A Few Selected Flute Comments
Many would agree that giving up security for the sake of making beautiful noises would be a crazy move indeed. Some would say that life passes but a single time for each of us and devoting as much of that limited time as possible to that which one loves would be the way to go. Making a living with a flute may not always be a simple task but, in my experience, it has always been a rewarding one. Not all of the students are good and too many of the performances are less than wonderful but in every lesson and each concert there is at least one moment of joy or inspiration that makes it all worth while for me. Eventhough the competition is extreme for precious few jobs, there exists a type of comradery between musicians that helps to establish life long friendships. If I could imagine myself as an extremely fulfilled English grammar teacher after forty years of work then that is just what I would do for the next forty years. Are you crazy? I don't think so. Or could it be that generations of music makers were all crazy? Keep us posted on your career choices and thanks for stirring the pot a little.
All my best,
Making a career choice is rarely easy and being armed with as much information as possible would seem to be a wise idea. Financial rewards in music are minimal and the concept of security is nearly nonexistant in the field. It has been my experience that having an unexplainable desire to create beautiful music no matter what the hardship is one of the primary ingredients to creating a successful career. Many of my colleagues would agree that the career seems to pick the person and not usually the other way around. When all goes well, the rewards can be extraordinary. Experiencing that moment of pure extacy in the middle of a concert or listening to a student make a sublime sound can be overwhelmingly positive but the moment is fleeting. I do not subscribe to the sentiment that amateur musicians are relegated to producing music of lesser value but they do not have to deal with the day to day task of selling the product. If you feel in your bones that making beautiful music at the highest level is something that you simply must do and your life will not be complete unless you do, then take the big bite and enter the profession. Otherwise realize that you can still make great music as an amateur but your achievements may be limited by the amount of time that you have avaliable to devote to the making of that music. I have attended many masterclasses with some of the worlds finest teachers that have included professionals, prospective professionals, and amateur players. It has been my experince that these players were not treated differently according to their career orientation. In every case the music was the only issue.
There are amateur music making opportunities to be found all over the world. I have yet to live in a community that does not sport a community band or orchestra and a plethora of churches looking for musicians with skills to offer. If you have developed abilities on any instrument then the opportunity to exercise those skills will present itself. You may not find yourself playing the most lofty of repertoire at all times but you will be making music. If the truth be known, many professionals don't find themselves playing the most lofty repertoire at all times either.
Making a career choice is undoubtedly an important issue and should not be taken lightly. I might suggest discussing the issue with local professionals, your parents, and your teacher. Collect all the information you can before making your decision. There are many ways to make a living in the music business and not all of them involve the playing of an instrument.
Best of luck in your deliberations. Please keep us informed as to your progress.
All my best,
Having a healthy concern about what comes after the first degree is something that all music majors must face. I recall entering my undergraduate studies with the full knowledge that there were no guarantees and that much creativitiy would be required to make a living in the business. It seems to be clear to me that teaching at one level or another is unavoidable in this field. The performance aspect of music is very much an apprenticeship type system and the greatest players are ususally the products of the teaching of other great players. Professional performance venues for a flute player are limited mostly to orchestra, opera, chamber recitals, solo recitals, film & television recording, musical theatre, and some pop and jazz situations. Of these jobs only orchestra and opera positions come with any type of guaranteed regular income and in most cases that salary is not large. The vast majority of players who earn most of thier income through playing also subsidise that income with teaching of some type.
With the extremely large number of wonderful players all seeking employment of some kind, it would seem to be a wise choice to get as much training as possible. I know of very few North American players who are ready to compete in the market after earning a bachelors degree. They do exist to be sure but the North American brand of broad education within the university setting simply doesn't allow for young players to devote the amount of time required to develop all of the skills needed to compete well in the professional scene. In the 'New World' it is the graduate programs within universities that usually offer the most opportunity for indepth development of performance skills. If performance is your goal then graduate school is likely a good idea.
I doubt if this little note will do much to alleviate your concerns but these are some thoughts from one who has dabbled in all of the above mentioned activities in order to maintain a place in the musical profession.
Earning a living while you are doing that which you love seems to be a rare situation. I wouldn't trade a minute of the past twenty five years for anything. Best of luck and as usual, keep us informed of your decisions.
All my best,
As players we must continually strive to create a more expressive sound, a more flutent technique or the ability to shape a more attractive phrase. We must do all of this in full awareness of the fact that there are countless other musicians doing the same. The number of amazingly fine players continues to grow and competition for precious few positions inevitably must become a consideration. Not everyone can be as you say "at the top" but that certainly doesn't mean that one who is generally not in that category has nothing to offer to the world of music. An article in a the April 1994 BBC Music Magazine was titled "BBC Young Musicians - Where Are They Now?". I read this article with special interest since a close friend was a finalist but not a winner in this competition in 1986. The article described how most of the non-winning finalists had gone on to establish solid careers and several of the winners had all but vanished from the scene. My non-winning friend has gone on to play for the RPO, London Sinfonietta, Moscow City Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, and a host of other notable orchestras. Many of my colleagues who were the 'hot shots' twenty five years ago have left the profession all together and most of us who plodded along at our own placid pace are still growing and working in the business. When my own students express their discouragement I usually recommend that they listen to their favourite recording and reflect on the beauty of music rather than on the task of competing with others. Competition rears it's ugly head on a regular basis and is impossible to avoid but every effort must be made to keep it from removing the love of making music.
Hang in there and keep us informed of your progress.
All my best,
Over the years I have heard my fair share of musicians lament about the scarcity of jobs and the lack of security associated with a career in music and a recent post by John Zornig got me to thinking....Oh..Oh.. I'll attempt to keep it brief - no small task for me.
John mentioned the idea of knowing just who the real enemy is and suggested that looking close to home might prove enlightening. I think there is much truth here and a recent event with one of my students might serve as a good example. I must learn to refrain from telling too many tales about my students when out of class but this one seems to be quite appropriate to the subject.
Just last week I wrote about a young 14 year old student who had won a competition and reacted to the experience in a very positive and mature manner. This same student called me up a couple of days ago and asked for my opinion regarding the possibility of his playing solo flute in a local high class restaurant. What he had in mind was to play light classics and some popular melodies (unaccompanied) about twice each month for roughly one hour slots during the early evening. My reaction - what a great idea! My advice - put together a good cross section of well know melodies, memorize several so that you have the ability to do some strolling through the restaurant, plan a strategy for approaching the restaurant manager and know what fee you would like to receive. Nicholas' reply - I am glad to hear that, I have already done all that you have suggested and now I need your help with pieces.
I don't recall ever bieng handed a job that I didn't feel that I had somehow earned or had created myself. I think that this 'Tale of Nicholas' serves to point out the need, to be creative and to actively promote the services that we, as flute players, do have to offer. I have limited sympathy when it comes to tales of woe and much respect for pro-active and creative actions when attempting to encourage the arts. Luigi Zaninelli once told me that there was no reason for a musician to be unable to find some type of musical activity that would result in some degree of income. I heeded his words and have never gone without a loaf of bread.
All my best,
I would like to pick up and possibly expand on these words written by Glen. I must agree entirely with his assessment here. The real working world provides precious little time for the musician to work out detailed approaches to the task at hand and it is in the practice room that one must prepare for as many eventualities as possible. I don't always enjoy under rehearsed performances but I must say that on occasion such events turn out to be the source of some of the most exciting concerts.
With regard to recital performances, I would say that in the best of all possible worlds; each recital would be carefully learned, well rehearsed, and then performed dozens (if not hundreds) of times. With busy working musicians there is often very limited time to devote to rehearsal. It has been my experience that having two rehearsals for a typical recital is the average and having three is a real luxury. The luxury of performance repetition is relegated to only the best of our touring performers. Most of us mortals must be satisfied with one, two, or possibly three performances of a recital and then it is off to learn more material for the next concert.
In the musical theatre pit we have much opportunity for performace repetition but precious little time for rehearsal. In this situation one had better be able to execute the music correctly the first time or not expect too many return engagements. My experience has been that the pit orchestra enters the picture at a time when the cast and crew have completed their rehearsals with the rehearsal pianist/conductor and the orchestra is exptected to get it right the first time. There is plenty of opportunity to work on special fingerings and details of execution during the run of the show but it is the first rehearsal that will determine future employment. As Glen has already and rightfully pointed out, this situation is even more acute in the recording studio.
The bottom line would seem to me to be that one should learn all possible fingerings, work out as many technical aspects of the instrument as possible, and focus much attention on the development of sight reading skills while still in the practice room. Geoffrey Gilbert provided many valuable insights into flute playing but none more important than his insights with regard to approaches to practice. I have collected many of his ideas into an article that can be found on my homepage. The same article is slated for publication in an upcoming issue of the 'American Piper' magazine. I have suggested this Gilbert approach to my students for the past several years and it has proven to be extremely useful.
The 'real world' is a lovely place indeed but it can be quite different from the one that is often imagined by young students. The opportunity for slow calculated growth, the learning of technique in rehearsal, and the luxury of making mistakes is rarely part of the 'real world' that includes a pay packet at the end of the day.
All my best,
Lots of my adult students do the same, and some of them don't practice regularly. I'm their teacher, and that's OK with me. We work on whatever they have done, even if it's only a little. I believe different people have different amounts of energy to put into the flute, and different people have different goals that they want to achieve. I'm willing to work with them at whatever level they wish.
Thoughts On Motivation
Words of Encouragement
Dear Amy:As players we must continually strive to create a more expressive sound, a more flutent technique or the ability to shape a more attractive phrase. We must do all of this in full awareness of the fact that there are countless other musicians doing the same. The number of amazingly fine players continues to grow and competition for precious few positions inevitably must become a consideration. Not everyone can be as you say "at the top" but that certainly doesn't mean that one who is generally not in that category has nothing to offer to the world of music. An article in a the April 1994 BBC Music Magazine was titled "BBC Young Musicians - Where Are They Now?". I read this article with special interest since a close friend was a finalist but not a winner in this competition in 1986. The article described how most of the non-winning finalists had gone on to establish solid careers and several of the winners had all but vanished from the scene. My non-winning friend has gone on to play for the RPO, London Sinfonietta, Moscow City Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, and a host of other notable orchestras. Many of my colleagues who were the 'hot shots' twenty five years ago have left the profession all together and most of us who plodded along at our own placid pace are still growing and working in the business. When my own students express their discouragement I usually recommend that they listen to their favourite recording and reflect on the beauty of music rather than on the task of competing with others. Competition rears it's ugly head on a regular basis and is impossible to avoid but every effort must be made to keep it from removing the love of making music.
Hang in there and keep us informed of your progress.
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