Friday, August 23, 2013

Advice for Young Musicians

This week a student of mine expressed interest in a music degree.  This is an intelligent high school student, however, his question went beyond the normal private lessons response. Specifically he asked about how to start studying theory and other aspects of music.

This is a massive undertaking and I think the music education complex does a very poor job at developing a comprehensive view of the industry. There are a few overlooked steps by many aspiring musicians.

Listen to everything....listen both as a passive listener and critically to all styles of music. Aaron Copland's book, "What to Listen for in Music" is a compilation of lectures to describe the benefits oh listen in different ways.

Perform Often....a few years ago I was able to interview the low brass teachers at the Aspen Music Festival and School.  Discovering a Classical Musician looked into the lives of five prominent musicians. John Rojak's interview was incredible insightful because he did not get into his first choice music school.  His first three years of undergraduate work were spent performing with local groups in Connecticut. These years allowed him to develop courage performing in various styles that eventually lead to his broadway career.

Research the Industry....find out how big the music industry is.  Music provides jobs for recording engineers, stage hands, producers, administrators, journalists, conductors, college professors, historians, public school teachers, and instrumentalist is a huge variety of genres.  All of these professions demand a high level of execution and musical understanding.

Use the Internet...there is a growing number of free course work websites. Coursera, as well as other sites, offer introductory courses in theory, history, and even jazz improvisation.  There are even period and style specific courses offered from some incredible schools.  A course in the history of rock 'n roll can be beneficial by increasing your vocabulary and make it easier to discuss music with non-musicians.

Read everything....expand your knowledge.  Read everything from program notes to biographies. Composers have lead some fascinating lives and sometimes their biographies read like a soap opera. Also start following the blogs of your favorite performers.  Some of the worlds top musicians write about the industry and musical thoughts every week.  Books like "Mozart in the Jungle" can also lead to an glamorous view of the industry.

Go to Live have to be inspired and understand what music is.  A live performance offers so much more than a recording.  Seek out different styles of concerts, attend recitals, jazz pubs, symphony orchestras and even punk rock shows. After the concert go back stage and congratulate the performers.  This is a great way to meet musicians.

All of these activity will lead to a comprehensive view of the industry and allow aspiring musicians to make choices that will affect their careers.  Having a clear picture and a depth of insight will direct you through choices that will determine your life.  But always remember, have fun, respect your colleagues and be gracious to your audience.