Think back to the fearlessness and confidence of your younger self, before self-doubt prevented you from continuing to venture onto try new and potentially risky things. If you were anything like me, being told that you couldn't do something made me want to do it that much more. Unfortunately, the society we live in often creates an environment of hostility towards the ambition of young, budding artists. If you are seen as a talented individual, you will more than likely have a handful of people that will always try to cut you down or hold you back simply because they feel threatened by you. We get sucked into this never-ending spiral of worrying too much what others think of us and we are not focused enough on what we truly want and why we are pursuing this career for OURSELVES. This pressure can come from all different directions; your peers, your colleagues, and even sometimes your role models. In a competitive field, too many people like to see others fail so that they can rise above. This environment creates a hesitation of young musicians to truly put themselves out there and research or audition for other opportunities outside of their own school. I've found that a lot of students tend to wait for opportunities to be handed to them than they seek opportunities to go after themselves. I think this mentality can be very dangerous for one's career and does not give the student the skill set they will need to find a job in the music field after graduation. I also think that if you spend your entire undergraduate career in a practice room (not advising against practicing a lot in any means - practicing is super important!), you will not likely build as many connections with other musicians who may end up being able to help you get a job in music in the future. I have heard of so many stories of really talented musicians getting jobs right out of graduation because they met the right people while they were in school, and those people recognized their talent and helped them find employment. The field of music is as social as it is individual; we practice and perform for ourselves, essentially, but we could not survive without the power of collaboration. I believe that, as an undergraduate student, you should be taking every possible performance opportunity and gig that you can just to build connections and gain experience performing in many different settings. You should research all of the solo competitions around you and enter as many as you can, and you should research any masterclasses or performances by both solo and orchestral musicians in the area and make it a point to attend the ones that interest you.
I have found so far that success in music does not solely rely on talent, but it also relies on your collaborative skills on both a personal and musical level. I have made so many important connections within the flute community by simply interacting with people at various flute events and asking them about themselves and where they're at in their career. I cannot tell you how much people truly appreciate you being genuinely interested in themselves and their work, and I think that too often we are too consumed with our own careers that we neglect those of the talented and amazing people around us. Another key to musical success: surrounding yourself with people who are more talented, more driven, and more ambitious than you are. This may sound like a competitive environment you are creating, but it is competitive in a good way. As a musician, you are constantly improving and constantly learning new things about music and about playing your instrument. If you surround yourself with people who aren't motivated to succeed or practice, you are essentially putting a limit on your personal growth. For me, positive motivation can be extremely uplifting and makes me want to improve for myself, not for anybody else. Everyone is different in that sense, but I think that if you live your life never wanting to be around people that are better than you because you get too competitive over it, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. The point that we as musicians can separate competition from a mutual love of playing is the point that we can allow ourselves to be happy and successful.
If you are unsure of where to start by networking and making connections with other musicians, create a website, facebook page, instagram account, etc. that you can allow yourself to begin putting your work out there through social media. I've found that social media is the medium that gains the most positive response from our generation from a career standpoint, and I have also received many private flute students and gig opportunities through my usage of it as well. Make sure you have recordings of yourself online, and don't let one or two mistakes in the recordings push you away from posting them. Another flaw I truly believe we have in our society is believing that we can be perfect. Nobody is perfect, and setting that high of standards for yourself when deciding what to post online prevents a lot of people from posting anything at all. Of course, if you crash and burn in a recording (I'm speaking from personal experience here), do not post that online. However, if you crack one note in a run but it is otherwise all correct, don't let that one crack stop you from sharing your art with others. Sometimes the beauty lies in the minor imperfections, and I promise you that your audience will likely not even notice a minor mistake and instead how good you sound. On my instagram account, I post "practice videos" of pieces I'm working on and photographs/short recording clips of performances and competitions I'm doing. On my facebook page, I post some of my own theories I am developing about flute playing and about being a musician in general. It is sort of like an "express" version of my blog post page on my website. Social media networking is a great, free way to begin building connections with other musicians and begin finding performance opportunities and private students. Post often, and make sure to always respond to your followers questions!
Attend as many networking events as you possibly can, and be social! Follow up with the musicians you meet via social media or email and get their contact information. Be friendly, and have lots of positive energy when speaking to potential employers, colleagues, etc. Never badmouth other musicians OR yourself when speaking to people, for that could easily burn bridges between you and the musician you are talking to. If you ever are in need of a musician for a gig or performance, contact these people you have met and offer them the position. Networking in a professional setting goes both ways; you cannot expect to be given everything if you never give yourself. Lastly, never stop wanting to improve yourself. Whether you're practicing, researching performance opportunities, or wanting to become a better person, remind yourself that no one is going to hold your hand through your career and offer things to you on a silver platter. Become self-motivated and driven, and market yourself in a positive manner. It is never too early to begin your career, and it is never too late either. No matter where you are in life, start wanting things for yourself and stop waiting for things to be handed to you. If you want to play in a symphony orchestra, start from the bottom and don't stop until you reach the top. If you want to work in a music store, keep applying until you get hired. If you want to become a good musician, don't stop practicing. Ever. :) Your career is in your own hands, and your future is limitless.
Questions? Comments? Please let me know, I'd love to hear what you have to say!