I have been thinking quite a bit this summer about careers, and the progression one takes from high school ( I think I want to be a music major) to college ( wait, am I a music major?) onward to graduate school (OH GOD I'M A MUSIC MAJOR). How do we prioritize what is important at each step, what matters, and how much a student should have the opportunity to do their own thing VS. following the path before them.
I have never really been a "do your thing" kind of player, or teacher. There are, in my view, clear pathways set down before every student, and before you can re- invent the world, you have to actually the right things, first, in order to become a solid player and musician.
From time to time I have students ask me questions that are basically variations on the theme "why do I have to do this this way"' why do I have to play Bach, or Time for Marimba, or excerpts or whatever.... And my answer is, because every developed player in the world prior to you has done this, so do it.... And I'm finding this answer not working as well as it use to.
Let me be more direct. You can have the coolest skinny jeans in the world, and the slickest website, and the best elevator speech in the history of classical music.... If you cannot produce something meaningful as an artist, then you are just an empty shell. A fraud. You must understand how music works, understand the classics, and be able to produce great art from the established cannon, or you are just a joke.
I find often ( but not exclusively) in the percussion world that students can become more concerned with endorsements, social media and content marketing then the mechanics of being an artist.
When you are a student you have one job.....Learn. How. To. Be. A. Musician. You do not need a website, or a fan page, or snapchat. You need to learn how to play well. REALLY well. You need to listen to your teacher and colleagues and other musicians. And go to concerts. And learn about music. All kinds of music. Attend festivals, and practice.... Relentlessly.
To me there is no shortcut, no way around the work of practicing and studying. Do that, and other things will work themselves out. This does not mean you ignore learning the business, or networking, or thinking about what you want to do... Heck I wrote a blog post about career planning....and My own career has taken paths that I did not expect in the least. However, I'm deeply grateful I learned how to play....
I did not have a website until I had a career, my YouTube channel didn't get me one festival job, and not one student has come to study with me because I have Instagram. I have what I have, and hopefully my career as a player, teacher and conductor will continue to grow because I am good at what I do, not because of hits on a website.
Go, get to work. Learn your Bach, your Porgy, your 2/3 clave, and your Carter. Talk to me about a website or matching jeans in a few years.
This blog is regularly updated with my thoughts, opinions and views. They are mine alone.