It's been a summer filled with change, and it's not over yet.
Here's the Cliff Notes to my life over the last several months: I graduated with my master's degree, traveled to China for the first time, started a new day gig in June (in music administration), got married, and tried to process it all on a 10-day honeymoon to Hawaii (I mostly just slept and gawked at the ocean). Phew.
Now that the flurry of BIG LIFE EVENTS is over (at least for now), I've had time to refocus on my own musical career and ponder exactly what it is I want to do next. Which, it turns out, is a lot of things. I want to practice and play as much as possible. I want to meet and network with more local musicians in the area. I want to write TONS of music. I want to plant the seeds to record my own album sometime in the near future. I want to start a safe discussion and support group that empowers female musicians. I want to teach a wider demographic of students about creative music. It's a big list.
A lot of people have asked me throughout my time in college, in polite and not-so-polite ways, "but what will you do with your degrees?" And honestly? I think the possibilities are endless. The paper that your diploma is printed on may be worthless, but the training and experiences you gain in music school are hugely valuable, and applicable to a variety of fields. Just don't get into the mindset that you + music degree = instant dream job and financial security. The great guitarist Corey Christiansen pointed out in a clinic I attended earlier this year that for people who play creative music, music students are pretty un-creative when it comes to building a career. Stop thinking that the only job opportunities available are full-time college professor or full-time performing musician. Stop limiting yourself to one genre of music or one type of audience. Get creative with your career: after all, you're basically trained in professional creative problem-solving.
Here's the breakdown of my current "career jigsaw puzzle":
- I work full-time for a non-profit orchestra in a music administration role. The job is (mostly) weekdays from 9-5, which gives me flexibility on nights and weekends for freelancing. It is also teaching me a TON about non-profits and the classical music world (to which I am a HUGE newb).
- I'll be teaching a class as an adjunct instructor this fall.
- I gig on most weekends. Currently, I work as a sidewoman most of the time, but I would like to work on booking more of my own groups.
- I teach a handful of private lessons. I'd like to pick up more students and develop a more regular teaching schedule.
- I'm not currently making any revenue from arranging and composing, but this is definitely a territory I plan on exploring soon.
Fortunately for me, I'm happy doing a number of different things. I thrive on variety. What will my career look like in 5 years, 1 year, 3 months? I can't say I'm sure, but that's sort of the exciting part.
Here's a secret: YOU get to decide what your definition of success looks like. Nobody else- only you. Maybe it means making it as a working musician in a big city. Maybe it means working a stable day job so you can pursue really experimental projects on the weekends. Maybe it means making a ton of money, or crafting a schedule that allows you to raise a family. It could mean receiving cheers from 20,000 fans, or praise from the one person you respect most.
There are no right or wrong answers. There's only good, hard work.
There's a lot of fear surrounding talk about careers in the arts, but I'm an eternal optimist. If anyone can survive budget cuts, economic recessions, new technologies, and a host of other challenges, it's creative artists. We're built to adapt. We're survivors.
School's out. Let's get to work.