Where is Esther at?
I am in that strange in-between position where I have a masters degree- but still have significant things in my playing to work on... I have performed with amazing musicians while in school- but am still looking for my niche of people to play with now, and where... I have learned a lot and have a lot to share- but am not fully able to support myself... have time on my hands and the temptation to be really lazy, lacking in patience to slowly unravel things out- find the opportunities and figure out exactly what step to take next...
The musician who graduates from college has a lot of figuring out to do. More school? Auditions? Teaching? Grants? Residencies? New projects? How to pay the bills... There is always this struggle between financial reality, creative pursuit, technical ability, and connections.
For me, I haven't stayed too long in one place; 4 years in CT, 2 years in CA, 1 year in London, and now back home to Rochester, so I have work to do to maintain connections and re-establish them. As a free lancing musician you need to be in the position of on people's mind for jobs- an available sub, replacement, referral, the perfect person for the job at hand, in order to get work. I am beginning to realize that simply where I stay put and for how long affects my ability to support myself as a musician.
I find it unhelpful and perhaps a downright lie that we are still telling everyone: 'you can't make a living as a musician!' but at the same time I think many musicians are frantically asking 'HOW???!' I don't think it helps to blame the government. Government controlled art has never been a good idea. Even patron controlled art has its downsides. A few days ago I had a conversation with two innovative musicians who want to share the skills they have had to learn on their own regarding the practical side of music. Things like marketing and finances. They offered me an internship with their business and I think this is a good idea. Perhaps with more ideas and knowledge about business musicians can stand on their own feet... that is if they can find work.
It seems like a big rolling guinea pig toy. Sometimes it makes me so angry that my friends are getting paid really good money to be doctors and nurses and things which are so vital to humanity on just a few years of education. How many years have I been studying to be a cellist? 23! - Seven years of college and sixteen years of private lessons and practicing. And I'm still not quite able to get a good job. For many music jobs I am still working to be considered competent enough, sharp enough. My friend auditioned for a single cello position in a symphony; She was one of 200 applicants for that one job. The thing is, this competition isn't due to the recent economy of the last few years down turn... this has been happening for awhile. On the flip side in the last few months three private music teachers I know have told me that they are having to turn students down because they are completely full and some of my music friends are doing great.
The question is how do you get started? And we are back where we started a few sentences ago? What do you do after grad school if you are a musician? Maybe you look at phds... oh, and you'd better practice, whether you get paid or not.