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