photo of large concert hall interior“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
–Thomas Edison, inventor

Parts I and II of this post show that we musicians need inclusive abilities and solid work ethics if we’re to seize opportunities in the new economy.

In this final part, I sum up strategies that multiply our career prospects and ignite our dedication to creative work. Overalls optional.

In The Musician’s Way, the section “Embracing Career Challenges” (p. 299-307) examines five career-building maneuvers. Here, I summarize those maneuvers and highlight other career-development moves.

5 Career-Building Maneuvers for Aspiring Musicians

1. Draft a Career Plan
2. Educate Yourself
3. Network
4. Fill Many Niches
5. Polish Your Image

1. Draft a Career Plan

The Musician’s Way describes how diverse career plans enable musicians to live productive, meaningful lives. To create your own customized plan, write down:

a. Incremental career-development goals for this week and month
b. Larger goals for the year
c. Major professional and artistic objectives for five years or more in the future

Consult with a mentor to ensure that your plans are comprehensive and attainable. (See “Artistic vision.”)

For example, a young performer’s one-week aims might include drafting a bio, mapping out a basic design for a website, and identifying three titles to record. An aspiring studio teacher could research types of private studio websites, pinpoint three prosperous studios that would serve as models, and examine a couple of new methods for beginning students.

2. Educate Yourself

We self-educate by gaining knowledge, skills, and experience. I advise students to, among other things enroll in career-development, public speaking, and technology-related workshops; consult with on-campus career counselors; study career and tech guides; sign up for summer programs; selectively volunteer and intern.

Most of all, we have to be competent musicians who can fill many roles. So comprehensive musicianship, as portrayed in Chapters 1-11 of The Musician’s Way, forms the bedrock of music career preparation.

“Comprehensive musicianship forms the bedrock of music career preparation.”

3. Network

“None of the employment in music is generated by machines; it all comes from people” (The Musician’s Way, p. 303).

To broaden your network, participate in online communities, attend conferences, collaborate with and support local musicians, and volunteer for organizations that serve music causes. (Update: see Ninja Networking.)

4. Fill Many Niches

Musicians who assemble the inclusive abilities outlined in Part II of this post create multiple income streams and grow in various artistic and professional aspects.The Musician's Way book cover

In your career plan, document how you can branch out your interests and close gaps in your skills. For instance, The Musician’s Way relates the story of a pianist named Jennifer who arrived at college as a piano major and then steadily fashioned a career as a performer, teacher, contractor, and church music director

5. Polish Your Image

“To find your place in the music world, there are two images that will need your attention: your self-image and your professional image” (The Musician’s Way, p. 305). The book discusses ways in which our self- and professional images intertwine and provides specifics about how both can be burnished. Here, I’ll spotlight one self-image feature: attitude.

When we recognize that the public’s demand for music generates countless opportunities, and when we accurately assess how our interests and abilities line up with career prospects, then the ball lands in our court. It’s up to us to take on a can-do attitude, work diligently, stoke our fascination with music, and get help when we need it.

With positive mindsets and reliable work habits, we open portals to limitless possibilities in the music profession. We can then proceed in the honest conviction that career success is attainable.

*  *  *

Ultimately, when we devote ourselves to careers in music, we reap the benefits of doing what we love and contributing to the wellbeing of others. Yes, we can make good livings, but what we really make are our lives.

We grow as artists, inspire others, and bring beauty into the world. We forge happiness and fulfillment.

What could be more practical than that?

You’ll find far-reaching guidelines for artistic and professional development throughout The Musician’s Way.

© 2010 Gerald Klickstein