Now this is why I love blogging! This comment on my Advice for Aspiring Music Majors article comes in from Hartt School of Music student Nathan Clark. Nathan studies with Robert Black (my ISB board colleague) and offers up his own perspective on pursuing a career as a music major. Check out the article that Nathan references here (along with some other excellent comments from readers over the past few years).
I really appreciate that there is someone out there that is willing to try and explain the truth about the music world and open it for discussion. I am a student of Robert Black’s at the Hartt School in my Junior year of my bachelor’s degree. I love performing music but I know it is a very rough world. All I wish is to make some way of living by playing any music. Personally, I don’t want to be in one of those top 10 orchestras.
The stress, effort, and ego destruction doesn’t seem worth it for me. I wasn’t raised in Russia playing bass since I could walk. I don’t know many people that go to big time concerts anyway. To get a good seat is at least $100. The friends that I know who love art, support good music not just because it is written by someone famous. I love the tradition of orchestral music and I try my best to play well in school. We sound terrible compared to one of the big time orchestras. In fact, I don’t know the repertoire at all. Even listening to Beethoven symphonies is a new experience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Beethoven Symphony performed by a professional orchestra. Many bassists studying classical music think their only way to get by is orchestras. I’d say it is the most obvious route to take. I am interested in any ensemble that wants a bass player and who wants to make great performances and who will help me get food water and shelter. There has to be some way to do what I love and survive. If anyone can give me that opportunity, I would take it. Are there lesser orchestras that can help a bachelor get by performing music with out brutal insane people working with him? I studied with Kurt Muroki for a couple summers and he said, “The majority of top orchestras are miserable.” It seems I would be better off starting my own orchestra. Why don’t student conductors and musicians just start things on their own. There are enough of us. It would seem that this would be more exciting and would renew an old art. Who cares about a huge fancy hall. Fancy acoustics might sound better but who are you playing to? From what I understand, a lot of old rich people that groan at the sound of anything that isn’t Beeth, Brahms, Bartok, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, etc. etc.. People need to take chances and make things happen. Go make your own music. Beethoven doesn’t belong to big orchestras or old people. If you perform it well enough, people will be moved. There are people out there (LIKE ME) that want things to be stirred up a bit. Classical music isn’t as rigid as the schools and orchestras want you to think. Mozart was a complete goof off and joker. So was Haydn. Granted they did a lot to please a court but whenever they could they would try to play jokes. They were rock stars, they took chances. My parents told me I had to go to college, so I play music in college and now the college says the only way I can get by is through some orchestra that I’ve never seen before? I’d rather miss a few meals while I’m in my twenties than be miserable when I’m fifty. Some people get lucky and have it all under their belt but I don’t think I’m one of them.
Thanks for the great comment, Nathan! It is really great to hear the perspective of someone in the thick of an undergraduate performance degree.