If you could go back to 1999 and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
I enjoyed the responses, including one from clarinetist Marion Harrington.
Although I was (*ahem*) not invited to participate, I’ve been thinking about the last ten years of my life and what brought me to where I am now. Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten a number of emails from musicians who are about the age I was ten years ago, who are interested in pursuing graduate school in multiple woodwinds, and so I’ve been in advice-giving mode already.
Since I missed posting at the end of 2009 anyway, I figure I can go ahead and change the format a little, as I think I’ve got more than one piece of advice for 2000 me.
Most of the “Dear 1999” bloggers are pursuing careers as performers, which I consider to be an important part of what I do, but my newly-begun main gig is as a university music professor. I am fortunate to be doing pretty much exactly what I love and what I’ve been aiming for for the past ten years, although sometimes it was hard to tell if I was headed in the right direction.
So here’s my advice, 2000 Bret:
- So. You’re a saxophone performance major. How many paying classical saxophone gigs do you think you will get in the next ten years? Awfully close to zero. If you keep working on your jazz chops, you’ll get a few more. If you can learn to play decent flute and clarinet, you’ll double your employability; add piccolo, and you’ll double it again. And if you can play the double reeds with confidence, you’ll never wonder if you’re getting hired for the gig—you’ll only wonder which horns you need to bring.
- Speaking of gigs, you’re young, energetic, and inexperienced enough that you can justify taking just about any gig that comes along. Do it. Weddings, parties, Oktoberfests—if they call, you play. Same thing goes for teaching gigs.
- As you add to your arsenal of doubles, don’t forget to be a beginner at them. Some of your teachers, knowing that you are accomplished on other instruments, will feel uncomfortable assigning you beginner-level etudes and such, and you may feel that you don’t need them, either. You are wrong. Insist on building a solid foundation on each instrument.
- Intonation is really, really, really important. Don’t stop working on your tone and technique, but, if you have to scale those back just a little to work on pitch, it will be worth it.
- Realize that, when the time comes to apply for that first faculty position, you will be up against a lot of competition that is at least as qualified and talented as you. Chops and a strong CV are important, but you also have to be the kind of guy that the other faculty want to work with. The people on the hiring committees are your potential future colleagues.
- Oh, and one more thing. You know how you’ve always been able to eat whatever you want without gaining a pound? Enjoy it while you can.