“What is best in music is not to be found in the notes.”
(Gunther Schuller, The Compleat Conductor, Oxford, 1998, p. 106)
If you’re a classical musician who aspires to a concert career, you’re in danger.
In danger of becoming a commodity.
That’s because there are so many young classical musicians performing the same music in similar ways that they’ve largely become interchangeable.
A Vast Carton of White Eggs
As an illustration, let’s say that you’re a classical pianist, a recent conservatory graduate, who plays standard repertoire.
You want to be hired to perform concerts, so you email some artist managers and concert presenters, offering a sample recital program with pieces by Beethoven, Chopin, and Brahms.
Managers and presenters receive countless such emails from excellent pianists who play comparable music.
When your email lands in their inboxes, even though you propose performing masterpieces, you’ll resemble a standard white chicken egg in a vast carton with thousands of other, identical eggs.
Will you attract interest? Not likely.
Added to that, the classical music audience isn’t large, and the supply of fine pianists far exceeds the demand. So only a handful of people are buying white eggs from that colossal carton.
6 Ways for Musicians to Become Distinctive Artists
To build a career as an independent performer, you have to be distinctive, whatever your instrument and regardless of the style of music that you love.
You need to offer intriguing concert programs that are true to your artistic vision and then present yourself in compelling ways so that presenters, managers, and listeners will be excited by your work.
1. Devise unconventional concert programs
2. Develop innovative projects
3. Commission or compose music
4. Explore novel collaborations
5. Connect with diverse communities
6. Research other innovators in your field
If you play lots of standard repertoire, craft and present your programs so that they’ll be relevant to diverse audiences.
That is, you don’t have to wait until you’ve learned new, unconventional material. You can repackage your core repertoire using intriguing program concepts and then share stories about the music, your programming framework, and so forth. My article “Let’s Get Relevant” provides examples.
Aim to be a colorful egg, standing out in that sea of uniform white eggs.
Or, better yet, don’t be an egg at all.
© 2015 Gerald Klickstein
Image © stelado, licensed from Shutterstock