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Necessary Truths for Potential Music Majors

1. Communication is key.

  • When dealing with sensitive or professional communications, only use email (no texting, Facebook messages, or other communication that prevents a paper-trail). This protects you and your teacher/mentor/collaborators/employers.

  • Don’t make excuses. If you can’t/didn’t perform, don’t rattle off all of the reasons why; simply admit to and apologize for your mistake, and move forward.

  • Be nice! Should you reach it, know that it gets lonely at the top.

2. If you have time to say that you’re busy, then you’re not that busy.

  • “Busy” is subjective, and everyone has stuff to do. No one will place you on a pedestal because you can’t keep your stuff together.

  • If you are overwhelmed, then find a way to deal. Make lists, organize your life, buy a planner, use iCal, start saying “no,” or seek out therapy.

3. Scales will save your life.

  • Scales, arpeggios, chords, thirds, and other intervals are the basic building blocs of music-making. This is what music is made of! Other analogies include:

  • Musical “jogging:” you need these things to stay fit and ready to go when sight-reading disasters strike!

  • Musical “bathing:” you have to do it every day so your colleagues don’t think you “stink!”

  • Find a routine that you can play through every day in 30 minutes or fewer, and ask your teacher for guidance.

  • Solid technique will allow for greater artistry and less time spent in the practice room.

4. Balance your lifestyle.

  • Make meaningful relationships with your peers and teachers. Someday, you will all be working, and it will come down to “who you know.”

  • Have hobbies! Believe it or not, time spent away from your instrument and focusing on another enjoyable skill will enhance your musical experience.

  • Practice in 30-minute increments. This will help you maintain focus, and you won’t feel like your life is wasting away in a practice room.

  • Keep a practice journal. This will help you increase efficiency in your practice and will reveal which areas of your work require the most attention.

  • Some people say that we are allowed 2 out of 3 things when in school: sleep/health, academic success, and/or a social life. If you are balanced, you will have all three. If you find yourself unhappy and only with 2 of these things, then it is time for a change.

  • Don’t party too much! Don’t forget to have some fun, know your limits, get some sleep, drink some water, and work!

5. You need to practice for the rest of your life.

  • Teachers, administrators, managers, and other non-performers are most effective when they maintain their chops.

  • Once you lose touch with your art, you will inevitably find yourself detaching from those you are trying to help (employees, students, etc.).

  • You will be happier in the long run.

6. It really is “that hard” to make it in the biz.

  • To be a professional musician—especially a performer—is to be an entrepreneur.

  • Most orchestras aren’t getting bigger; they are shrinking or dissolving completely. It is highly unlikely that you will find yourself in an full-time orchestra job without having to do any other kind of work.

  • Building your career will require lots of creativity and ingenuity. There are plenty of ways to contribute to music making without performing.

  • You will be working very hard for a little money, and it will be years before it starts to pay off.

  • If you can see yourself doing anything else, you should probably do something else.

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