In Part VIII of Road Warrior Without an Expense Account, the topic of freelancer burnout was discussed. This is a depressing and all-too-frequent result of engaging in this type of work, and the solution to this situation is quite complicated.
Actually, this whole topic becomes quite depressing, and the more one thinks about it, the more depressing it becomes.
- Student likes playing music
- Student studies with teacher (likely a freelancer)
- Teacher tells student that they can “make it” and get an orchestra job
- Student decides to audition for music school
- Teacher tells student to audition for the “best schools”
- Student auditions and is accepted at one of the “best schools”
- Student plunks down $43,000 (or more) for each year of school
- Student finishes school with a lot of chops, $172,000 of debt, and no prospects
- Teacher tells student to go to grad school (but only at one of the “best schools”)
- Student goes to graduate school for another $43,000 a year
- Student graduates
- Student takes auditions ($800-2000 a pop)
- Student maxes out credit card on auditions
- Student’s educational debt rivals medical school graduates
- Student gets notice in mail: TIME TO PAY LOANS
- Student takes:
-Job at coffee shop or bookstore
-What freelance jobs they can get
- Student weeps quietly on bathroom floor at night, clutching stacks of past due notices and loan consolidation offers, lying atop yet another International Musician devoid of auditions for their instrument
- Student starts private teaching, gets their first talented student, says, “Hey, you should go into music…”
And the cycle repeats itself.
Loan balances rivaling those of medical students.
Multiple degrees with vague practical application.
Overeducated and underemployed.
Bitter and angry.
Broke and desperate.
Is this the way it has to be? No! There is another path, another orientation, a healthier way to approach the pursuit of a professional life in music performance.
Thanks, music school!
What, then, are some alternatives to this current situation?
Degrees awarded by institutions of higher education (colleges, universities, conservatories, trade schools) fall into two basic categories: theoretical and practical. Theoretical degrees include mathematics, history, linguistics, philosophy, and other such disciplines without a defined non-academic career path at the conclusion of the degree. Traditional liberal arts degrees are theoretical degrees intended to give the student knowledge of a broad spectrum of topics and comprehensive knowledge of one particular theoretical discipline. Although there may be several fields in which a recipient of a theoretical degree can successfully seek employment, there is not a specific career path tied to these jobs in the non-academic world.
Practical degrees include business, education, computer science, engineering, nursing, air conditioner repair, and other such disciplines with a set of specific jobs tied to that program of study. Go to nursing school, become a nurse; go to engineering school, become an engineer; go to air conditioner repair school, become an air conditioner repairman. While coursework for a practical degree may be quite theoretical in nature, the acquisition of that degree makes the graduate an attractive candidate for employment in one or more job fields.
There is always an academic career path to any field of study—one can study history, mathematics, or philosophy with the intent of teaching one of these subjects at a university. The very fact that it is possible to study a particular subject at the university level means that there is a path to employment for teaching that subject. The circular career path of academic careers exists for every field, so it shall be ignored for the purposes of this article—every subject that exists by nature of its existence provides a career path toward the teaching of that subject.
You get the idea.
Practical Music Performance
This subject will be more fully addressed in Road Warrior Without an Expense Account Part X—Refocusing (musical entrepreneurship)
References and Resources:
- Eastman School of Music Orchestral Studies Diploma program (example of a school adapting to the new employment landscape) http://www.esm.rochester.edu/iml/OSD.html
Universityof Illinois Champaign-Urbana(example of a typical four year undergraduate music performance degree curriculum) http://www.music.uiuc.edu/acadUnderGrad_IP.php
- Chicago College of Performing Arts Orchestral Studies Program (example of a school enacting some progressive curriculum changes, but without adding the business classes like the Eastman program): http://ccpa.roosevelt.edu/music/orch-bm.htm
- Adaptistration – Drew McManus on Orchestra Management
- Polyphonic.org – The Orchestra Musician Forum
Read the complete series:
- Part I – Adjunct University Teaching
- Part II – Realities of Professional Freelancing
- Part III – The Rise and Fall of the Full-Time Orchestra
- Part IV – Rising Tide, Shrinking Pool
- Part V – Regional Orchestras
- Part VI – The Vicious Cycle
- Part VII – Private Teaching
- Part VIII – Burnout
- Part IX – Rethinking Music Performance Degrees
- Part X – Refocusing (Musical Entrepreneurship)