National Symphony bassist and Peabody Conservatory instructor Jeff Weisner wrote a very flattering post on PeaBodyDoubleBass, the collaborative blog from faculty members Jeff, Paul Johnson, and John Hood. Thanks for the kind words, Jeff, and thanks for pointing readers to the various blog and podcast projects!
Jeff discusses employment prospects for the double bassist in this post, writing:
Doctors, dentists, lawyers, MBA students, nurses – all these professional degrees require their students to take on lots of debt. But in each of these fields, work of some kind is readily available upon graduation. I’m not saying that every lawyer gets some fantastic job right out of school, or that people in these professions don’t face sacrifice and financial struggle in their career. The difference is that for any lawyer or doctor, there is a clear path out of debt after school, even if it features long work hours and drudgery. In music, you can face long hours and drudgery and get paid nothing. Even if you graduate from college with no school-related debt at all, you face the following major costs:
– traveling to and from auditions or competitions
– purchasing and maintaining your instrument(s) and bow(s)
– general travel expenses, either for car ownership and maintenance or for taking mass transit
Read the complete post here.
Hearing these perspectives from a bassist in a major symphony orchestra is extremely valuable. Teaching students how to be the best musicians they can possibly be while being honest with them about the professional realities of the business can feel quite contradictory at times. Teaching performers how to reach the top of their game always has value, even if they face a rocky and uncertain path upon graduation. Just because a musical path is difficult does not mean that it shouldn’t be undertaken, after all. Providing students with a realistic perspective regarding employment prospects makes them better equipped to make life decisions, and having the maturity as a teacher to bring up these issues while still inspiring and motivating students toward musical success (like Jeff does) is an extremely valuable trait for a teacher to possess.
This is an analogy I often use with prospective music conservatory students:
Show a group of people a picture of Mount Everest, and a certain percentage of the group will want to climb it. They will obtain the necessary training and equipment, preparing long and hard for the event. Even though they know they may not make it to the top, making the attempt is worth it to them.
Now take that same group, but instead of showing them that picture, just mention every once in a while that they’ll have to do some hiking later on in life. Then airlift them in to Everest base camp, dump them out with some supplies, and pat them on the back, congratulating them and welcoming them to the "real world". There may still be some people in the group that don those parkas and start climbing, but that wouldn’t be the general reaction….
Related Posts (from PeaBodyDoubleBass):
- Student Bows – What to Look for
- Some Basic Warm-Ups
- Orchestra Auditions: the SATs of Music?
- On controlling pitch…
- The Most Important Class