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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 7, No. 2

Managing a Musical Career

by Jonathan Vaillancourt / October 1, 2001

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The music industry consists of more than the performing artists; a team is needed to provide support. Often musicians who have management skills are ideally suited.

“That I was a musician for a long time helps me now to deal with the workings of the milieu,” explains the director of the “Conservatoires de Musique et d’art Dramatique du Québec,” Nicolas Desjardins, with his baritone voice. “It also brings me some respect from the people I supervise, and from my superiors.”

For some years now, many Canadian institutions, especially in Ontario, Québec and British Columbia, have created programs specialized in art management to help artists, including musicians, to take their own career or someone else’s in charge.

Concordia University in Montréal offers such a program, which is a graduate diploma in administration (DIA) specialized for non-profit organisations. One of the three options of the diploma is managing cultural organisations.

“Most of the musicians applying at the school want to eventually manage their own career or that of a group they belong to,” says Edith Katz, the DIA’s coordinator for marketing and communications. “Most of our graduates will end up managing organisations like orchestras and chamber music ensembles.”

This one-year, full-time program consists of ten courses, totalling thirty credits, with six core courses and four in the chosen field. The arts, culture, entertainment and cultural tourism administration option includes, among others, marketing classes and public relations classes, as well as a research project or a three-month internship.

“The organisations where we send our students have to meet many selection criteria,” says Katz. “For example, they have to expose the interns to their management process and have them supervised by their seniors.”

A 1984 DIA graduate, Desjardins liked his experience: “I learned a lot there. Of course, you need some talent in management to begin with, but the diploma helps finetune your knowledge.”

Still in Montréal, the École des Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC) offers a similar program. It has the same length and the same number of credits, but it doesn’t systematically have internships.

“We do have a project class where the student can do an internship, but it is not mandatory,” points out François Colbert, the chair of art management at the school. “Most of our students already have some experience in cultural organisation management. The average age of our students is around 30.”

Former flutist, and now communications director at the Jeunesses Musicales du Canada, Pascale Labrie had started taking classes at the HEC. But her work, as well as her ongoing studies in musicology, forced her to stop. She believes the classes she completed, by familiarizing her with the environment she wanted to work in, helped her in her job.

Elsewhere in Canada, many schools offer art-managing classes and diplomas to those who would like to further their knowledge in this field. Some institutions, like the Universities of Waterloo and Victoria, offer long-distance classes for students living out of their area. The Banff Centre offers a few days of training in the field at a somewhat high cost.

Curious musicians thus have the possibility to learn more, thanks to programmes catering to their specific interests. This way they will be well equipped once they have to manage an artistic organisation or a personal project. The important thing is to multiply the possible avenues to take, and to keep the options open.

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