Thursday, November 20, 2008

In these times....

Worrisome news about the Charleston Symphony. When I came here almost 10 years ago, I had the good fortune to sub with Charleston on occasion and was really impressed with their brass section. Now I hear that they're not sure they can make payroll after Dec. 19th.

Here's the article.

Some young trombonists who apply to the USC School of Music tell me they want to major in performance.

What do I tell them?

"Yes, I know it is your true passion and despite any odds you feel you have to go for it. But....there are so few jobs!" (and the number is shrinking).

Not to be all gloom and doom but, anyone pursuing a music performance career needs to have a realistic perspective on what is going on out there.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • How many talented young performance majors graduate each year? Don't just count the "big name" schools. Sometimes great players come from smaller programs.
  • How many openings are there for jobs that pay over, say $20k, each year?
If you have no idea, then you haven't thought things through enough.

How do most professional musicians earn their income?
Freelancing, small per-service gigs, lots of private students in the public schools, and maybe a part-time job. Don't get me wrong, this can be a good life. When I lived near Washington D.C., I saw people doing this and leading happy, productive lives. One small fringe benefit: if you have 27 different employers, you can't get laid off.

Yes, I know music gets in your blood and becomes a part of you. But if you are an aspiring high school trombonist who wants to be a performance major, know what you are getting into. Do your homework on the job market.

Maybe you can find creative solutions....write grants, create a small innovative ensemble, do something in the schools.

Hey, if you can capture people's imaginations, they will flock to you. Who could have predicted the success of something like Blast?

You may want to gag at the mention of the Trans Siberian Orchestra, but whenever they come to town, big crowds form. (actually I know almost nothing about them but they were here recently)

The intersection of art and commerce is never comfortable.