Dear 2000

January 10, 2010

I’ve been reading the “Dear 1999” blogging project started by the guys over at MusicianWages.com. The project, which launched last month, was to have musician-bloggers answer this question:

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.

Best regards,

2010 Bret

Comments

  1. Marion Harrington

    Thanks for the mention! I enjoyed your post and the bit about weight at the end really made me giggle! It’s also refreshing to come across a musician in academia. I wonder whether too much emphasis is put on performance during training and not enough in exploring other potential musical careers which are just as rewarding. Happy to have found you!

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  3. David J. Hahn

    Wonderful advice, Bret. I hope you didn’t feel left out of the MusicianWages.com group event, anybody could participate! As long as it’s alright with you, I’ll add you to the list of participating blogs. Thanks!

    Reply

  4. Paul Hanson

    Hello Bret Pimentel-thank you very much for listing me there on your history of bassoon website! There are a few other jazz bassoon players that started before me-Ray Pizzi and the guy (whose name I can’t remember) who played in the Australian Jazz Quartet in the 1950’s. I really do appreciate the mention!
    I’m adding my website to your blog roll. This site is pretty fascinating-say hi to Ben Kono if you see him-I remember him from Ithaca IDRS in 2007!
    thanks again-Paul

    Reply

  5. Bret Pimentel (Your host)

    @Marion: Thanks for your comment. I think there are great rewards in both performing and teaching, and it’s worth doing some of each.

    @David: Thanks for including me, even though I came late to the party!

    @Paul: Thanks for stopping by! I’ve added Ray Pizzi to the page you mentioned—he definitely belongs there.

    Reply

  6. Ray Pizzi

    Bret…ERROL BUDDLE was the Jazz Bassoonist with Australian Jazz Quartet (was also a FANTASTIC woodwind doubler on Sax and Flute) He can be found on YouTube.

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