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 Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: frank 
Date:   2006-11-09 18:13

Wanting to, and becoming a professional musician is one of the most exciting, yet disappointing life choices. I don't find many posts that actually discuss the downside of choosing this path. It's disturbing how many college programs exist for performance majors. Why are universities training people in a field where their is virtually no gainfull employment? College teachers are in essence, training other's to be college teachers. This cycle continues because if said college teacher tells said student that there are NO JOBS to be had, the teacher then cuts his career short by losing students. Very select few individuals are lucky enough to land a full time playing gig. There are a lot of great players out there. What would happen if a big orchestra like Chicago folded? John Yeh is great and could win any job out there, but...are there any jobs out there for him that would be equal to or greater than what he currently has? He has a lifestyle and income that might need to be maintained. This is my point. John can't just "apply" to the Philly orchestra. Where is he going to work if there are no other openings? All this assumes he still wants a steady orchestra gig.

I am at a sad place in my music career. The future isn't bright. Actually, it never was, and hasn't been in this country for at leat 20 years. When we are young and then in college, everything is idealised. Most serious performance students dream of that orchestra, pit/studio or solo gig. Reality is that thise gigs barely exist. And...they don't pay much. It currently costs between 1100-1400k a month in San Francisco for a studio apartment. A STUDIO! I see freelance musicians in the bay area working the beat. They work 7 days a week and drive nearly all day from gig to gig. I highly doubt most clear 35k a year. That is poverty level in this area. They would literally qualify for food stamps. It's only going to get worse. Orchestras and pit work are becoming dinosaurs and museum artifacts. Classical music is a bad business to get into. There are no jobs and the pay for the majority of them is extremely low. Consider this: a San Francisco cop makes between 67k-85k a year...STARTING SALARY! You need at least a GED to qualify. How many full time orchestras pay this high? My 6+ years of college have been a waste I guess.

I am not trying to discourage anyone from playing music or trying to become a working pro. I think music is fun and love it dearly. Sadly, when my current job ends, my professional career has to end. Not by choice, but by the sheer fact that I WILL NOT get a lateral or better playing job. I can't wait to just play for fun again! yay!  :) My advice is to follow your passion and dreams in life. Understand that becoming a working professional musician can be a very long, frustrating, heartbreakingly difficult road. It can also be amazing to experience if you are lucky enough. Most of us wake up one day and realise that eating Ramen noodles and peanut butter sandwiches while living in a studio apartment with two other people is not an option anymore. Good luck to all of you!



Post Edited (2006-11-09 18:17)

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: GBK 
Date:   2006-11-09 18:51

We've had much of this discussion before and Frank has eloquently made his point.



Previously, on this subject I wrote:

"...Let's ask a few questions:

The odds of winning an orchestral job? Not good

The security of an orchestral job? Not great.

The job market for clarinetists? Poor

The chances of making a living strictly playing the clarinet? Not going to happen.

The stability and liklihood of symphony orchestras financially surviving the next 25 years? Tenuous, at best.


Sure... follow your dreams, follow your heart, and all that rubbish...

But -

Each year (just in this country alone), conservatories and universities graduate hundreds of clarinetists whose playing ability borders on the unbelieveable.

The sad fact is that most will never earn a dime by strictly just playing the clarinet.

When you are young, the notion of being a "professional clarinetist" sounds noble and intriguing.

However, after a few years, when your friends have moved on and bought their own homes, have retirement plans in place, have disposable income, medical benefits, and treat themselves to the better things in life, the "professional clarinetist" monicker loses its luster very quickly.

A struggling musician is not a pretty sight..." ...GBK

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: TonkaToy 
Date:   2006-11-09 19:06

Frank,

You've expressed very well the thoughts that, i'm sure, many of us have had. I applaud your ability to verbalize with clarity and without bitterness the sad reality of realizing your dream and passion in life has to end.

When I finished graduate school I was freelancing and working a straight job. I went to take a lesson with my former teacher, and as I recall, it went very well. My teacher was in the process of complimenting me on my playing when he stopped, got this odd look on his face, shook his head, and said, " this is just crazy. I've had students who are wonderful players and the odds are that none of them are going to get a job". We then had a wonderful conversation about the state of the symphony orchestra, the lack of meaningful employment, why conservatories continue to churn out qualified performers for a non existent job market, and all of the other unspoken truths about where a love for music can lead you.

I thought I was going to be one of the lucky ones, as I'm sure everyone does. I was fortunate enough to get a position with a regional orchestra. However, after a couple of years I walked away. I just couldn't imagine leading the life I was leading when I was 50 instead of 25. No health insurance, low pay, Sunday mornings playing, "Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life",and teaching children every week who had no more interest in music than I had in the actuarial sciences.

I stopped playing completly. I just couldn't go on. People would ask me, "why don't you play any more"? I'd try to explain to them that I knew what it was like to play well and I had no interest in playing poorly on an occasional basis. It seemed pointless at the time to practice. There were no performances to prepare for. It seemed beyond insane to practice just to be practicing. For what?

Flash forward 20 years. I practice everyday and don't sound too bad if I do say so. It's not what it once was, but hey. I play a little around town but I'm not really serious about it. I have another life to lead now. But you know what? I love to play the clarinet. I always have and always will. I love the Baerman book. I love playing Rose etudes. I love finding a new piece or revisiting an old piece. It's part of who I am.

I wish there were more employement opportunities for musicians. I would love to be excited about going to work every day, like I once was. In retrospect, and looking ahead because I have a very musically gifted child I would never encourage anyone to pursue a music degree. I think the best model is an old chamber music coach of mine. He had an engineering degree from MIT but was a great bassoon player. His musical talent and drive allowed him to have a wonderful career as a performer and teacher, but he always had that engineering degree from MIT to fall back on.

Frank, but of luck to you. I hope everything turns out well for you.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: ginny 
Date:   2006-11-09 19:08

I did the starving musican thing for years. I got a math degree and work as an actuary. I play for fun and not particularly well on the clarinet. I am happier without finding students and gigs or at least as happy. I am very secure economically. Life is good and I would never go back to making a living at music. I am not unhappy that I did however, I still run into former fans on rare occasion which is cool.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: jmcgann 
Date:   2006-11-09 19:09

Versatility is key.

If you can double (or quintuple) on other instruments,
have GREAT time and a good rhythmic sense for a number of idioms from jazz to various ethnic music,
improvise in a variety of styles, are dependable,
have a good affable personality,
sense of humor,
ability to teach private lessons,
and are open minded about music other than classical,
have intestinal fortitude,

you can work and survive and have a blast playing and teaching music. Depending on where you live, you might even have a decent lifestyle doing the above.

There is pretty good money out there, it just doesn't come with a major symphony orchestra logo on the check (or 401k or benefits or contract). Sometimes the best money is made playing for 'audiences' (i.e. functions) who wouldn't know Chalumeau from Sally Field.

Great rhythm section players with the above qualifications are never out of work. Consider doubling on bass to pay the rent, and organize a woodwind quintet for love.

But whatever you do, for God's sake, marry up! :)

www.johnmcgann.com

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: EuGeneSee 
Date:   2006-11-09 19:10

Frank & GBK: Tell it like it is . . . well spoken and how true - how sad - but it is often the story of the artist's life, be he/she painter, sculptor, musician, composer, etc. The musician usually has to moonlight to survive.

I had a wonderful cousin who played flute in the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, a small assembly little known and even less well endowed financially than the CSO, NSO, etc. He had to moonlight as a night auditor in a motel. That was 25 years ago and we still miss him . . . shot in a middle of the night robbery. Eu

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: David Peacham 
Date:   2006-11-09 19:21

Are jobs really so much harder to come by, or so much worse paid, than 25 or 50 years ago? If so, why: are there fewer jobs, or more candidates?

What about for string players? Among amateur musicians, there is much less competition to get into an orchestra as a string player than as a clarinet player. Is the same true in the professional world? If so, there would seem to be an answer for all these aspiring pro clarinet players - if you love music so much, learn the violin!

-----------

If there are so many people on this board unwilling or unable to have a civil and balanced discussion about important issues, then I shan't bother to post here any more.

To the great relief of many of you, no doubt.


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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: BassetHorn 
Date:   2006-11-09 19:32

Eugene, what happened to your cousin made me really sad. Terrible tragedy. He is now somewhere peaceful playing the flute .

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2006-11-09 19:39

Frank,

...full ack. The same happens, btw, to tons of students who choose to be archeologist or ethnologist or germanist etc - they usually strand being assistants of some professor, help with tuitions etc, but hardly ever see the daylight of their profession. Overworked and underpaid.

Key solution is, as suggested above, versatility. Look for a reasonably well paid part time job and follow your dreams in the other half of the day/week. I'd even advise against another music job, personally I'd do something unrelated, this is more crisis-proof (personal and economical crises).

I know that this is a road away from "Full Pro". But at least your grumbling stomach won't interfere with your performance. And who knows, some day...just don't give up that dream.

--
Ben

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: frank 
Date:   2006-11-09 19:56

<<David wrote:
Are jobs really so much harder to come by, or so much worse paid, than 25 or 50 years ago? If so, why: are there fewer jobs, or more candidates?>>

Just look at all the orchestras that have or are folding in the U.S. Also, broadway and studios are going to electronic music now, which eliminates the doubler/tripler/quadrupler. Europe has more classical jobs available it seems but lets be real here, how many of them can you actually make a great living with? So, it's the same situation over there as here in regards to making music a business and profession. Yes David, jobs are harder to come by now. Often, someone literally has to die for an opening in a high paying (high compared to music jobs, not other professions) to occur. This just happened in San Francisco with the passing of David Breeden. I am talking about jobs that one can make a living on, not community or small local orchestras (pay by service).

String players have the same issues as us, although there is a slightly better chance of finding work in an orchestra due to there being more positions available. Keep in mind that a section violin player usually makes less money than a principal clarinet player. Plus, we are talking professional players here, not amateur. It's a world of difference. There are far better amateur wind players overall than strings. With that said, the average professional string player is far more trained and talented than the above average professional wind player in my experiece.

To me, taking a chance that a top player will retire of pass away in maybe 10 years from now...then trying to beat out 200 other players of which 75 are great and had perfect auditions is not an option. I know MANY great players - some former symphony players making a decent living - who are jobless due to not getting tenure, injury, politics, bad luck, and flat out not having any jobs available for them to win or secure. It's a very romantic idea of being a professional musician. Romance is great, but if you are jobless, homeless, carless, moneyless, that Fabio romance novel image goes down the drain!  :)



Post Edited (2006-11-09 19:59)

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Sylvain 
Date:   2006-11-09 20:19

Pro musicians are very comparable to pro athletes.
The chances that they will make the big bucks are very slim and most college athletes end up doing something else than sports. For all its quirks the NCAA has been advocating training good athletes, but emphasizing that they do have a college education to fall back on.

This is what most music programs lack, they provide students with almost no other options than music, music and music. Once they face the reality of the current job market, they have to make difficult career choices, that they should have been prepared to make during school not after. All music program administrators know that there are not enough jobs for their students, yet do not provide the infrastructure to prepare the student for something else than music. At best, one ends up in a music education department. As far as I am concerned all college students in music programs should be forced to do a minor in something else than music and be made very aware, that most likely they will not make it as musicians.

Life as an amateur musician is great, you can decide to only play the pieces you love, you will always find somebody to play with, you can bribe your friends to come to your concerts, and yes you can make good music and have the best of times.

--
Sylvain Bouix <sbouix@gmail.com>

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: GBK 
Date:   2006-11-09 20:28

Playing the clarinet (saxophone and flute) provides nice extra income.

Could I (even with trying to hustle for EVERY free lance job available) live comfortably doing only that?

Not even close.

Playing clarinet is a great hobby. If you get paid - even better.

Pay the mortagage, get health benefits, job security, disposable income and buy a new car every so often from doing it? No way.

Yes...I know there are those lucky few who have succeeded.

For me - I'd rather play the safe odds.


...GBK

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: seafaris 
Date:   2006-11-09 20:42

I started learning to read music and playing the clarinet 21/2 years ago. (I am now 59 years old.) I did so for fun, and as time has gone by I have thought about how disappointed in some ways I would have been if I had wanted to make music a career.

I hang out in the jazz arena and have met some pros and A LOT of VERY talented semi pros. What great people. They seem pretty happy but none make much money. I think this is really the same in many ocupations. The arts and sciences mainly. I think even if every one told a young person there was no $$ to be made in a certain profession they wouldn't listen. I guess the answer is to minor in Business and see what happens. Wile you are resting you can do tax returns. (pun intended)

My wife told me one, How can you tell when there is a clarinet player at the door? " Pizza Delivery!"



....Jim

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: BassetHorn 
Date:   2006-11-09 21:22

star musicians = celebrity chefs, not that many.

professional musicians = cooking school instructors, star restaurant cooks, majority.

conservatory grads = cooking school grads, looking to land their big job but takes time and sweat.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: EuGeneSee 
Date:   2006-11-09 21:30

Yes, the point of the post might not have been too clear, though. Because of all the rehearsals, various daytime appearances and functions (such as at the state capitol building for some dedication) and what have you, most of the guys and gals in the local symphony orchestra had a hard time keeping regular hours for a "normal" daytime job. Many of them had to work at those often undesireable night jobs. For many professional musicians there is no other way to keep their heads above the water at bill paying time. Eu

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Hank Lehrer 2017
Date:   2006-11-09 21:59

Hi,

I have a degree in music education, taught HS band for 17 years, went to a university job in another field, got my Ph.D., taught for 25 years, retired but still do a lot of teaching/consulting (for 3 different schools).

I played professionally from the time I was 16 and am about to leave for a show gig in 30 minutes. I have all the playing I need at my age and will never work a club date again (I'm too old but can still cut it on the stand very well, thank you).

So what's the magic ingedient? Work hard in all fields, teach students on Saturdays, always be prepared musically, reinvent yourself often (when I went to the university job I was very successful in teaching but already in my mid-40s), and be a friendly colleague but do not be afraid to take the stand and take a stand.

View every thing as a challenge/opportunity and be sure you understand that Saturday and Sunday are the two work days before Monday.

HRL

PS Dedication, hard-work, and sacrifice are always good ideas.



Post Edited (2006-11-13 02:54)

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: kfrank1 
Date:   2006-11-09 22:20

Sax player Ernie Watts when asked about this in an NPR Interview went something like this:

"If you have any doubt about whether to be a musician or something else, be that something else."

"I get students coming up to me and saying "Gee, I don't know whether to become a musician or a computer consultant" I tell them become a computer consultant."

"If when you don't get to play music you become suicidal, homicidal, go out of your mind, you know, someone is going to get hurt, then be a musician"

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: awm34 
Date:   2006-11-09 23:58

Chuck Yaeger (non-astronaut pilot) was often quoted as saying something like "Find something you love doing and adjust your lifestyle to your salary."

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Clarinetgirl06 
Date:   2006-11-10 01:17

This thread bums me out...



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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: marzi 
Date:   2006-11-10 01:33

jmcgann-


you just described one of my
relatives , whose spouse is also a full time professional.
the one thing that i seem to notice about many people with music as their living-small families, like 0-1 kids if both parents are in the music profession except as public school teachers. affordability or time issues?

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: ginny 
Date:   2006-11-10 01:35

Both of my kids have expressed interest in being pro musicians. My answer was, get a business degree and learn marketing, because unless you hit it big or land a teaching gig, it is marketing and business, probably more than talent.

So the younger concluded he didn't really enjoy performing, not really with all the stress. He does fine, not plagued by stage fright or anything, but he doesn't enjoy it. He's started teaching some little kids and a few grownups, and is very good at that, but he is also getting a math or physics degree in addition to a clarinet performance degree. He wants to do music at a very high amatuer level, though I suppose he could change his mind. The older one decided he didn't really want to be a rock star. Whew, I was relieved of that, he wouldn't work on his singing enough which is where the money seems to be in pop styles.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: eric293 
Date:   2006-11-10 01:50

This is something my friends and I at Interlochen have put a lot of thought into. We practice hours a day and will strive to get into the university/conservatory that we want to go to. Even if we do get into the school of our choice, What do we do afterwards? The chance of getting into a high-paying orchestra are very slim. We will probably end up teaching at a university or playing in a small, regional orchestra. We work so hard for no future.

They have a saying her at Interlochen, "Interlochen, where the starving artists of tomorrow begin starving today"

Buffet R13-M15 w/ 3 1/2-V12
Attending Interlochen Arts Academy

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: mnorswor 
Date:   2006-11-10 06:28

GBK and others...

Since when was being an artist ever easy? Throughout history, it's been no secret that most artists earn more money after they're dead! Take a look at some of our greats, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. These guys certainly didn't make what was considered a living wage in their time and we surely don't in ours.

Does the future of music look grim... yes, it always has. I agree with the statements made by all of you that it's difficult. Yes, orchestras are folding, money is in short supply, our friends are buying big screen plasma televisions and we're not, blah blah blah.

For me, I play music (and make a good living playing, mind you) because I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I've had various jobs with orchestras, I play with about 6 different ensembles regularly and have a solo/recital aspect to my career, plus I do a fair amount of teaching. I pay for my own health insurance, I've recently bought a new car (the second in 3 years), I have a nice apartment is a city I love, I get to travel and see the world and more importantly than that, I'm making art.

I have many friends, and some of them quite a bit younger than me at 33, who have their second house, their new BMW (I drive a Honda), plasma TVs and new gadgets all over the place. However, when I was feeling sorry for myself about all of the things I didn't have, I had a talk with a very good friend of mine, the eminent violist, Kim Kashkashian.

Kim told a story about the owner of a very popular record company that has about 50 new releases each year. This man makes money hand over fist, could easily buy whatever he wanted, has all the necessities in life yet chooses to live in a two room apartment in Germany. His one passion is for watch collecting. At the end of this story, Kim looked at me and said, "How much do you really need?" For me, this was a revelation. I realized that I did have all the things that I needed. A roof over my head, food in my belly, safety and security and a few other things. Suddenly, I was very grateful. Then Kim looked at me and said, "and see, you have all you need AND when the next morning comes, you don't mind getting out of bed!"

Sure, it would be easier to go back to my career in web development that ptovided a large salary and many other benefits. However, I CHOOSE to live the life I'm leading because it's interesting, varied, never boring, it provides enough and again, I can't imagine doing anything else with the rest of my life.

Now I'm not saying that everyone should send their kids off to music school. Being a musician is not for the faint of heart or spirit. However, if you choose this life because you need to or want to, you go into it with open eyes. If all of the complaining, griping and what not were replaced with action, perhaps we'd get more done and it wouldn't be so difficult for some us.

The struggle, however, is part of the deal. If you want this, you're gonna work for it, plain and simple. We've always known this and it will probably always be so. But the struggle is part of what gives us the fuel necessary to do the job to the best of our abilities. Would we practice as much if we KNEW that we'd wind up with a job?

About versatility... I think it's a good thing, and a wise thing to recommend. It can certainly help and it works for me. I'd also suggest that people start being creative or proactive about the whole arts situation. Orchestra playing is not the only type of playing that pays, nor is university teaching. Most of us are led to believe this, and it's simply not true. Speaking of which, when was the last time you went to a real live concert and PAID for a ticket? I go at least once a week to something either here or in NY. I believe that supporting my colleagues nd the arts in general through my small contribution of a ticket price is the least that I can do to help things get better. Can I get comps, yes, usually. But, I always choose to pay for the ticket. Again, this is the least I can do if I expect others to do the same at my concerts.

There is a way to turn things around. We've got to think outside the box, find ways of communicating and marketing ourselves and our art and help others find a way to believe that live music is an important LIVING part of culture. And we ourselves have to support change (which happens slowly) and support each other by going to concerts, art galleries, readings, etc etc etc. If WE don't support each other, how can we expect others to?

Taking the easy way out is certainly easier. I prefer to take the more difficult road. For me, I feel like I get to see more, I learn more and it's most certainly never boring!! I wish everyone the best in their musical pursuits, though it will NEVER be easy, and hope that you find some of the same joy that I've found in what is proving to be a most gratifying life!

--Michael Norsworthy
Professor of Clarinet, The Boston Conservatory
Principal Clarinet, BMOP
Artist in Residence Harvard University, HGNM
Performing Artist/Clinician Buffet Crampon, Rico Reeds
http://www.michaelnorsworthy.com

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: skygardener 
Date:   2006-11-10 07:35

Tictaktux is the only one that touched on the idea I would like to point out with more detail.
There is one more big problem thing that people seem to be overlooking. For all of us, even if we don't take the want to be an artist in to account, even if we just want to make ends meet doing nothing special, there are still no jobs out there.
Let's put arts aside for a moment and really think about just getting out of the red, just paying for basic expenses, just doing all the things that are required to stay alive- even THEN, it is not possible for most.
At my College graduation ceremony in 2003 I remember the guest speaker, a CEO from a supermarket chain- the thesis of her opening paragraph went something like this... "the job market for those graduating today is more difficult than it has been in 40 years". We all gave a young, sarcastic, spit-into-the-wind-with-authority cheer and appluded with sincal gusto. We are not laughing anymore.
I know that nearly none of my Undergrad or Graduate classmates (in any major) are truely able to live and pay thier own bills. Those that live on thier own have given up on the prospect of scratching at their student loans, and pay for food with plastic.

The real question is not "How do we make it, as musicians?" the question is "How do we make it?"

And for those of you that say "learn many fields/instruments" "be a jack of all trades". It is a very unrealistic idea of true reality. Sorry. You probably started out in a different era and you can live comfortably today, but things have changed. Last year a study showed that the average American high school graduate in 1968 made (with inflation adjusted to the economy of 2002 taken into account) over $40,000/year. In 2002- less than $20,000/year.
Find me a successful "jack of all trades" that is less than 35 years old.
Learning one (or five) more instruments requires all that more TIME to practice, all that more MONEY to keep one more horn or fiddle in playing condition, and all of those things that are make hard to succeed on even ONE instrument. That cozzy ideal of being a doubler is impossible to unless you have some way to survive for a year or two while you practice your scales on different horns. One has to have money to succle off of for a few years or have parents that can afford to have a border that doesn't pay any rent. The economy really has gotten worse, it is not only a number game; we are making less than our parents.
My grandmother worked in Macy's in the 30's- she made 38 cents/hour. I did the math to find out that 38 cents in 1930's NYC is about $25 in today's NYC- workers at Macy's now, about $10/ hour.
The real question is not "How do we make it, as musicians?" the question is "How do we make it?"
Any ideas??

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: jmcgann 
Date:   2006-11-10 10:53

Sky- "making it" is a relative term. My income stream has been solely from music since I was 20. It meant not owning a car until I was 26, never owning a new car until I was 44, buying my first starter home at 35, etc. Under rent control I paid a very low rent in my 20's. I had 4 roommates, which of course is a challenge. There's no rent control in this area anymore.

Indeed, most of my non-artist peers were ahead of me in these material gains, but I was having fun playing music, seeing the world, and figuring things out.

I have taught private lessons, played guitar, bass, mandolin, steel guitar, sang harmony (I am a beginner at clarinet which is why I'm even posting here!)written for feature articles and columns for music magazines, taken private transcription work, worked for a hack publisher who solicited "song poems" and wrote music to the submitted illiterate scrawl which was then sold back to the "author" by the hack, taught at music camps, music stores, given workshops and clinics, performed everything from classical music to bluegrass to rock and roll to jazz to singer-songwriter music to Irish, Klezmer, and other ethnic music; worked as an arranger, composer, orchestrator, written instructional books, etc. I've played everything from weddings, corporate functions, private parties, bars, concerts, folk and rock clubs, to concert halls with the Boston Pops and Utah Pops. I'm not saying this to brag, but to give a real life scenario.

I believe it is harder nowadays as the scale of $ required to survive is higher, while the wages for music have actually gone DOWN in the past 25 years in some areas- for example, I recall bars in Boston paying $200 a night for a 5 piece band in 1982. The same bars now pay $150! I am worried about where the hell the bohemians are going to go-will the world really turn into Zappa's vision of "the reasonably well groomed consumer-ameoba"?

Teaching at Berklee, I see both folks who are there on financial privilege as well as some truly brave spirits flying in the face of this situation.

I wasn't totally kidding when I said marry up-if your partner can handle the health insurance and steady income stream, and they have a good sense of humor and can tolerate a musician's lifestyle, it makes things easier.

I choose to not tour, and take local performances with a few choice travel gigs a year. Teaching and transcribing allow me to stay close to the fort and be involved with my family. I've chosen not to be a performer for my main income stream and really do prefer this lifestyle.

So, it doesn't have to be totally depressing and bleak. I guess it depends on what you are used to- I wasn't raised in luxury so I don't crave it. I'm happy with the proverbial roof over my head, enough money to enjoy life, and living music as the focus of my life with a beautiful family. Whether I'm "making it" as a performer doesn't matter to me.

If someone has the burning desire to be the greatest player ever at all costs, they will probably "make it" on some level- if they have the talent and maniacal focus and ego and refusal to compromise. Most working musicians fall somewhere below that level of madness. For me, there's more to life than 100% commitment to obsessive practicing and technique.

www.johnmcgann.com

Post Edited (2006-11-10 15:17)

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: crnichols 
Date:   2006-11-10 12:01

We still need clarinets here in the Army Band...find the job, it's out there. It may not be quite what you envisioned during your many hours of practicing, but it's there. Unfortunately, it'll only get you to middle age, and then you have to figure out what to do with the next 20 years of your career. I think a retiring Air Force Bandsmen initiated this thread though.
Good luck!

Christopher Nichols, D.M.A.
Assistant Professor of Clarinet
University of Delaware

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: stevesklar 
Date:   2006-11-10 12:08

22 years ago I went on to school looking to be a professional musician. Actually sax performance was my major but i was also a very gifted clarinetest. But into the 2nd year all the budget cuts hit the schools (high schools, etc) and the future looked bleak.

Luckily, in a way, I also found out I was heavily allergic to cigarette smoke. And being a saxophonist, playing at wedding, bars and other gigs usually involved the guests heavily smoking (unlike today). That made doing those gigs highly problamatic for my health.

So I switched to a business major. I've enjoyed a very nice lifestyle, wife, kids. I haven't regretted it.

A couple years ago I was looking at a local school to finish up a music degree. but, they only have day classes. But I still practice and play like crazy when I can. I really enjoy playing clarinet (and sax, and cello).

I made a decision a couple decades ago and I believe it was the right decision. As I've always said. If you have a good job and a good life you can still play and do anything you want to do. I support this "excessive hobby" from my current lifestyle.

But I still wonder what life would have been like the other way around ....

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: nes 
Date:   2006-11-10 12:22

I'm sorry but after reading the first 3 posts, I couldn't bare reading the rest.

No point being negative about being a musician and having a blast doing so, if you choose that way of life. Get over the problems and don't complain.



Post Edited (2006-11-10 14:35)

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: jmcgann 
Date:   2006-11-10 13:57

Q: How do you get a musician to complain?






A: Give him (or her) a gig!

www.johnmcgann.com

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Sylvain 
Date:   2006-11-10 14:33

Reading Michael's post I want to add a couple thoughts.
There are opportunity for musicians to make a living. There are even opportunities to make a very decent living. There are also no way to know whether a 17 year old aspiring musician is going to make into the music business, and there should be a program that allows this student to pursue his art so that he can have a chance to make it. The cream of the crop will make it, enjoy it and live the dream, even if the dream means very little money in their pocket. For some, making music is all they need.
The others, and they are numerous, are left with a music degree from a (very prestigious) conservatory, great skills at their craft but not much else. There was an article posted here about what happened to Juilliard grads, most did not end up in the music business. If they cannot play music for a living, who does? For them, it is time to figure out what to do with their lives. The conservatories and schools must address this. I cannot be convinced that a music student only likes music, there must be something else that sparks his interest too, give him the opportunity to learn this so that if he falls short of his dream, the second option will be a good one.
I recently read "Mozart in the Jungle" and in the middle of all its anecdotes and gossips, I was most stricken by how little did the author knew about her skills besides oboe playing, how unprepared she was to the eventuality of not being a musician.
Don't get me wrong, I wish nothing more than every college grads to get their dream job, I also would like to see everybody capable of enjoying, appreciating and playing music. On the other hand, I would like schools to be a little more realistic about the current state of music and provide alternatives for their students, instead of turning them into such specialized music-making machines.

--
Sylvain Bouix <sbouix@gmail.com>

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2006-11-10 15:20

I agree with Sylvain. Here, aspiring pro athletes are forced (or at least strongly encouraged) to learn a 2nd profession, bearing in mind that their career doesn't last forever.

It'd be indeed a wise choice if schools required their music majors to minor in something quite different. Sounds a bit paternalistic but in the long run their chances for a halfway decent lifestyle are way better. Some day you not only dream of making music but also of having a house, wife and kids, and that requires a plannable source of income.

--
Ben

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: lowclarinetman 
Date:   2006-11-10 15:51

I have a few more thoughts on the subject.

I am just about to turn 30. I graduated from Oberlin Conservatory and Rotterdam Conservatory(specializing in bass clarinet). I have a professional job playing clarinet in an orchestra. Is the orchestra great, not by any standard I ever held, are we good... yes. I also teach in the local conservatory and in another more basic school. I make what living I make on just music. Sounds good?

Well, I work 7 days a week and most of those days are 12 hours long. I make under 30k a year. Still sound good? To me yes.

To find this amount of "success" I had to go out of the country. I live in Mexico. In my orchestra we have a brass issue. We can't get trombones or french horns to stay, and the ones that do want to stay, are at less than the ideal standard of the orchestra.

I have often said that musicians are geographically challanged. We do not choose where we live. The job chooses where we live. A lot of the musicians I know that have not gone on to play professionaly have not been willing to go anywhere or do anything for the gig. It is unrealistic to think you will get a job in your ideal city, close to your family, by the ocean, whever YOU want to live. If there is an opening, for example right now in Bergen, Norway, you cannot think well it is too cold/ too dark in the winter/ the taxes are too high for the salary. If you want to be an ORCHESTRAL musician you take the audition. Four years ago, before I moved to Mexico, I took the Bass clarinet audition at Bergen(made a fool of myself.. jetlag), but I was the ONLY American there and only 45 people showed up. INSANE!!!! Begen pays 60K Dollars a year.. its a good job. You lose the right to complain if your not even TRYING!!!

On the other hand, conservatories are NOT doing there jobs. My orchestra just recently auditioned a bunch of clarinetist for the principal job.
We went through a years worth of completely unprepared clarinetists. They could not play in rhythm, in tune, sight read, and did not know the repretoire very well. These are all basic functions of an orchestral musician.
We found a good guy, who could do MOST of this. And he is from a VERY good clarinet school. The same can be said of the french horns and trombones we audition ALL the time. Most can barely make a sound. Education is a big problem. The people graduating are simply not prepared for the rigors of professional playing. In my orchestra, because we are in mexico and we don't pay THAT much, we brgin people in for a few weeks at a time, let them play and see if they like it/we like them. After which they play a formal audition, and we make a final decesion.

You cannot have unrealistic goals. Only a very few musicians make very large sums of money. You will probably not own a vacation home in the bahamas or find yourself wearing versache. If you have an open mind you can surrivive even thrive as a musician.

The previous quote from Ernie Watts is right. If you can imagine yourslef befing happy doing something that isn't music, do that. The life is hard, but I know if I worked at a desk job somewhere I would kill myself. Its just not for me. So I worked very hard to get where I am . I hope this helps, and sheds some light on some problems I have noticed in the professional world.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: GBK 
Date:   2006-11-10 17:51

Then there are those pros who, for a variety of different reasons, finally decide to quit the clarinet completely.

Read about my good friend and excellent musician who made that very decison. He is now very happy with his choice.

From the "Keepers" section - "Quiting the clarinet cold turkey - Benefits?"

http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=20&i=208&t=208


...GBK



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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: elmo lewis 
Date:   2006-11-10 18:55

"There are a few vocations that are so uncalled for by the world, so unrenumerative by any ordinary standards, so inherently difficult, so undefined, that to choose them suggests that more lies behind the choice than a little encouraging talent and a few romantic ideals."

William H. Gass

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: SVClarinet09 
Date:   2006-11-10 20:12

Over these past couple of weeks, I've been having second thoughts on becoming a fulltime musician. Since the age of 7 I've been around music. I started with the guitar, then onto clarinet, a little flute when I was 12 to make up for the lack of flutes at my school, a little trumpet here in there to assist my brother, and piano this past summer. Music has always intrigued me. I was looking at local universities here in North Carolina. I saw the wonderful opportunities for musicians wishing to major on clarinet. It opened up my mind. before this I wanted to be a defense attorney. now im thinking of a major in political science and a minor in clarinet performance. I want to be able to live a comfortable life, support my wife and children comfortably. I'm not trying to say clarinet players can't do that. It's relatively hard to. Right now I want to be an attorney and playing in a local Symphony Orchestra and do small gigs. I might even try band director or music professor at a college. As for right now, I'm undecided.



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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: GBK 
Date:   2006-11-10 21:41

lowclarinetman wrote:

> Well, I work 7 days a week and most of those days
> are 12 hours long. I make under 30k a year.
> Still sound good? To me yes.



To me? It sounds terrible.

The average 18 year old making $10/hour working full time at a fast food place is making about 21k/year.

No experience required [wink] ...GBK



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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2006-11-10 21:53

> The average 18 year old making $10/hour working full time at a
> fast food place is making about 21k/year.

Burger flippin' probably isn't a lifetime passion. And no one's applauding...

--
Ben

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: crnichols 
Date:   2006-11-10 22:06

Isn't 30k a year in a developing country such as Mexico a pretty decent lifestyle?

Christopher Nichols, D.M.A.
Assistant Professor of Clarinet
University of Delaware

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2006-11-10 22:10

> Isn't 30k a year in a developing country such as Mexico a
> pretty decent lifestyle?

<hitchhiker sign>
HAVE CLARINET
WILL TRAVEL
< />

--
Ben

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Terry Stibal 
Date:   2006-11-11 00:50

Thirty K a year in Mexico is enough to get by on if you are retired. You sure won't live an American lifestyle, however.

My thoughts on this have run on for over forty years. When I was a young sprout, I had two great passions. The first was to become an astronomer, and the second was to do something in music.

While I had little trouble with the theory and the math, my research into job prospects (looking ahead after high school but before committing to a course of study), revealed to me that someone with a doctorate (not just a degree) could make a passible living (for the time and place), but nothing like I could make as a union bricklayer (with no college education whatsoever - plus I already had the apprenticeship with the B,SM,T, and TW Union (now known as the Bricklayers and Allied Trades Union) under my belt). As for the "rewarding" nature of a doctorate, there wasn't any - those who we spoke to pointed out that they were working as lab assistants, spending eight hours in the day comparing photographs of star spectra.

Same goes for music. Grandpa Wilhelm played union work in the early 1900's, and loved to tell the story of what happened to instrumental music in the 1920's. When quality recordings (i.e., 78 rpm flats) and talkies came in, the local union membership dropped off by over half within five years.

When I played "part time" out of the hall, there were five dinner theaters, two traveling Broadway houses, a pit orchestra at the local Six Flags in addition to the other venues (symphony, gig bands, Municipal Opera, rep theater pit, Shakey's Pizza and so forth. Now, everything north of the word "venues" is ancient history.

Search elsewhere on here for something I originally wrote up back in the 1980's, titled "Stephen and Susan". It's a comparison and contrast between a collegian level basketball player and a conservatory clarinet player, and the basketballer comes out on top. Way on top.

Also to be considered:

Back in the 1960's, there was a massive turnover in music education in the United States, where instructors who were in large part added at the beginning of such programs. That batch (the ones brought on young in the 1960's) are now retiring from their careers, and have (in large part) replaced by those coming out of college programs over the past five years.

The next great replacement cycle there will come along in 2020 to 2025. Even teaching is going to dry up for a while.

While astronomy was ruled out only after research, music was a no brainer. High school staff were already ample illustration of how rough it would be, plus the experience working from the hall showed me the "practical" side. Since then, I've had a number of careers, I make plenty of money doing the last two of these, and am able to do all of the music stuff I want on the side. I don't have to skip house payments (some of the gigging guys I know have to skip rent payments), I don't have to worry about medical problems, and I don't have to stoop to playing stuff I can't stand.

Mozart never went to music school. Anton Stadler never went to music school, Beethoven never went to college. If you're that good to succeed in today's competitive environment, you can get by the same way. Guess what? You ain't...

Finally, I have a friend from back in the 1960's who was a spectacular 'cello player. She hit all the benchmarks, went to the right schools, and so forth. What's all that talent doing these days (and for the past fifteen years)? Working as a receptionist. One bright thing in her life: it only took about ten years to pay off the student loans.

A lot of people want to do something for which they have great passion. Professional pony groomer, astronaut, jet fighter pilot, baseball pitcher, fashion designer, musician - all figure high on the list. It behooves these folks to get real in a hurry. Most of the pony groomer candidates do, but all too few of the music folks do not...

leader of Houston's Sounds Of The South Dance Orchestra
info@sotsdo.com

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: seafaris 
Date:   2006-11-11 02:08

I have lived in Mexico and have had a business here for over 20 years. I am not retired yet, I am an American and I feel that I have a very nice life style. $30k a year here is more than enough for me, but then everyones idea of what is a nice lifestyle is different.


...Jim

www.bajaseafaris.com

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Cuisleannach 
Date:   2006-11-12 06:58

Things are tough all over. One of the silliest things I hear these days is trying to get kids to focus on math and science. Finding good-paying jobs in the sciences is incredibly difficult these days, particularly at the Ph.D. level. In the life sciences you can plan on getting your Ph.D. and then working from 6-9 years doing post-docs for a pittance before you can even start thinking about a real job, and they are keenly competitive. It's far worse in math or physics. None of the above hold a candle to the frustration of finding a good-paying music gig, but it's not all sweetness and light elsewhere.

My first (and best) teacher once told me, "If you can imagine yourself doing anything other than music, do that instead and become a good patron for the arts. You have no business trying to live as a musician unless you really feel that you CAN'T do anything else". I worked as a musician for a while but have found eventually that she was right, and I'm not anymore. I still teach and play for fun (and pocket change).

-Randy

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: frank 
Date:   2006-11-12 09:59

My post wasn't intended to be a total downer, only a reality check. I have a great full time music gig. I've traveled the world playing music, and continue to do so. I've played in world class concert halls, played for dignitaries, celebrities, and with/for world class musicians. The only thing that saddens me is that I CANNOT live this lifestyle forever. Like everything in life, it must come to an end. I will always play music. Will I be able to make a living better than I am now being a musician when I leave my cirrent gig? No way. Will I be happy making 30k or less a year with no insurance, working 7 days a week and have 6 roommates to afford life? No way. My philosohpy in life is that you always move forward...trade up each step you take. I do not subscribe to the starving artist role anymore, nor do I want to "make it". If I chose to make it, would their even be a jobe available to make it in? Highly unlikely.

Life is not all about "stuff" or being rich either. I think it's always important to do what you love, so it's a joy getting out of bed each morning. That's how I feel right now. BUT.. the point I was trying to make was MOST adults reach a time in their life where living like a poor college student just isn't an optin anymore. Life happens. Some get married, have a family, etc. I do not look down upon anyone who chooses to follow their passions and dreams. I continue to do that to this day. My dreams do change and develop, as do my passions. It's called growth. Truth be told, when I don't play clarinet for a living, I will actually be able to do more of the music I enjoy. This isn't a decision I made overnight. I grew into the decision and I see the end in sight. It hurts that it will be over. On to the next!

I make a great living for what I do but am by no means wealthy. It's easy for the struggling/working artist to believe things like "life is supposed to be difficult, blah blah... art art art...don't need much..." simply because most have very little in the way of money, posessions, health and dental insurance, family, lifestyle, etc. Ignorance is bliss. I was there once too. It's a great place! Again, if playing music for a living is your dream, then follow it! My intent was to share the grim reality of the profession. Remeber, only the passionate ones survive this business! I've made the choice to leave when I am on top of my game. For reference, I am in my early 30's. Good luck!



Post Edited (2006-11-12 10:07)

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: ChrisArcand 
Date:   2006-11-13 02:41

Thank you for wrapping up this post and giving thoughtful insight as to your true intentions. I've been following this post, and, as some have already said, it was somewhat depressing. Still, it is the truth, this is a hard profession. It's good that there is more to life than practicing, yet also good that if you truly want to succeed and are passionate, you will, as long as your defintion of succeeding isn't being a billionaire. Enough said.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: joeyscl 
Date:   2006-11-14 23:52

Frank, you have fogotten about everything else.

Yes, it's true that the outlook for studying music may not be TOO bright...

Name me one thing that you can Study that will gurantee you a high paying job.

THERE IS NONE!

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: ohsuzan 
Date:   2006-11-15 01:54

<Name me one thing that you can Study that will gurantee you a high paying job.

THERE IS NONE!>


Well, you may technically be right about that. But you can certainly make career choices that skew the odds of solvency in your favor.

Susan

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Terry Stibal 
Date:   2006-11-15 15:29

As I said up topic a bit, I was pretty much guaranteed a living in the high five figures (in modern day, adjusted for inflation, dollars) when working as a union bricklayer. I did have to go through an apprenticeship as a youngster (and ate a lot of donuts once a week at the apprenticeship school), but once I had the card it was money in the bank from that day forward, with no additional formal training or skills maintenance.

There were, of course, downsides to the work. You were out in the weather (neither summer nor winter is the time to be blasting down the line on a three story wall), you had to work with your hands (and your hands developed a number of specialized calluses as a result, two of which interfere with clarinet and sax playing), you could injure your back if you were not careful, and you did have the stigma of "working in a trade". But, you also had your evenings and weekends free, you had a medical plan, you got vacation (and paid vacation every year) and all of the other benefits of working in an organized environment.

Of course, I don't work as a bricklayer any longer. (The last time that I picked up the tools was to help lay up a cousin's house back in the 1980's.) If for no other reason, I really hated laying up concrete block, enough alone not to want to do it in my eyes. But, if push came to shove and I had to give up my cushy current employment/retirement, I could pull my tools out of the attic, move back up north, and take up working as a union journeyman for about $70,000 a year - iffen I had to. The jobs are there, the knowledge is there, and (if necessary) the motivation would be there.

Flexibility is a wonderful thing. You aren't guaranteed a job in any field unless you have that silver spoon in your mouth. But, you can pick and choose a bit during your youth to ensure that there will be some call for your services once you reach adulthood. And, there is much more demand for some skills than for others.

Buggy whip fabrication is a non-starter these days, as is pony groomer. There may be call for a dozen or so of each of these in the worldwide market, but not much more than that. Picking a profession where there is a demand for your skills makes it a lot easier to find that elusive job when you have to go looking for it.

On the grand continuum of life, buggy whip fabricator is down there at the bottom, whatever the "engineer du jour" is is up there at the top, and everything else is somewhere in the middle. You can argue about the relative position on the scale, but when push comes to shove a classical musician is going to be more buggy whip end than the other.

Conversely, there's a lot of call for engineers of all stripes, and we here in the US of A are often forced to hire someone from off shore (and with far less than optimal English language skills) because we can't find any qualified US candidates. I've had this problem with corrosion engineers, chemical engineers and (occasionally) with mechanical engineers.

On the other hand, I've known any number of musicians who I can't hire (since they don't have the technical or work knowledge), people who "can't find a job". And, when singing this lament, many act as if they were not the person who made the decision not to be a (insert name of in-demand job skill here).

Guaranteed lifetime employment? Right, there's no such thing for anyone other than the idle rich. But, more marketable skills to get the jobs that are there? Yes, there are literally thousands of careers that offer more chance of even marginal success than do those in the music world.

(And, to a limited degree, there are jobs within the music field that offer work that some don't want to take. I've met any number of string folks who don't do Broadway show (or "pit") work. It pays well enough, the conditions are not that bad (as long as they don't use one of the bad fog machines up on stage), and it can be pretty steady once you have established yourself. It's only that "I only want to play (insert name of favorite music type) when I perform" mindset that keeps them from realizing some decent (for a musician) income. So, they spend their precious time driving to marginal orchestras within a two hundred mile radius just so they can "do" classical and romantic period music. Their decision, their pocketbook - and I don't expect them to whine about "There's no money to be made" when they turn down local work that would cost them three times less in gas and time.

As it has been for many years, the best advice to musicians remains:

"Get a real job, and then play your clarinet on the side in your ample spare time."

You can argue around the margins of that statement all you want, but reality still remains reality. Unless you're one in a hundred thousand, that's the only realistic advice to give someone considering a career in music, particularly in music performance.

Those who don't heed it are usually the kind of folks who like to buy lottery tickets, seeing that route as the path to wealth and glory. In both cases, I hope (for their sake) that they win. And, in both cases, if I could bet against their success (solely for my own, selfish personal gain, not for the pleasure of seeing them fail), I would do it because I know that is a real winning proposition.

leader of Houston's Sounds Of The South Dance Orchestra
info@sotsdo.com

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: frank 
Date:   2006-11-15 15:53

<<WTF wrote:
Frank, you have fogotten about everything else.
Yes, it's true that the outlook for studying music may not be TOO bright...
Name me one thing that you can Study that will gurantee you a high paying job.
THERE IS NONE!>>

Medicine, law, engineering, computer science, business, almost any non-education and art based field. Isn't that about it for major college study? Now, nothing is guarenteed in life as we all know. The above fields will ensure you are in a better position to make a decent salary, assuming you are not lazy and attempt to secure employment. FYI, medicine and law fall by the wayside in regards to money making these days compared to the past. Yes, the salary is nice (usually 6 figs), but a moderate to high end business man will make much more. The sad reality is that you can work at Starbucks full time and make more money, with benefits than most giging musicians. That is not a joke. I don't have an idea to what point you were trying to make with your post, as it is off base and is not a valid statement. Espresso anyone?  :)

The only thing I assumed from your post was that you are most likely a high school/college student or work in the arts. Forgotten what? I live in the fray. I perform for a living and love it. I question only the financial validity of becoming a pro and the horrible prospects for a future to MAKE A LIVING in music. Remember, music is romantic and fun until you wake up and realize one day you have a family to support, medical problems, financial debt, haven't had a vacation in years, work 7 days a week, no date :) lol. You get the point I hope. BTW.... I LOVE MUSIC!

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: eric293 
Date:   2006-11-15 16:34

Even if you have the same salary as someone who works at Starbucks full-time, atleast you love your job.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2006-11-15 16:42

frank wrote:
> Medicine, law, engineering, computer science, business,
> almost any non-education and art based field.

<coughs politely>
The nerd times are over. CS aren't a license to print money any longer.
And who sez it's not an art form? Just because an application as such isn't seen as the result of a creative act? (every idiot can copy the look, feel and end result of my app and get away with murder) <grumble>

But you're right - a solid still-sought-after profession will provide the background noise in tougher times. Heck, not even farmer is considered a full-time job here, many double in carpentering, tourism and whatelse.

Considering the inner meaning of the word, "amateur" should be regarded as a compliment. There are indeed people who love their m├ętier; strange, innit? They don't do it only for the money, they do it because they love it! And it shows! What a privilege indeed. (I mean it...)

--
Ben

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Terry Stibal 
Date:   2006-11-15 20:45

Even though the heyday of computer science has passed, and the opportunity for someone with little computer skills or knowledge to become the de facto expert in a sea of normal persons is not there like it was in the 1970's, there is still a call for folks who can handle the various aspects (programming, database programming, web programming and the like).

In effect, the drift from mainframe computers down to micro computers (what most of us are using these days to post hereon; the term has dropped out of sight and "personal computer" is more common these days) has "decentralized" the whole mess. In the meantime, the guys or gals who knew a very little more back "in the day" have now moved up to higher management, neatly avoiding any formal training in IT. One envies them, unless one moved up in a similar fashion in an unrelated field.

(When I was in mainframe computing, the operations were all handled by folks in white coats, and as a programmer the keypunch ladies just passed my data (Hollerith cards, anyone?) into their hands and I later received the output back when they were good and damn'd ready for me to have it. Fortunately, this is no longer the case...)

Still, all things being equal, I'd rather be a trained web programmer (even though, as an old assembler programmer from "back in the day", I am expected to look down on someone who runs Dreamweaver for a living) that a trained musician when trying to find employment these days. The web guy may be further down on my continuum mentioned above, but he's still above the musician as far as overall employability is concerned.

Work for a living, play for fun (and for the money that you can make playing on the side)...

leader of Houston's Sounds Of The South Dance Orchestra
info@sotsdo.com

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: frank 
Date:   2006-11-15 21:59

Starting salary for a 22 year old computer science college grad in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley is between 58k-70k a year. How many orchestras in the counrty pay that high, even after years of tenure? A quick seach on Monster shows that there are at least 1000 computer jobs available in the greater S.F. area. The math is clear and concise. True, computer jobs are less enigmatic and exclusive as the past. But... and a big "but" here...being a just graduated, starting salary low level programmer will pay you better than 95% of ALL ORCHESTRA or full time gigs in the US. I would imagine that said average 22 year old college grad has far less training, expertice and experience than a TOP LEVEL professional musician, yet makes much more money to start. To recap... 58k-70k yearly STARTING SALARY. This isn't alot of money, but for a classical musician it's great pay.

Teahcers get the screwball in salary too. If you make 50k a year in the Bay Area with 5+ years teaching music in middle/high school, you're lucky and doing great! Oh, I forgot to mention, if you make 50k as a teacher or perfomer here, you are poor. Not figuratively, but literally. I believe it is possible to have intense passion for music and do another career. I notice many more amateurs enjoying playing, possibly beacuse when something isn't your job, you appreciate it more. Most working performing musicians with steady gigs (orchestra, band and studio) I know have a life outside of music. They vacation, have friends and family time, hobbies, etc. Most musicians I know who DO NOT have a steady gig think life is about their "art", spending 4 hours a day in a practice room, never having any free time and struggling to survive.

The downside of the steady gig is that it's steady - very easy to become complacent. You become "fat" in essence. Having a stead gig often means not playing music you enjoy. Music becomes work and art can fly out the window, simply beacuse your personal egomaniacal idea of "art" does not pay the bills. Everything looks great from the outside looking in. How many massage therapists of plastic surgeons work on friends and family when off duty? The pluses are obvious and need not be discussed. The plus side to being a struggling artist and freelancer is that you are in chage and write your own ticket. You play what and where you want, when you want. It can be both exciting and frightening all at once! The down sides are obvious and have been discussed ad nauseum. As I pointed in an earlier post, high end careers aside, a starting salary cop in S.F. makes 80k a year. Good for cops, sad for musicians.



Post Edited (2006-11-15 22:03)

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Cuisleannach 
Date:   2006-11-17 06:42

One thing I haven't seen mentioned here is military music. There are some unpalatable aspects (boot camp, millions of boring ceremonies), but your are guaranteed a paycheck on the first and fifteenth of every month, you get issued great instruments, your choice of mouthpieces, and all the reeds you'll ever need, lots of travel, and you could very well have a great time.

-Randy

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: bawa 
Date:   2006-11-17 09:38

You all talk about starting salaries for other jobs, but how many graduates out of the total get those jobs with those starting salaries? They will only work if you manage to land the job in the first place....

There are many many people who won't get their first pay until the late twenties and will probably have to wait another 5-10 years before they get a "proper" salary...they are called postgraduate and doctorate students in almost any field you name. But should we then stop people from doing that? No, because we know that society benefits overall in some way from all that research.

Our universities churn out 100s of economists every year, a tiny percentage will actually work as one. Some "lucky" ones here end up as the cashier in a bank, and delude themselves into thinking that an economics degree was actually a necessity to be able to do that job.

My point is, whatever your field maybe, only a small percentage will actually work in something that is 100% related and find job security etc. etc. Yes, as the spouse of PhD, when we first started out, we were "poorer" than people who had decided to become plumbers (they had 10 years head start in terms of salary, getting a house, car etc). But it again depends on what you think you need to be happy.

In a few years, we had crawled up comparatively, and now I think we are relatively rich, mostly in terms of "I am doing what I like, I am dependent on myself, I can choose what to work" whereas other people seem to be stuck in jobs that look increasingly vulnerable to global economic changes and many of them stuck in routines that they actively dislike.

Someone mentioned about musicians having 0-1 children, I am afraid that is the general trend here, musicians or otherwise.

And look what the poster said about Mexico: despite all the college degrees, how tough it is to find a good orchestral musician.

All the musicians I know here have as good a lifestyle as any other equivalent job, only perhaps more interesting!!

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: DougR 
Date:   2006-11-17 15:45

I just want to thank everyone who contributed to this thread, because it's been fascinating, and prompted me to some reflection about my own situation.

I live in NYC, where legions of young aspirants in a host of disciplines (dance, fine arts, design, music, theatre) arrive every year, as I myself did some 40 years ago. True, the competition gets tougher every year, the jobs fewer, the odds steeper, and society increasingly less supportive of full-time careers in the arts. Sad, but true.

When I came here I knew I wanted either to act, or to be a studio musician, or (if the gods smiled) both. Instead I ended up in publishing (because a typewriter was much friendlier than a casting director). Fast forward 20 years--that career ended, but it left me with a modest IRA and the means to acquire a few superb instruments (and top-rank instruction). Older age demands excellent health care coverage, so I have a staff job doing graphics at an investment bank. It's a split schedule, so I can take SOME acting jobs SOMETIMES, and SOME music jobs SOMETIMES, but always at the periphery of both fields.

My graphics job pays modestly, and my peers are half my age: actors, singers, dancers, musicians, painters needing a flexible "survival" job. They are, in most cases, "going for it," and I feel nothing but admiration and hope for them. Me, I think my "going-for-it" days got lost back there somewhere during the publishing career.

So here's what I THINK I know now:

1) GO FOR IT. REALLY. Sure, it's scary. Sure, it's uncertain. But the universe always provides ways to mitigate all that, when you need it, IF you're open. One of the secrets of life is making the best of whatever situation you end up in (and guess what--it PROBABLY won't match your dream at all, simply because, I believe, we control our situations a lot less than we often expect we can).

2) Always have a Plan B. (Ideally a skill, be it programming, actuary, investment analyst, accountant, music or substitute teacher, IT, corporate trainer, registered nurse, etc., that can be done off-hours and/or flexibly.) When you get tired of the struggle (and in all likelihood you WILL), that Plan B will look mighty nice.

3) there's always a price to be paid for NOT going for it (the dread "woulda-coulda-shoulda") that is (from my perspective) more toxic than giving it your all, coming up short, and deciding to get off the horse when your wisdom tells you to.

4) We really need a more expansive definition of "arts professional" in America, because our society, as it is currently set up, only supports skills that create wealth--corporate, legal, etc. (unlike, say, Europe, where a host of social supports enable people to focus on their art without the gnawing fear of losing everything due to health crisis, e.g.). To me, GBK and Terry Stibal are exemplars of how to have a life in the arts in this country when that vaunted, precious, RARE staff job isn't available.

5) If our identity as "musician" takes precedence over things like family, love, friendship, and community, it's a poor substitute. As young struggling artists we also need to learn to nurture THOSE things, because they'll be there when the music career is gone, or subsumed by survival needs, or whatever.

Thanks everybody! Sorry if this post is ridiculously long!

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: frank 
Date:   2006-11-17 15:47

bawa...

I would be curious to know what you and your spouse do for a living. I found almost every point you made in your post - other than musicians being perhaps more interesting - not valid. You have a very idealised point of veiw. That stuff works great in college, but in the real world it sadly falls short. Just my 2 bits.

Land the job? lol As I pointed out...there are well over 1000 computer jobs in the Bay Area alone. Your odds are extremely high compared to music, art or education related fields. A kid with a business degree can work in many different fields, where the performance major is ultimately trained for two things: PERRFORMING MUSIC and working in the fast food industry to supplement performing music.  :) I knew very few musicians - and still do - who have a clue about working in other fields. It's all about versatility. I am not attacking you personally bawa, I just have issue with your purblind idealism.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: William 
Date:   2006-11-17 17:07

Play music for fun--that's the only reason. If you have the natural talent and someday "get good", music will be even more fun. And if you get lucky and enough people notice (audition, CDs, TV, Vegus, etc) enabling you to earn enough money to support your desired lifestyle--and that of your loved ones--than what could be better?!? Spending a lifetime in a profession that pays big bucks and is fun.

But--ala Dirty Harry--"You have to ask yourself the question--do I feel lucky??" It isn't all about having fun and being good enough in the music business or the arts in general. It is often who you are lucky enough meet or to be heard by. There were probably a thousand Norma Rayes working in those drug stores that day, but only one lucky one became Marilyn Monroe. All luck, my friend, and a lifetime of study, practice and professional aspirations most often just will not do. It's really always best to have that "Plan B" available, just in case.

However, someone said, "chance favors the prepared mind." If clarinet is the most fun thing in your world, then study, work hard and try to be the best that you can. And maybe, if you really "have it" (as opposed to just thinking you do) and the right person or audience likes what they hear, maybe you will get lucky. But realize, there are probably a thousand clarinet players who are just as good as you already playing or waiting to be heard. It's like the good coach says, you miss 100% of the shots you dont take. Maybe, you'll make yours.....good luck and have fun--but have that "Plan B" just in case.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Terry Stibal 
Date:   2006-11-17 18:13

"Purblind", huh? Next thing you know we'll be using words like "yclept"...

The central premise of all of the cautions above is simply that, no matter what you end up doing in life, you have to support yourself plus whatever "lifestyle" decisions you end up making. And, while supporting yourself through the likes of instrumental music may seem realistic to those who are looking ahead, the experiences of those who are already "ahead" show that realism just doesn't enter into most of these "projections of the future".

First, a few stipulations:

GIVEN: There are a limited number of positions in any field that are available at one time

GIVEN: People who latch onto a gig (in any field, not just music) tend to keep holding on since they need some amount of money to survive (food, shelter, medical needs, basic transportation)

GIVEN: As people grow older, they need to start planning ahead for life after work. Some fields, particularly music, allow you continue longer, but ultimately this is going to be a decision all much face.

GIVEN: Push comes to shove, some fields are just not all that much in demand any more. Read about the symphonic organizations that have gone belly up over the years (San Diego "died" at least two times that I know of), and you'll get a feel for just how much demand there is for the skilled professional musician. Live music bookings for pop and the like are there, but you have to work for them, and live music doesn't have the same tangible manifestations as do other components that also have to be considered.

(True story from the trenches: I was approached by a bride some time back who wanted live music but (as many also prefer) did not want to pay for live music. I worked a group setting for her that was in her ballpark figure, then waited for a comeback as to whether or not she was going to book us. THe final word that I got was that it came down to using us (in reduced form), or using a DJ (and not getting the type of music that she and the groom really wanted) and having a chocolate fountain at the reception. Over the years, I've had to contend with a wide variety of competition (NVA troops, government infighting, hockey players and so on), but that was the first time I've lost out to seven pounds of milk chocolate.)

GIVEN: Human beings, being human beings, like to do "fun" stuff over stuff that is "not fun". Give anyone a choice between being a desk jockey and someone who digs ditches for a living and they are likely to opt for the clean, non-physical work every time. (Exceptions exist, but this is almost a universal truism).

GIVEN: Musical stuff is fun. So is art, so is theater, so is creative writing, so is skiing, so is being a comedian, and on and on.

With all of these givens, "fun" occupations are going to attract far more aspirants than they will possess openings. Symphony auditions are living proof of this: small time, out in the sticks orchestras ("fee for service" operations) can attract a hundred or more applicants for every opening. (Those looking to work in music might well spend the minimal union dues to join the union, just to have easy access to the various audition notices that populate the back of the monthly newsletter.) So too do skiing instructor spots, artist spots, openings in the theater, and so forth.

(And, no matter how bad classical work is, pop music is much, much worse. When I have run ads for musicians, the preponderance of who I hear from are guitar players (I carry one, but hear from dozens) and drummers (I carry one, but hear from ten to twenty each time). Of these, many of them call, even though I plainly state in the ad "MUST READ MUSIC", only to have to answer the question "Do you read music" with "Well, I can read tabs, man" or "No, but I can pick it up quick". Some even lie to me and waste my time and coffee and donuts by coming to a rehearsal only to get embarrassed in front of all and sundry when it's clear that they are completely at sea. So, it could be worse in the classical field.)

Once again, let's do the math:

Let's assume one hundred areas in the US that have orchestras that will support a total of four hundred clarinet playing positions. This is a high end figure, since it includes places like the aforementioned San Diego, which has gone bust on a repeated basis. (It also includes places like Newark NJ, which don't have much of a chance of keeping an orchestra going in the first place.) It also includes a lot of "part time" orchestras, where you most certainly cannot make minimum wage for the position offered. Finally, it assumes that all have four players, when in actuality the "full time" players are more like two and a half in many cases. But, let's use it anyway.

Now, take that four hundred figure and double it (to bring in some pop, Eddie Daniels, some session and some other odds and ends in the clarinet world). When all is said and done, eight hundred clarinet players seems like a lot of openings.

However, consider all of the fully trained clarinet players that get turned out each and every year. Programs like that at North Texas State, at Rice, at Michigan, and at all of the other schools spread our country are chugging them out, each and every year
. Even if the numbers generated are in the single digits, there are a lot of university level music programs out there, each contributing to the steam.

And, the mighty eight hundred job slots is largely a static figure. Figure maybe 10% turnover each year - that then becomes a potential eighty job openings. Remember, music is a low physical strain activity (compared to digging ditches); an older body can last a lot longer there. No significant turn-over equals fewer opportunities.

Once again, it is time to state that a classical music education does not well prepare one for anything much more than performing music. A performance degree makes you suitable for the hothouse world of musical performance, and not for very much else. As few are looking for music performance skills, and as those in such programs do not get a "rounded" degree, they often are not capable of doing much else (from a "ready to go, pre-trained" standpoint).

An education minor will help a lot, as there is call for a lot of music education folks out there. But, many do not like the classroom environment, and the schools are not hiring folks to teach one-on-one music.

Mind you, the same can be said of many other courses of study in university. I hire a lot of industrial hygienists, a sort of specialized engineer if you will. I find that all of them know their field pretty well, but that they are often deficient in basic English grammar and composition abilities, this in turn because they didn't have to deal with such things in a scientific curriculum. Engineers are also commonly a bit short on the communications skills - too much math and science (which lends itself to expression in easy to format numbers and formula), and not enough in how to express that to another human being who may only have a broad understanding of the science or math involved.

However, these folks are in a "in demand" field, and they will be able to find a position at some point. Ditto my sports hero Stephen, who played college basketball well enough, but found that the prospects dried up when it was time to look for a pro gig. Since Steve had the common sense to pay attention in school, he had (in addition to his roundball skills) a degree in marketing or business or whatever once he was done.

Specialized training and no job openings equals a lot of very cultured Starbucks baristas and not much else. At least it's a growth field...

Talking about "my art" and "a dream" is all well and good until you have to have an abscessed tooth pulled or replace a car wrecked (or, God forbid, have a child with serious birth defects). At that point, "my art" becomes a serious impediment and the only solutions are out and out charity or going on the dole.

If you choose to be married and choose to have children, you may find that suffering for your "art" is suddenly affecting a much wider circle of people than the artist alone. I don't know about you, but I want my kith and kin not to have to worry about me and my personal problems - that's why I support myself and my family, that's why I have medical insurance, and that's why I put music enjoyment second to paying the bills. Still plenty of time for it on the side - it's just not my primary income stream.

I have two family members (by marriage) who both studied bassoon performance in college. Both were excellent players (I worked with one in music for a number of years before we became related, and he was very good indeed.) Now, however, neither has a job performing music.

The smarter one of the two is the manager of the Dallas Opera, while the other was (until just recently) a poorly trained, non-union plumber trying to make a living in an union environment. The first has a comfortable life style, the second anything but. The first has a music-related occupation (but no longer plays bassoon, as I understand it), the second plays a little guitar in his spare time and nothing else (he no longer has the Heckel bassoon that came so dear to his widowed mother during his university days, by the way - sold it in part to pay for the accumulated debts run up through the birth of five children).

And, finally, this:

One of the great shames that I have to endure is that I have a fifty-odd year old brother (who goes by the name of Bryn Stybl - don't ask me why) whose great desire in life was to be "on the radio". (This is another "fun occupation", albeit one with a considerable amount of hidden work if you actually have to do it.)

To some extent he has succeeded, having worked at perhaps twenty talk radio stations over the last thirty years (most recently at KIRO in Seattle, doing a late night political commentary show that reached much of the western US).

However, "success" in his case is a relative term, and is measured by the fact that he does occasionally get to talk on the radio, and some times they even will pay him something. But, he never gets very much (the KIRO gig lasted ten or eleven months, and only for the last three was he being paid anything above minimum wage), and he gets the axe quite frequently (as he recently did when KIRO announced that they were going with satellite feeds).

Leaving aside the question as to whether or not he is any good (and he is quite good, within his paranoid far right wing political standpoint limitations), he is now facing the travails of late middle age without any form of medical insurance, without a car, without any savings, and with a rapidly dwindling support network (my mother and her money won't be there much longer to bail his butt out of a jam). The expression that my mother uses is "...without a pot to pee in", and this is about her own flesh and blood, mind you.

You can do this sort of thing if you want to, and still have a gainful career elsewhere. (He worked four hours (actual on air time) a night, leaving perhaps sixteen hours of the day free for everything else). And, exactly the same can be said of music.

If you love music, continue to love music and practice and perform as much as you can. But, get a day job that will support your (and your family's) lifestyle first.

leader of Houston's Sounds Of The South Dance Orchestra
info@sotsdo.com

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Cuisleannach 
Date:   2006-11-17 23:53

And that just about says it all!

-Randy

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: Ralph Katz 
Date:   2006-11-18 18:35

A couple of decades ago, I heard some very fine clarinet playing from the pit of a local amateur musical production. The player was pediatric surgeon Dr. John Wesley, who told me the following story.

Dr. Wesley and his best friend in High School took clarinet lessons from Professor Stubbins at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. They both worked their way diligently through all the scales, arpeggios, studies, solos, and excerts. During their senior year in High School, they discovered that Professor Stubbins had given them both the same speach, which I will paraphrase as my memory and the intervening years allow:

"You play very well. You have a good tone and ear, and play very musically. You will make a fine musician, but I would caution that you will work very hard and not make much money. My advice in general is to do something else to make your livelihood, and not to be a musician unless you feel that you absolutely must do it."

Last I heard, John Wesley was at the Mayo Clinic. While John was in medical school in Massachusetts, the friend, Peter Hadcock. slept on John's sofa while auditioning for the Boston Symphony.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: bawa 
Date:   2006-11-19 17:40

Frank,

I am in my early forties, married with two kids and mortgage(s); is that an idealistic world? I work part-time from home (in my field), and my bh full-time in univ. When he left his "full-time life-long safe" job to go and pursue graduate studies abroad (which took him a lot of time and might easily have never come to anything- they do Fail thesis as well), he was considered crazy too. I have actually worked full-time for many years and with "life-tenure" but gave up, decided to cut back on my "needs & wants" and work from home to be able to bring up my kids myself.

When I wen to university, I was told my choice was extremely impractical (Geography-physical), and what good ever was geography???
Economics was better and even within geog, it was better to be a geologist: those ones got any real jobs out there.

The other day my car broke-down and the nice man of 35 or so that came with the tow-truck told me cheerfully he had a degree in geology but could find no jobs and there he was...

Yes, the economists get employed, but in most end up in jobs that they could have done with no degree whatsoever. After over 20 years of teaching in an econ faculty the conclusion is this, you may admit a 20, 100 or 200 students. The number that are actually going to make it or work as economists is an absolute number that doesn't change every year, it is not a percentage. And these are the ones who will study and swot to get the top grades. The rest will drift off to do all sorts of jobs that anyone could do (including musicians).

As for the musicians, this is based on the living standards of the local orchestra players, the members of the various municipal bands, the conservatory teachers, and some free-lance pianists that I know.

Then there are a lot of people here at 35 or more still living on "precarious grants" (becas) when they are researchers in physics, engineering, biology, what-have-you doctorates. A lot of the doctors emigrate to the UK, where apparently there's a shortage...and the number of years and hours they have to put in before they start getting any leisure time is very very long.

So Frank I am not saying that you are wrong, its just that both our experiences are true and obviously as valid. Maybe the main differences is taxation. We are highly taxed in Europe (although quite progressively here) but I don't mind because for me being "rich" is that everyone around me, regardless of how low or well-paid there job is, has a minimum guarantee about the basics of life (health, education, public transport, even the Music Conservatory :)...)

The other thing that helps is that most children will live at home until they get married or buy their own place. This can be very very late mostly, especially if they work near their home towns (mobility is low here).

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: frank 
Date:   2006-11-20 07:45

Everyone has their own idea of what rich, wealthy, and well off is. I do not consider making 20k-40k a year without health insurance "making a good living". I consider that salary puts you in the bracket of poor, trying to make ends meet and just scraping by in today's economy. 40k will take you further in certain parts of the country, not California. Since classical music is heard mostly in expensive urban areas, the above 40k salary will not get you very far.

Bawa, In my experience, I know very few classical musicians in the world who make a great living financially and have job security. In any artistic/education based field, there is always a handful who do, and thousands who do not. Most of us are not the handful. I find that the majority of pros take pride in being a pro, doing what they love for a living. I feel the same. The only difference is that now I realize my foolish pride does not exist anymore, simply because it can't. Making good money playing classical music is a thing of the past. Is living in the past a good thing to do in life? If I contiued with that line of thinking, my pride would put me in the poor house in a few years. Brother, can you spare a dime?  :)

I haven't lost my passion for performing classical music, just my faith in it as a viable source of future steady income. I should have stayed in law school! lol



Post Edited (2006-11-20 07:47)

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: bawa 
Date:   2006-11-20 11:09

Frank,

Yes, the amount needed for a certain standard of living is extremely different across countries and even within a country, so comparisons can be hard.

Highest basic pay for orchestra in Spain is that of Valencia (44-56000 Euros a year) whereas the National orchestra basic pay is at 25000 a year (add to it various complements, duration etc.)

Both these and Conservatory/music school jobs here are "public" so they are not going to fold up or disappear and you are in forever unless you mess it up or want to move. Health service is universal and unlimited regardless, and in my region, dental care for all minors and partly for adults. You pay a percentage of your medicine costs unless you are pensioner etc when it free.

Putting your children through University will cost about 500-750 euros a year, depending on the subject. Most people study in their home university. Grants are available for travel/book/ expenses even if you live at home depending on income, from about 375 euros/year for transport and books if you live at home and study in your home town, to 3150 (a family of four, income 29000) if you study away from home but in the same province, 5500 for low-income. These are universal and the average grade required to get these is not very high (50% when you start univ.) There are others if you study in a different part of the country etc.

This of course, still is a long way away from countries like Finland (gen the best ranked schooling in Europe) where education right up to the doctorate is absolutely free, (schools including books and even pencils and erasers). A secondary school teacher earns between 30 and 40,000.

On the other hand, property here is expensive or very expensive, although there is subsidized housing available for first-time buyers, young people, etc.

So I guess when working out costs/income about the right career (a Law degree would not guarantee you anything here!!!), there are so many factors, apart from absolute income, that will determine the eventual standard of living.

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 Re: Thoughts on choosing to become a professional musician
Author: fiato 
Date:   2006-11-25 17:05

Hello all -
This is an interesting thread.
As an aging clarinetist who has had played principal clarinet professionally in classical orchestras since I was 22, I am posting this to remind you all of the need to be a self-generator.
Even if you make it to a comfortable wage with benefits in a good professional orchestra, you still need to maintain the drive throughout your career to constantly re-examine your playing and improve it.
This can become very difficult as the years pass and you become accustomed
to your job and role in the orchestra. It can become easy to become cynical, to take your job for granted and to become dissatisfied with the relatively low
financial compensation.
Even if you successfully pass through all those early hoops that lead to employment, the hoops keep placing themselves in front of you as you age. You must love to make music, you must love the sound you make, you must love to practice, you must love to perform in public. You must constantly seek criticism of your playing from yourself and from your colleagues. You must pay close attention to the fine soloists of other instruments and to great singers.
Only those with that fire in the gut will succeed in being happily employed in an industry which is marginal to the flow of society.
I hope this helps some of you make decisions.
Fiato



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