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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 6, No. 3

Music students should look ahead

by Marielle Leroux / November 1, 2000

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Many high school grads with a strong musical bent are unsure about what to do next. If you want to study music in university or at a special music school, you should be interested in music in general and ready to ask questions. How does music originate? How is it constructed? Why do some people prefer one kind of music to another? Students and others in the cultural field need to take a larger view and realize that musical careers arenít found only in the concert hall.

People immediately think of teaching as a musical option, but there are plenty of alternatives: composing, communications (e.g., radio and TV), recording, research, and administration (in cultural enterprises), among others. Itís up to the future graduate to explore musicís various aspects before making a choice. Do you like playing solo, in a small ensemble, or in an orchestra or big band? Do you prefer a specialized repertoire or one that covers the greatest possible number of different types? Would you rather teach privately or in a school setting? Would you like to compose for orchestra, the theatre, or video games?

Alas, talent and technique arenít enough to guarantee you a niche. Students with a clear idea of the kind of career they want and how to get there will have a better chance of succeeding. Itís important for schools and conservatories to support students in this respect by giving them a solid and varied background and by enabling them to do creative work and research, with a chance to experiment and discover what theyíd like to give to their future public.

When youíre starting out (and even later), itís sometimes difficult to know what you actually want. And to add to the problem, tastes change over time. A little self-analysis is a good idea: explore your various motivations and work out your priorities.

Knowing your own mind

Some musicians say, "I grew up in a family of musicians, so it was very natural for me to follow a career in music." Itís normal and desirable for parents to transmit their own love of music to their children and encourage them to realize their full musical potential. When it comes to post-secondary studies, however, itís the students who pick their courses and activities, based on their personal interests rather than what pleases Mom and Dad.

Students look to their teachers for inspiration and encouragement. There has to be mutual confidence in such a relationship, especially if the course is private or semi-private. Students find it stimulating when a teacher is enthusiastic about their progress, but here again they should keep their own career vision in focus and be aware that a teacherís ideas on this subject may differ. Make a point of sharing in choosing your repertoire and research projects.

Other less obvious factors can influence career choices. Itís often said that a career teaching music in schools offers a secure income, which is indeed one of this fine professionís strong points. But ask yourself, is teaching in your bones? Listen to good advice, but donít forget to pay attention to your inner voice.

Keeping things in perspective

A lot of effort goes into making a musical career. Despite the long hours of study and practice, music is marvellously rewarding and able to provide the deepest spiritual and artistic satisfaction. However, music isnít a cruel goddess: musicians donít have to sacrifice everything to their art. Itís important to understand the need to explore other avenues of activity or to spend time with your family. Each experience in life is a chance to broaden your understanding of art. Keeping things in perspective and leading a balanced life may just be the secret for becoming a truly sensitive performer.

†††[Translated by Jane Brierley]

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