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Did you ever grow up and regret not pursuing a career in what you love? Music performance is a passion of mine and is something that will be pursued even if it is extremely difficult to do. By becoming a professional musician one must take many years out of their life and dedicate them to hard work and practice, but must also realize what the average lifestyle of musician consists of. They must consider things like working conditions, salary ranges, emotional/physical stresses, and so on, as well as understanding what it takes in order to obtain maximum success. Striving towards a career as a musical performer is extremely demanding; however it can be very demanding.
In order to truly understand what career is right for you the first step that should be taken is to read about the history of it and how it evolved throughout the years.
According to Gove (1981), a musician is “one skilled in music: esp. a composer, conductor or professional performer of music” (p. 1491). Music was first commonly heard during the Middle Ages in the church, but as time progressed and several advancements in musical instruments were created music reached an era known as the “Baroque Period” (1600-1800’s). During this period musicians such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, and Ludwig Van Beethoven created world renowned classical music which is still heard till this day. After the “Baroque Period” music in America started to evolve into a style known as jazz or the “Big Band Era” which spanned from 1910-1940’s. During this time music changed from straight forward and emotionless to swinging and blues. Many artists such as Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington helped adapt this new style to American culture. Since the beginning of the music era the job of a performer has yet to change. No matter what style of music is being played a performer shows up to their gig with their instrument in hand and ready to play. This is the type of career I want to pursue because it is my passion, and it has always been since I was twelve years old. There is nothing I enjoy more than getting up in front of a crowd of people and playing my trumpet. It will not be easy to make a living as a performer but in my opinion doing what you love every day is all the satisfaction one needs in life.
In order to become a successful musician in today’s society one must be willing to study and practice their instrument for a consistent amount of years, as well as seek private lessons and attend the best schools as possible. Young aspiring musicians receive help through higher educated performers at an early age in order to enhance their abilities. The advantages of taking private lessons is that the teacher is able to focus on certain weak areas in ones playing abilities and the student gets the time to develop those weak areas at their own pace. This most commonly occurs during students years spent in junior high and high school. Upon from graduating high school the wisest choice a musician could make would be to attend a college or conservatory school in order to obtain degrees (B.A. and Masters) which can help achieve greater success in the music industry, however “â€¦all institutions of higher education are great at developing skill, but cannot guarantee success in the field” (Clement, 2005, p. 49). Success also relies on the ability to become marketable and allow for people to know who you are. In addition, “Musicians must be knowledgeable about a broad range of musical styles. Having a broad ranger range of interest, knowledge, and training can help expand employment opportunities and musical abilities” (U.S. Department of Labor, 2010-2011, Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement section, para. 4). The more versatile the musician is in his abilities the more job opportunities that can be offered. This allows the performer to play various styles of music on a daily basis as well as ascertain multiple amounts of jobs. A prime example of musical success would be famous trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who attended Julliard School of Music and studied/performed both jazz and classical music. He also was the first musician ever to win Grammy’s in both jazz and classical music, making him to be considered one of the greatest musical talents ever to walk the earth (Sadie, 2001, p. 885). In order to enhance success as a performer musicians not only need to be amazing players, but they need to know how to find venues and performances to play at. Most successful musicians acquire agents/managers to locate performing events, advertise keep track of their schedule, as well as negotiate contracts to make sure performers receive the amount of money they deserve. Once well established and highly recognized throughout the industry job offers become more frequent and easy to achieve. When you have people asking for you to perform you know you have successful and talented musician. As a musician there will be job opportunities available all year. Musicians basically have the opportunity to pick when and how much they want to work, however in today’s economy it would be advantageous to work as much as possible.
Before deciding on becoming a professional musician, each person must consider the factor of long hours of playing for sometimes minimal amounts of pay, which often occurs to most musicians, however no one said having a talent would make life easy. Many young and upcoming musicians start their careers off by performing in locations such as nightclubs, music festivals, as well as even small theatres. This usually requires for musicians to be ready to travel frequently, however “fulltime musicians with long-term employment contracts, such as those with symphony orchestras or television and film production companies enjoy steady work and less travel” (USDL, 2010-2011, Nature of the Work section, para. 7). This is something young musicians strive to achieve but usually don’t until their later years as a musician. A primary example of this would be world renowned trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. Ferguson grew up in Montreal, Canada as a child prodigy, performing various instruments such as the clarinet, violin, piano, and trumpet. Maynard’s first gigs started at the age of 11 years old and by sixteen he was leading his own jazz band. Ferguson also went on to join the Stan Kenton orchestra as well as becoming Paramount Pictures first call studio trumpet player in the mid 1950’s. He quickly went from clubs, to orchestras, to movies in just ten years of hard work and doing what he loved (Lablanc, 1992, p. 67-68). Before entering the luxurious lifestyle of very few great musicians, countless amount of practice is required, which can at times be very boring. After practicing most musicians go out and perform which usually occurs during the late hours of the night and even morning. Conditions in most performance areas such as nightclubs can be very poor to play under. The lighting is usually very low which becomes strenuous on the eyes, little ventilation inside, as well as putrid odors such as smoke, however musicians play wherever they need to in order to make as much money as possible. As a musician there is no guarantee for how much income will be achieved unless you are under a contract with groups such as symphony orchestras, where a performer is required to work 52 weeks out of the year. Most performers earn their paychecks day by day depending on what type of performance they are doing at the time. “Performers who can fill large concert halls, arenas, or outdoor stadiums generally command higher pay than those who perform in local clubs” (USDL, 2010-2011, Earnings section, para. 3). In May 2008 hourly income for musicians throughout the U.S. were documented and “The middle 50 percent earned between $11.49 and $36.36. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.64, and the highest ten percent earned more than $59.92” (USDL, 2010-2011, Earnings section, para. 1). Although making money can be quite difficult for most musicians, they do have the opportunity to make their own schedules. This can often be quite beneficial because most musicians become extremely fatigued after long consecutive amounts of performances and look for a certain amount of time off to recuperate. This all depends on the individual performer and how much stamina they have as well as the need to make money. Along with being physically stressed out most musicians become emotionally unstable, which is often due to not being able to make enough money as well as having the fear of potentially not being able to find a substantial amount of work. In 1988, “The gold standard of musician health surveys was conducted for the International Conference of Symphony and Orchestra Musicians” (Likar, 2009, p. 32). This survey consisted of approximately 2,100 people and “The survey found that 13 percent of the musicians reported a problem with anxiety, eight percent severe; 25 percent reported a specific problem with stage fright, 16 percent severe” (Likar, 2009, p. 32). As an aspiring freelance musician the opportunity to work with outstanding performers is quite high, seeing as how big band performances as well as studio work requires nothing but perfection in order to become successful. Most recording artists are frequently called back to perform other recordings if their musical abilities are suitable to the conductors needs. This is most commonly seen in many movie soundtrack productions. As well as been evaluated by peers and conductors, musicians are more importantly evaluated by their listeners and fans. A performer must always be on the top of his game in order to successfully keep their listeners satisfied.
If there is one thing a musician will always have it would be potential. As a performer there is always room to improve and become the best you can be which is done by practice as well as listening to other great musicians. Some advantages of being a performer would be going out to various places and performing in front of different people night in and night out. There are also many different opportunities to be able to perform with other musicians as well as large ensembles. This allows for one to consistently learn from all different kinds of amazing musicians who each have their own style and technique. Along with having many advantages performers must also face potential issues such as not being able to truly express their musical abilities in certain ensembles. When playing in certain bands, especially during recording sessions, musicians are bound to play what is written on the page for them and must not switch what the band director wants unless told to do so. Each band director wants certain things to be played and certain things not to be played; therefore it is up to the musician to follow what is specifically written on the page. If the music is not played up to standards then the director has the ability to fire the musician on the spot, which will also ruin there reputation throughout the music industry. Another disadvantage would be not being able to spend a lot of time with family and loved ones due to the fact that musicians are constantly on the road traveling to different venues. This can also lead to a high amount of emotional stress in a player which can drastically affect their performance in a negative way. Although it appears that the amount of work for musicians is starting to slowly depreciate over the years, “Employment of musicians, singers, and related workers is expected to grow 8 percent during the 2008-2018 decade, as fast as the average for all occupations” (USDL, 2010-2011, Job Outlook section, para. 2). Also, “Growth in demand for musicians will generate a number of job opportunities, and many openings also will arise from the need to replace those who leave the field each yearâ€¦” (USDL, 2010-2011, Job Outlook section, para. 3). This projection allows for future musicians to not be discouraged from pursuing their career as performers. Once established as a great musician many possible paths performance opportunities start to arise. Musicians are frequently asked to attend different ensemble performances as guest artists as well as numerous amounts of studio sessions. They are even asked to do clinic work which consists of talking, playing and enlightening younger aspiring musicians on how to become a successful performer. Due to high levels of performance anxiety some musicians decide to leave the field of musical performance and pursue a career in something else. Musicians have the option of multiple related occupations in the field of music such as music management, education, and even music therapy. These are all options available to musicians to pursue if unable to perform on a daily basis. Determining whether what is considered a top job as a musical performer varies on the individuals personal preference. Each performer has their own goals in which they wish to accomplish and are satisfied once completed. These goals consist of being first chair musicians (section leaders), successful studio musicians (top selling albums), as well as even one day becoming a future band director or composer. In order to obtain those top job positions a musician must first practice to become as great of a performer as they could be. Then the next step would be learning how to become easy to communicate with as well as work well with others, which will allow for a successful ensemble. “To become a top studio musician, one must be more talented, more versatile, and better connected then other musicians around” (Field, p. 232-233, 2009).
Striving towards a career as a musical performer is very demanding; however it can be very rewarding. Music performance is something that has been a passion of mine since I was 12 years old, and after researching the field of performance I have learned a great deal of valuable information which has even further persuaded me into becoming a performer. To become the best performer as possible I have learned that it takes hard work, dedication, and most importantly love for the art. In order to fulfill my dreams I must continue on the path that I have been pursuing for almost 6 years, which is to practice, study, and most importantly perform. Playing the trumpet is what I love to do and will continue to do each and every day of my life, and when asked why I simply say “What’s better each and every day then waking up and doing what you love for a living?”
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