A life in music

I'm often asked if there was a specific moment in my life when I knew that I wanted to become a professional musician. For me, it was during my first year in the Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra. We were working on the Largo from Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 and, for the first time in my life, I got goosebumps while making music.

I was in shock.

How was I connecting so strongly with this music?

Dvořák's ninth symphony is a musical masterpiece. But I know that it was much more than just the music that was speaking to me: it was the collective emotional force of every musician in that room.

For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by a bunch of kids who were just like me. Kids who chose to spend their Saturday afternoons, not playing video games or watching tv, but instead refining their music-making abilities, learning from mentors, pushing and encouraging each other to be the best that they could be.

I will never forget the incredible power that was created by that roomful of kids lost in the musical moment, with nothing on their minds other than producing the most beautiful sounds they could make.

The reason I’m sharing this story with all of you is because one of my most dedicated and passionate trumpet students just got accepted into the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, a group I believe to be one of the greatest youth music organizations in the country.

This is one of the proudest moments in my life (funny how, as I get older, I realize that the most rewarding experiences are those that don't necessarily happen to me, but to those I care about and surround myself with.)

I hope that this opportunity will generate lifelong friendships and unforgettable musical experiences as well as present challenges that, when overcome, will shape my student into an even more extraordinary human being.

Wishing a lifetime of goosebump-creating musical moments to everyone,

Chad Goodman

3 tips for breaking into the music scene in a new city

                              photo cc by dronepicr via  Wikimedia Commons

                              photo cc by dronepicr via Wikimedia Commons

You’ve just received your Master of Music degree from ______ School of Music. Since this school was located in a small town, you’ve decided to take your chances and move to a bigger city in hopes of jump-starting your professional career in music. You’ve already found an apartment and will be moving in two months from now.

Now is the time to create a game plan for breaking into the music scene and making a great first impression.

Below are some strategies to help make this transition a successful one.

1. Contact all friends and former colleagues already living in this city

Compile a list of every musician you know who currently works in your soon-to-be city’s music scene. The violinist from your undergrad, the clarinetist you met at Aspen two summers ago...get in touch with these people in the 1-2 months leading up to your arrival. Let them know that you’re very excited to join the music scene and that you’d love to catch up once you’ve arrived.

Meet them for coffee/drinks/dinner, and treat them. Use this time to learn about their experiences in the local scene. Find out how they started getting gigs. Ask them to share the contact information for the big contractors in town.

After picking their brains, make sure to catch them up on any exciting updates in your own life. Even if you’ve just left school and haven’t had any professional gigs, talk excitedly about a really fantastic experience you had in a recital, a lesson, or a music festival. Present yourself as an enthusiastic, driven musician and they will want to help you get gigs.

2. Attend as many performances featuring local classical musicians as possible.

In addition to seeing the big symphony in town, look for the smaller groups performing in smaller venues. In San Francisco, the Center For New Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music both present multiple shows every week. These venues tend to feature the rising stars of the city and have either low ticket prices or free admission.

Seeing smaller shows that feature the musicians who are a few steps ahead of you will be extremely beneficial. These performers are the ones making a living freelancing and you need to know who they are and who they perform with.

3. Play for the big dogs in town

When you are feeling settled in and confident in your playing, contact the principal and section players of the big orchestra. Write a brief introduction email and attach a resume. Tell them you are eager to perform in the city and would love the opportunity to play some excerpts for them at a time/location convenient for them. If you are preparing for an audition, bring the audition repertoire with you. Don’t ask them for lesson. Instead, phrase it as “playing for them.” You don’t want them to view you as a student, but as a potential colleague.

A new move presents new opportunities. Use these suggestions to get yourself up and running in your new city as soon as possible.

You will be a music teacher. Here’s how to get started.

cc by Tulane Public Relations  on flickr

cc by Tulane Public Relations on flickr

You are going to be a teacher. Even if all of your degrees are in music performance. Even if you are set on becoming the busiest performer on the planet, you are going to teach.

Let that sink in.

The extent to which you teach will vary, but know that you will find yourself in the role of teacher at some point in your career. Educating and inspiring others to explore music is one of the most important roles of a performer.

Let’s say that you’ve just finished school, and find yourself in a new city. You know that you want to build a private studio. How do you start? Where can you find students? How do you make your presence known?     

Advertise through music shops: Visit every music shop in your city and introduce yourself to the staff and owners. Share your music background with them. Tell them you are eager to find new students. Most music shops provide private teacher contact sheets for interested students and parents. Ask if you can leave business cards and a printed bio at the shop. If they also advertise their private teachers online, make sure to email them all of your information (a teaching bio*, any pertinent contact info, and a headshot.).

Advertise through local schools: Most school music programs now provide private teacher contact sheets for students. You want to make sure that your name appears on as many of these lists as possible. Spend a few hours one afternoon compiling a list of every local public and private school in your area. Next, find each band and orchestra director’s contact information. Most teachers can be emailed through a direct link found on the school website. If their email is not listed, a quick visit to the front office of the school and an introduction to the staff will lead you to that information.

Your next step is to email each band director an introduction and resume and explain that you have space in your teaching studio for a few more students. Include all noteworthy teaching experience. While you’re at it, mention any other marketable services you can offer (i.e. running marching band sectionals, proficiency in music theory or piano, etc.) If you have the time to do so, schedule an in-person meeting with the teacher. A face-to-face meeting will always create a stronger connection than an email.

Teachers want the best students possible, so help them make an easy recommendation the next time a parent asks them for a teacher referral.

Create a Yelp business page: Yelp business pages are free to build. Make sure to include a headshot (and a few more photos if you’d like), your bio, and all contact info. If you have a website (which you should) have the link prominently displayed.

Advertise on Craigslist: Yes, people actually search Craigslist for things besides used Ikea futons and missed connections. Advertising on Craigslist is free. Include the same information you placed on your Yelp business page.

Advertise through local arts papers/periodicals: Many local periodicals will allow you to make a listing for free. (In the Bay Area, the San Francisco Classical Voice is one example.)

Following these steps will help you to establish yourself as a teacher and build your list of students. Starting to build a studio is never easy, but if you put in the work, you will see results.


*A note about your teaching bio: Every music student knows that a personal bio is a necessity. We know that a bio is a chance to show off all of our accomplishments as performers, so we pack them with details on every orchestra performance, solo recital, concerto competition, masterclass performance, and summer festival we ever participated in. This is all very useful for the bio found on, let’s say, your degree recital program. What you’re probably not told in school though, is that this information might not be enough to attract students. While performance credentials are impressive, all they do is validate you as a performer. They do not speak at all to your success as a teacher.

Parents want to know that you aren’t just a successful performer, but a successful teacher as well. For this reason, you should include all noteworthy teaching experience in a bio you are sending out with the end goal of attracting students. If you’ve had students participate in regional or statewide honor bands, summer music camps or workshops, let everyone know.

Also, make sure to include a sentence addressing the age range of your students. While most of your students will likely be kids, there are many adult beginners out there interested in private lessons as well. If they think that the only students you work with are children, they may be deterred from pursuing lessons. Stating that you’ve “worked with students of all skills levels and ages, from 8 - 80” might provide the assurance they need to get in touch with you.

You just earned a music degree. Now what?

photo cc by Colin Kinner  via Wikimedia Commons                                                                                 

photo cc by Colin Kinner via Wikimedia Commons                                                                                

Congratulations. You just earned a music degree. Now what?

Here’s the thing: from a young age, a career in classical music is laid out for us as a clear path. As long as you practice, practice, practice, it will be as simple as connecting the dots.

Grade school years spent in youth symphonies and private lessons will connect to four years of undergraduate music studies and summer music festivals. Practice hard enough during those four years and it will connect to Master’s programs, Doctoral programs, and Artist Diplomas. After you’re finished with academia, you transition into a job.

In the case of most music students, however, the grad school “dot” and professional job “dot” don’t connect the way the others did. As a matter of fact, there is no dot in sight.

What follows the sheltered bubble called “academia” is a complete unknown for most of us.

As I approached the end of grad school, I realized that I had been spending countless years (and exorbitant amounts of money) learning one skill and one skill only: to sound good on my instrument. Being able to blaze through your scales and play the standard orchestral audition excerpts in your sleep is essential for a musician pursuing an orchestral career. This is an undeniable truth.

But shouldn’t our music schools train students to do more than this? Isn’t it their responsibility to prepare students for the realities of the music world that awaits?

The vast majority of our music programs don’t spend time training students how to build and maintain a flourishing private teaching studio. They don’t teach the organizational strategies required to stage a public recital or the public speaking skills needed to build deep connections with an audience.

Most of the steps I took to arrive where I am today are based on experiences that music school did not prepare me for. Through trial and error, I’ve been fortunate enough to build a multi-faceted career in music. I serve as the Music Director of Elevate Ensemble, an organization that I built from the ground up. I perform as a trumpeter with orchestras and ensembles throughout the Bay Area, and maintain a private studio that currently has a wait list.

Each of my blog posts will detail a lesson I’ve learned about how to navigate the world as a working musician. These lessons aren’t always easy and they aren’t always second nature, but they’ve been absolutely vital in starting and running my career.

- Chad Goodman