Starting a career in classical music.
Have you ever been to a classical music concert or seen one on television? The musicians seem to have it made- they only have to work a few hours a night, they dress well and make an absolute fortune, the audience cheers and throws roses-sounds like an easy life, doesn't it? Well, think again! This article will discuss the pros and cons of a career as a classical musician.
First of all, in fairness, let's address the hours that are required to become a successful classical musician. There are several aspects to consider in regard to the time element- most good classical musicians (and the good ones are the ones that get the seats in the orchestras) practice at least 4 to 6 hours per day, regardless of their years of experience. In addition to the practice, there are rehearsals with the orchestra itself and the travel time that is often a part of being in a successful ensemble. This is quite a commitment that may take away from family and social commitments, etc. Many orchestras or philharmonics are seasonal, but practice takes up the extra time when performances are not going on- and of course, if you're not performing, you're not getting paid.
The idea of getting paid brings us to our next myth that all classical musicians make a great deal of money. Well, the answer to this is yes and no. When one considers a great deal of money to be a high hourly rate, then yes, the classical musician makes a great deal of money. However, keep in mind that the actual paid hours for the musician vary according to their contract, if they are in a union, and so forth. Depending upon the situation, many rehearsals are not paid, only the actual performance time is paid. T
This is something significant to consider from a practical standpoint. If you are wealthy and don't need to earn a big income, by all means, follow your classical music dreams. However, the average person cannot afford to do this, and some classical musicians encounter a problem in that they would like to have a part time position to earn extra money (perhaps giving musical lessons to others) but the demands of the classical musician's career do not permit this from a time standpoint. While it is true that the 'famous' classical musicians are well paid, a lot of that compensation comes from recording royalties and the like, not from actual time on stage. Sources say that a classical musician under full-time contract in a major city earns in the area of K-K plus benefits; not a huge sum for a job that could be all consuming. However, if music is your passion, it is certainly possible to have a classical music career without living in your parent's basement until you are a senior citizen. Let's assume for a minute that you have considered all of the practical aspects of a classical music career, and you want to go for it.
What type of training and experience will you need to be considered a viable candidate for a seat in a professional orchestra?
First, of course, a great deal of the talent that gifted musicians have is simply that- an inborn gift that is honed with years of practice and experience. Many people are practically born with a violin or piano in front of them. After refining this talent for years through regular school music programs and perhaps some private lessons, your chances will be much better of getting noticed if you attend a college with an excellent reputation as a school of music. We have all heard of Eastman and Julliard, which are basically the Princeton and Yale of music colleges, but there are also many other solid music schools that are not of such a high caliber, but are excellent choices nonetheless. As with any other school, your previous experience, and your talents, will play a key role in your acceptance into a suitable music college.
Upon graduation from college, the best option for obtaining a classical musician position that will pay anywhere near a decent wage is to go to one of the major cities that are best known for classical music. In the United States, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco are cities that are well suited to the maintenance of a rewarding classical music career. Even within those cities themselves, with hard work, perseverance, and the right connections, you can move from one orchestra to perhaps another that is a higher visibility, better known, and better paying.
Once you are established in a given city, it is also easier to move to another city. As the old adage goes, it always seems easier to get a job when you already have a job, and you can't get a job without experience, and vice versa. Many of the classic job hunting rules apply here as with anything else.
Classical music careers do have a distinct benefit for those who like to travel - given the right organization, the travel possibilities are endless. Again, there is a trade off between the freedom of travel and the obligations that many of us have to family, friends, and partners. This holds true with any job, but to call classical music just a job is a misnomer. It is a vocation and a calling, much as one is called to the life of religion, charity, medicine, or anything else that causes someone to dedicate their life to a given purpose. Classical music is definitely something that will define the life of the musician, rather than supplement it as does other employment.
In this brief writing, we have tried to point out the pros and cons of a classical music career. With this information, the rest is up to the individual to decide whether or not he or she would like to pursue it. For the right person, it can be the reward of a lifetime, and the joy that a skilled musician brings to others is priceless. Hopefully, the most talented among us will rise to the challenge.