teachers only make so much money; public school teachers can
> a very nice life, too, but not usually an affluent one.
> Piece of advice # 2 - go into teaching *only* if you want to be a teacher.
> Teaching is an entirely different skill set than performing. The best
> teachers I know - and I know many, as I tend to hang with them - are not
> necessarily the best musicians. (Their work is in inspiring young minds,
> not oral/digital manipulation.) There are way too many failed performers
> teaching school and hating every minute. If you don't like kids (and I
> *really* like kids), this is not for you. Teaching shouldn't be a "fall
> back" but your first choice.
> 4) You don't have to be a music major to play a lot of music. Charlie
> Neidich graduated from Yale with the award for being the outstanding
> musician of his class - but majored in anthropology. Indeed, a business
> background can do much to enhance the gigging musician's earnings -- Kenny
> Gorelick (Kenny G to the public) is not only a pretty good saxophone
> he's also a certified public accountant.
> I have a day job that takes a fair bit of time, plus 3 kids. I still play
> in a good community orchestra, a wind ensemble, a "band" (not very good,
> they know how to party) and am regularly called to play in other
> and musical theater. I turn down more gigs than I play. I'm a true
> - musica amo. Because I don't do it for (or need) the money, moreover, I
> can be choosy; I don't play gigs for people I don't like.
> Piece of advice # 3 - Before you dedicate yourself to the quest, ask some
> symphony musicians how much they like their jobs. Many do - but many hate
> the repetition, the conductor, or the person they have to sit next to for
> the rest of their career. If you turn your passion into your job, you
> not like it so much.
> So . . . should you choose a performance degree, or business?
> My answer/advice is to be a performance major. Just get the business
> degree, too - especially if you like it. There is nothing making you a
> dimensional drone except the blinders you put on yourself, or perhaps the
> bureaucracy at your college (which, if you're smart, you'll figure a way
> around).
> Even if you are to go the performance route, you really ought to fill out
> your education with other stuff. Spend much time on the list, and you'll
> see things like a musicologist (like Dan Leeson) and world-recognized
> performers (like Tony Pay) sharing the background in mathematics. Want
> computer advice? Many, many, many IT geeks on this list. We've got a
> of lawyers, too, but hey what can you do?
> Think of it this way - the university is nothing more than a Knowledge
> Supermarket, and you are the customer. Fill up the cart with as much as
> can. If it takes 5 or 6 years to get your second (or third) degree, so
> what? You're young. Money? Get a job along the way; if you really do
> business aptitude, you'll find a way to deal with it.
> I have 2 undergraduate degrees off the 5-year plan, both stereotypically
> "worthless" from an economic perspective (history and political science).
> Do I regret not getting a performance degree? Yes indeed - not because of
> the piece of paper -- it has little intrinsic worth -- but for the extra
> knowledge I would have like to pick up with it. I don't have the full
> of music theory that I should to be a more successful performer, for
> example. While I don't think that my career path would have changed one
> iota, in hindsight I would have liked to have gotten the performance
> too.
> Best of luck,
> kjf
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