Category Archives: Performance Opportunities

Music Careers for Your Personality Type

Are you wondering where you might best fit in your local music community? Check out this infographic shared with us by Emily Parker with collegematchup.net. As you’ll see, the multi-faceted music industry has a place for all personality types!

Music Careers for Your Personality Type
Source: CollegeMatchup.net

Forget the Map at Home!

A Guide to Improvisation, by Katie Lubiens

You don't need sheet music on this journey.
You don’t need sheet music on this journey.

Improvising? That sounds scary! Making up the music as you go? But where’s the sheet music? Who even improvises anyway?

As a classical violinist, these were all questions I asked myself when confronted with the thought of improvising.  I never was taught to improvise.  As classical musicians, we always have our sheet music to guide us, to show us the direction we should go.  Going forward into the musical realm without sheet music seems like going on a roadtrip without a map.  Where do I go?

Surprisingly, I’ve discovered, improving is all around us as musicians.  Even classical musicians improvise, too!  There are so many musical genres to experiment with which do teach you to improvise and foster those creative juices that make new music happen.  From blues jams to Irish sessiuns, from jazz club improvs to bluegrass jam outs, there are endless outlets for practicing improvisation.  Without sheet music, how do we know what to play?   Especially when improvising with other musicians.

Katie Lubiens performing with The Seseseisiunists.
Katie Lubiens performing with The Seseseisiunists.

Here are a few pointers when learning to improvise: 

  1. The most important thing to know is what key you are playing in.  It can sound great when everyone is playing something completely different, but they must be playing their own unique parts in the same key for it to work.
  2. Think of the scale, then play itterations of the scale.  I like to play the scale aloud before trying any kind of improvising so I really get the notes in my ear and fingers.  Then try playing the scale up and down, jumping around with different arpeggios, and always keeping the tonic, dominant and 7th in mind.
  3. Take turns.  Most improv music works best when everyone takes turns being the melody.  When it’s not your turn at the melody be sure to keep the energy up.  Long notes mixed with off beat rhythms are easy on the tonic or dominant.
  4. Practice some cool licks at home.  Most improv artists aren’t actually making it up as they go.  Usually, they have practiced some licks which they made up at home and can transcribe them into any key to play while performing in an improvising scenario.
  5. Perfection is not the point.  Improvising teaches you to be adaptable.  Adapting to your current musical situation makes you a stronger player and shows you that the imperfections are what make improvising so thrilling.
  6. Don’t be afraid!  Although you can feel put on the spot while improvising, recognize that everyone else recognizes that you are improvising.  It is not meant to be perfect.  Once you get used to improvising, you will begin to feel the powerful energy in making up music with your peers as you go.

Like anything, improvising gets better the more you do it.  I promise you, if you try you, will find that creating your own music with others in the moment is one of the best adventures you can embark upon. The moment when you close your eyes and listen to yourself creating music together, making it up as you go, and you hear that it sounds beautiful and harmonious, you will find pride in yourself like never before.  So, go ahead, make up the directions to your next adventure and forget the map at home!

**Check back soon for more in depth imrpovising tools and tips!

New Year’s Resolutions: A Musician’s Guide to Self-Improvement

Happy New Year! (Photo by William Warby)

Making New Year’s resolutions is a social trend that has become more popular throughout the last century. Is becoming a better musician on your self-improvement checklist for 2014?

To help you in your quest to take your performance to a new level, here is a MUSICAL interpretation of some of the nation’s most common New Year’s resolutions out there.

Get a better bod.

  • Improve your left and right hand technique.
  • Focus on posture. Stand up straight.
  • Develop muscle memory through repetition. (Think sets of pushups and situps.)
  • Exercise (i.e. practice) three or more times a week.
  • Warm up before you play.
  • Join a musical sports team: an orchestra, quartet, or other performance group.
  • Train for a marathon (i.e. a recital or concert).

 

Have a more positive attitude.

  • Refrain from throwing your instrument when frustrated.
  • Believe in your ability to achieve your performance goals.
  • Repeat encouraging mantras. (“I can do this.” “Never say never.” ““Success is not obtained overnight.” ― Israelmore Ayivor)

 

Make strides in your career.

 

Do well in school.

  • Take private lessons (if you don’t already).
  • Do your homework (i.e. practice).
  • Keep a practice journal.
  • Make sure you have the right school supplies (i.e. accessories).

 

Do something you’ve never done before.

  • Play a new piece.
  • Play with new people.
  • Practice outdoors.
  • Compose music.
  • Listen to new artists.
  • Try a new instrument.
  • Practice new techniques.

 

Get organized.

  • Prepare and decorate a comfortable practice space.
  • Keep your practice room, case, and music collection uncluttered.

 

Reduce stress.

  • Don’t take practice too seriously.
  • Take breaks.
  • Play more ballads.
  • Get back and shoulder massage to loosen your playing muscles.
  • Set reasonable goals.
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself.
  • Keep your love for music alive.

 

Improve time management.

  • Set aside time to practice.
  • Breakup practice time dedicated to specific pieces and exercises.
  • Be realistic with your schedule.
  • Keep a planner and mark your calendar with rehearsal times and events.

 

Read more books.

  • Expand your sheet music library.
  • Learn about composers.
  • Study music history.
  • Learn how to expand your creativity. (You might try The Artist’s Way).

 

Do more community service.

  • Perform at nursing homes and hospitals.
  • Do “show-and-tell” performances at preschools and elementary schools.
  • Support musical organizations that need funding.
  • Organize a concert to support a charity.

Find love.

  • Develop an intimate relationship with your instrument.
  • Get obsessed with a composer.
  • Ask someone out on a date to an orchestra concert.
Photo by Josh James
Music is good for the heart! (Photo by Josh James)

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Need reminders to keep your goals? Print out this list and hang in your practice space. Best of luck as you strive to improve your musicianship!

Note: Don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations. Keep in mind the value of patience, persistence, endurance, and a commitment to never give up on your dreams. Don’t be afraid to reevaluate and recommit to your artistic goals throughout the year. As Richelle E. Goodrich says in her book, Smile Anyway,

 

Do it again.

Play it again.

Sing it again.

Read it again.

Write it again.

Sketch it again.

Rehearse it again.

Run it again.

Try it again.

Because again is practice, and practice is improvement, and improvement only leads to perfection.”

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Happy New Year from all of us at Kennedy Violins!

Music for Parties: Live & Otherwise

I like throwing parties. But I also suffer from a condition I call “Gatsby Syndrome.” Symptoms include behaviors such as

  • delighting in the act of throwing parties;
  • hoping that one’s favorite people will attend such parties;
  • lacking a desire to socialize or receive attention at such parties;
  • finding distractions during parties such as tending to host/hostess duties: replenishing drinks, busying oneself in the kitchen, taking coats, etc.; and/or
  • lingering in the background observing the party rather than actually partying.

 

I was seventeen when it occurred to me that throwing a party was more than just getting a bunch of people in the same room. I put together my own birthday party (which, on a side note, turned out to be hilariously fun with every guest bringing a round cake to stack into a 20-tiered monstrosity that naturally resulted in a cake fight when it toppled over). But I remember there being two memorably awkward moments that combined into one larger awkward moment:

  • Awkward Moment 1: I had arranged a whole bunch of chairs into one large circle instead of in groups of chairs for smaller groups to mingle. As a result, everyone quietly nibbled on their party sandwiches not knowing with whom to make eye contact, waiting for some brave soul to speak to the entire circle and break the silence.
  • Awkward Moment 2: During that moment of silence itself, there was no sound—specifically, NO MUSIC to distract from the silence. It occurred to me later that in the event that all guests at a party shut their mouths simultaneously, having something to bridge the gap of that silence can save a party from sudden death.

Like have you ever been at a gathering where the conversation dies down, there is a silence, and someone says, “Well, I’d better get going. . . .” And then before you know it everyone else says, “Me too” and there’s a big scuffle as everyone retrieves coats and shoes, hugs the host, and vacates.

A few years after the great 17th Birthday Party, I was prepping for another party and popped my “Getz Plays Jobim: The Girl From Ipanema” CD into the boom box (does that date me?). As the hours passed, I noticed that people both stayed longer and seemed more comfortable. Even though the music was unnoticeable in its background-noise kind of way, it brought warmth into the room. And when I, as the hostess, noticed a break in the conversation at some point, no one else seemed to.

It’s a pretty simple formula that restaurants and retail stores have down: play music—the right kind of music—and people will stay longer and buy more. I’ve learned that people actually spend more when faster-paced pop music is played in a clothing store, and people will stay longer and consume more in a coffee shop with atmospheric, relaxing music.

Gatsby, when planning his parties, knew that music was key. “By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. . . . The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby).

(P.S. What happened to full orchestras being present at parties? Like in The Sound of Music, or even during “Under the Sea” in The Little Mermaid? Invite an orchestra to play at a party and I’m there.)

Live music at parties is always an incredible touch, whether it’s a formal quartet at a wedding reception or a bluegrass trio at a barbeque. And while none of us can afford to throw a true Gatsby party, music can always be a part of the affair—no matter what the party budget may be. Try these options on for size:

  • A live quartet
  • One guy on a guitar
  • A Pandora station playing from your Blue-ray
  • An iTunes or Spotify playlist
  • A real record player or phonograph for a retro/period-themed party
  • A violinist playing unaccompanied Bach
  • A harp player
  • A rock band
  • Classical music CDs
  • KARAOKE!

So as you’re planning your upcoming Christmas party, be sure to invite the tunes! It’s time to kill the silence, vanquish boredom, and have a good time!

ALSO, don’t forget to join us for the holidays at Kennedy Violins! You will most definitely hear classical music in the showroom, music which may prompt you to pour yourself that cup of complementary coffee or tea and gaze contemplatively at the hundreds of violins surrounding you like friends at your own private party. You’ll love it. Hope to see you soon!

Gift Ideas for Classical Musicians

You might scream when you unwrap a book of Taylor Swift sheet music--even if you're not a preteen schoolgirl!
You might scream when you unwrap a book of Taylor Swift sheet music–even if you’re not a preteen schoolgirl! (Check it out in our online store.)

Christmas. 

Don’t stress. Yes, it’s coming. Yes, there may be expectations to meet–real or imagined. Either way, gift-giving should be a pleasant activity; preferably, not something that leaves you popping Advil to keep your holiday-stress-induced migraine at bay.

Music is a great gift in so many forms. If you’re wondering what to get the classical musician in your life, check out this list of gift ideas that will bring a smile to any musician’s face. Happy Holidays!

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1. Sheet Music – Like the Taylor Swift collection.

Come on. You know you love her. And so will your violin-playing daughter for that matter. But beyond T-Swift, there’s plenty of sheet music out there (including Christmas tunes!) that will liven up the season!

 

2. A Spotify Membership

If you haven’t tried Spotify, you should. It’s amazing. With a monthly membership, you can access pretty much all the music in the universe with unlimited streaming and the ability to download music to your personal device. You’ll never have to buy a CD ever again and can discover new artists so easily. A monthly subscription makes a great gift for a music lover.

 

3. A Performance

The best gifts don’t come wrapped in paper and topped with bows. A personal performance for someone–or a group of someones–is super, super special and something that won’t be forgotten. It doesn’t have to be spectacular either, perhaps something as simple as a Christmas Carols sung on a front porch. Other ideas?

  • Get a quartet together to play for your family, at your Church, a nursing home, at a school function–whatever.
  • Prepare a recital to give during the holidays.
  • Organize a family concert with a Christmas theme.
  • Compose a piece and perform it for someone.
  • Teach your children Christmas songs.

 

4. A New Violin

Seriously, a new instrument one of the best gifts you could ever give or receive. No matter how old or young or experienced or inexperienced someone is, they will be absolutely enamored. It’s amazing to see the look on a person’s face when they hold a new violin in their hands. A thirty-year-old and a ten-year-old will have the same giddy expression of awe. Ditch the jewelry and jigsaw puzzles and puppies (too messy)! Give a gift that has unlimited potential as both a work of art and something to do (practice!) when the holiday parties are over.

violinsetupprocess

5. A New Case

If you or your loved one already own a great violin, a new case is another great idea. Cases wear out and get tattered like old sweaters–especially cheap cases. Go for a full-suspension case that’s both durable and easy on the eyes. Bam cases are totally fun with a selection of bright colors. They’re super strong and popular.

 

6. Mozart Balls (Mozartkugel)

These European chocolates are a total classic with such an original taste. One feels very classy whilst eating Mozartkugel!

mozartball7. Concert Tickets

It is such a pleasant surprise to open up a Christmas card or envelope and find a pair of tickets to the symphony, ballet, or any kind of concert. Giving an experience if often more meaningful than giving an object. Find out what’s going on in your (or your loved one’s) community and pick out an event that suits your giftee’s taste.

 

8. Cross Stitching

Whether you cross stitch a kit or give one as a gift, there’s something charming about good-old-fashioned embroidery. Check out music-themed cross stitch kits on 123stitch.com such as this “Music is Harmony” pattern. Grandma-chic is totally in!

musicisharmonyviolincrossstitch

9. Accessories: Metronome, Tuner, Music Stand

It seems that musicians can never really have it all–there are always accessories and upgrades that can enhance one’s musical life. Carbon fiber bows, shiny new rosin cakes, or even violin pickups can be exciting and original gifts!

 

10. Carbon Fiber Bow

Speaking of carbon fiber bows, I know it may sound strange, but these space-age bows (not to be confused with fiberglass bows) are like the iPhone of violin accessories–modern, high-tech, effective, sleek, and useful. Check out the Giuliani Carbon Fiber Bow, comparable to the Coda Bow brand, but more affordable.

 

11. Artwork

Prints, artwork, statuettes, crafts for display with musical themes are memorable items–you could even paint something yourself!

II painted a violin to give as a gift to a violinist1=.

12. Headphones

Classical musicians can be gearheads too! Just because we’re all old-school with our sheet music (paperless concerts, anyone?) and archaic wooden instruments doesn’t mean we don’t love a good listen with a pair of awesome headphones–think Bose. There’s nothing like sinking into a recliner, leaning back, closing your eyes, and enjoying a Beethoven Symphony with amazing clarity. Sometimes digital recordings offer even more acoustic clarity than you might experience in a concert hall.

 

13. Spankin’ New Strings

It’s amazing how many violinists play on old strings without changing them for years. Fresh strings can completely transform the sound of an instrument. A sampling of various string brands would make fun stocking stuffers!

 

14. Cheesy T-shirts, Mugs, Mousepads, etc.

Check out cafepress.com’s selectiong. They’re worthy of White Elephant Gift status at the least.

 

15. Christmas Ornament Sets

You’ll find plenty of ornament collections available online like these violin ornaments on amazon.com. Cute, pretty, cheery. Just gift them before Christmas so they can be admired on the tree.

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So get out there and tackle that Christmas list! You can do it! It’s going to be amazing! But if the thought of shopping is just too much, no worries. Just give someone a hug or (even better) directions to stand under the mistletoe. After all, nothing beats good, old-fashioned, warm fuzzies.

Happy Holidays!

Love,

The KV Staff

Running the Recital Marathon

It can be done. (Photo by Paul Sableman)

I’m not a fan of sports metaphors, so you’ll have to excuse this extremely obvious comparison. But I started running recently and spent the weekend seriously contemplating the concept of the Marathon. And during that contemplation, I was surprised to find myself simultaneously reflecting on my experience preparing for my first recital years ago.

After crossing the finish line at the Scarecrow Scamper 5K this Saturday, I was surprised to feel like I could keep running; I have reached some level of endurance that I’ve never experienced in my life. As I wandered over to the water table to grab a drink and a complimentary apple, I ran into a friend who’d also run the 5K. “You should run with us!” she said, referring to “us” as a group of women who meet at ungodly hours of the morning with the goal of running an actual 26.2 in the spring.

This led to a conversation about the Marathon concept itself. I asked her if she’d done one before and what it felt like. I started doing a mental inventory of friends and acquaintances of mine who have completely the feat. And then I started thinking, well, if so-and-so can do it, could I? If 60-year-olds can do it, could I? If the average Joe can do it, could I?

Then I started feeling a sense of dread. If I possibly could do it—if my body were really strong enough and capable of developing the strength and endurance necessary—does it mean that I should do it? I was feeling a very specific sense of fear that I’ve felt before: the fear of one’s own potential.

Recognizing one’s potential is a precursor to taking action. Recognizing potential leads to developing a sense of confidence, courage, and faith that you can accomplish something you have never done before.

“Well, think about it, and if you want to, come join us on Tuesday morning. I’ll send you the schedule. And there’s no pressure to do the marathon—you could just train with us and see how you feel.”

I got an email with the following schedule:

Marathon ScheduleMarathon Schedule 2I remember drawing up a similar schedule when preparing for my first recital. It had a countdown of weeks to the final performance, lessons with my private teacher and accompanist booked on the calendar, a breakdown of what to practice on certain days, and a smaller breakdown of how many hours or minutes to spend on each piece during each of those practice sessions. I knew that without that steady, regular practice, I’d likely crash and burn on performance day. NOTHING can replace a consistent effort when it comes to preparing for a performance, especially when the music is hard and the music is new.

Music takes time to learn. You get to know the notes on the page, the bowings, the fingerings. You start slowly developing muscle memory as your fingers and arms internally program patterns, shifts, and connections. As a bass player, I know that playing my instrument actually requires substantial muscle strength. If I haven’t played in a while my hand and thumb muscles cramp up. My shoulders ache. My back is sore. My triceps feel the weight of the bow. It’s amazing how even exercising outside of playing the bass can help my playing. Yoga does wonders for my back and shoulders, both of which support my form when I play my instrument.

This morning I actually went to run for the first time with the “Marathon Moms,” as I’ll refer to them. I was both encouraged and discouraged. Encouraged that I ran another 5K in distance feeling like I could keep running when I got home, but discouraged by my slow speed and the fact that I’d never run more than 4 miles—how could I do 26.2?

I’m not sure. But I’ll keep training and we’ll just see what happens.

I think that last sentiment is an attitude that many musicians also feel. Like, “Yes, I can play, and I can play pretty well. I’ll keep practicing and keep playing. Maybe someday I’ll play a real formal recital—maybe someday. But for now I’ll learn a few pieces and we’ll see what happens.”

We’ll see what happens. What does that even mean? Who sees what happens? You? The people around you?

I have an opinion—and I’d love your thoughts on this—but I feel that musicians have some obligation to perform for other people. Practice done in secret is great; there are definitely significant benefits to any individual involvement in music. It’s good for the brain, it can be relaxing, it’s an enjoyable experience. What do you think? At what point should (or is “should” the wrong word here?) a musician take their playing ability out of the practice room and into the performance sphere? Is it selfish to keep your talent and musical abilities to yourself?

I’m not really sure.

When I chatted with my husband about the idea of training for the Marathon, he made an interesting comment. “You’d have to be obsessed,” he said. “People who do marathons are kind of obsessive.

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Like, I play the bass, but I’m not necessarily obsessed with the bass. I did a recital and, yeah, it required a lot of diligent practice, but I wouldn’t say I was obsessed with the idea.” He gave made a face that said, “Okay, I can see that.”

“But,” I said, “I do know a lot of bass players who are TOTALLY obsessed—like all they do is think about the bass and play the bass and talk about the bass and live to practice. But you don’t have to be obsessed like that to give a recital.”

“But if you trained for an actual marathon, it would take a lot of time. Like, it’d be a pretty big time commitment.”

And he’s absolutely right. Not just time to run, but time to think about it. Time to mentally be absorbed by the challenge.

So there you have it. There are so many similarities between the Recital and the Marathon. Both require

  • a plan of attack
  • preparation that begins far in advance
  • a scheduled race/performance day
  • dedication to complete the task
  • TIME to develop strength, endurance, and capability
  • Constantly renewed motivation to pull your instrument out of the case/running shoes out of the closet
  • [ideally] a huge group of fans to cheer you on!

It’s frightening to face your own potential. But if you never face it, never try, you’ll never know. You may be left with regrets. You may be left saying, “I could have done that,” because you never did it. You never opened the door to that possibility. You look back at that door and wonder what was behind it and if it’s still there.

So do you want it enough? Do you want it enough to [note obligatory Nike reference]

JUST DO IT

?

Finishing my first 10K ever! What a strange, exhausting, rewarding feeling.
Finishing my first 10K ever. Yeah!

Decisions, Decisions: Should I Major in Music?

Working for Kennedy Violins, I am constantly immersed in music–and I like it that way. There was a time in my life, though, when I reached a crossroad that would determine exactly how music might, could, or would be a part of my future. It’s a crossroad many young musicians face.

As high school wound down to an end, I had mixed ideas as far as my future plans were concerned. I went from feeling reluctant to go to college to eagerly applying with the hope of a scholarship. Then, during my senior year, I really started considering not just where I would gain my higher education, but in what emphasis of study I’d immerse myself. At the time, I was very dedicated to two creative pursuits: the visual arts (painting) and the performing arts (classical string bass).

To paint or to play? That was the question. Even though I majored in music, I still enjoy painting.
To paint or to play? That was the question. Even though I majored in music, I still enjoy painting.

When I approached my private bass teacher, the principal of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, with my decision, he surprised me with the question, “Are you sure you want to major in music?” At the time, the symphony was facing serious financial troubles with a lack of funding and drama within the board of directors. Sometimes, apparently, the music business can be no fun.

I went on to major in music–mostly because playing the bass was something I was good at, so why not keep going with it?–but looking back, I wish I had considered some of the following questions regarding my decision, my goals, and my future.

Now that ten years has passed since graduating high school, I am grateful for my music degree and to still be performing, teaching, and sharing a skill (not just a hobby) developed during my years of collegiate study.

So if you (or your child, friends, or associates) are facing the decision to study music, ask yourself the following questions to bring some light to the subject:

  1. What do you think about when you don’t have to think? What occupies your thoughts (when you actually have a moment to think) is a good indicator of what’s important to you and what really interests you. If you find yourself jotting down melodies, humming the theme from a favorite symphony, or mentally practicing a piece you’ve been working on, these are signs of your interest in or passion for music. Don’t major in music if you’re not seriously passionate about it.
  2. Do you plan to seek higher education? Really assess not just your desire for further education, but the path to get there. “Planning” to go to college includes actually having a concrete plan! Talk about it with your parents and guidance counselor. Access all the resources you can. Research scholarship opportunities and financial aid. Learn about different schools and the programs they offer. Put application deadlines on your calendar and schedule time to complete the mounds of paperwork and online forms. If you want to gain a higher education, do all you can to realize the opportunity!
  3. Do you like to practice? Does anyone really like to practice? Well, sure! Practice isn’t drudgery when approached the right way and with a desire to improve. But SERIOUSLY, you need to have a high tolerance level for being in the practice room. If you major in music, you will practically live there. And if you dread stepping foot into the practice room, you’re going to be a miserable music major. You have to be really dedicated to your craft to understand the value of diligent practice.

    My program required three hours of practice per day. Exhausting, but so important!
    My program required three hours of practice per day. Exhausting, but so worth it!
  4. Do you perceive music as a hobby or a potential profession? Maybe music something you simply do for fun or as a social outlet. But perhaps you’re interested in applying your skills in a way that influences others on a greater scale. Consider whether music is something you simply do for yourself and your own enjoyment (and this is great!) or if you want to share your talent for music more broadly in your music community through performance and education. If you hope to share music effectively with others, majoring in music will provide you with effective means to do just that.
  5. What are your career goals? Do you want to be a dentist or a doctor? A journalist? An accountant? Your professional ambitions don’t have to eliminate your musical involvement, but you will need to invest in an education that enables you to reach your professional goals. (Note: You can actually still minor or even major in music and still access those career paths through graduate and doctoral studies.)
  6. Which do you hope to do more: teach or perform? This question will help you decide whether to pursue a degree in music education, music performance, or general music. All music majors can teach privately, but if you plan to teach in a public school, you’ll need a teaching certificate attained through a music education program.
  7. Are you hoping for a scholarship? Whether you major in music or another field of study, you might be eligible to receive a music scholarship! There are so many scholarships, grants, and awards available to musicians. Do some research to find these, and again, be sure not to miss any deadlines to apply or audition!
  8. Will you regret majoring or not majoring in music? This is a hard question to answer because you may not know until after the fact. Whatever you decide to do, I hope there will be no regrets as you look back on the decisions you’ve made and the doors of opportunity you’ve opened. I hope you’ll find success and joy in your future pursuits no matter what they are.

And remember, even if you don’t major in music, there will always be opportunities to study music and be active in the music community throughout your life. (Visit www.kennedyviolins.com/lessons to learn more about lessons offered in our private studio.) Whatever you decide, we hope music will continue to play an important and enriching role in your life as a music performer, teacher, or lover. Either way, it’s totally worth it. Best of luck!

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Looking for more advice? Feel free to contact us at support@kennedyviolins.com or call 1-800-779-0242. As usual, we love hearing from you!

The Musician’s Résumé – Part 2: Writing & Distributing

A well-written résumé can be your ticket to the job of your dreams. (Photo by woodleywonderworks.)
A well-written résumé can be your ticket to the job of your dreams. (Photo by woodleywonderworks.)

In “The Musician’s Résumé – Part 1: Getting Started” on our Kennedy Violins blog, we brainstormed ideas on how to get started with a musical résumé. Now that we know the direction we’re headed, it’s time to put it all together.

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WHAT TO INCLUDE

Keep in mind that your résumé should include a combination of the information below whether you are a performer or teacher.

THE BASICS

Everyone needs to include the same basic information to start, regardless of your end goal:

  1. Full name
  2. Contact information (phone, e-mail, address)
  3. Educational background and degrees/certifications obtained
  4. Primary Instrument and style (classical, jazz, folk, rock, etc.)
  5. Secondary instrument(s). Note: Only list instruments you can play fairly well–not the oboe you played for one year in middle school. As a rule of thumb, honestly consider your capabilities: could you perform in an ensemble or teach beginner/basic music lessons on this instrument? If so, list it.

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Below your contact information you will clarify your emphasis in the first (and main) section. Group information in a logical way: chronologically, in order of significance (recommended), or in a combination of both (i.e. categories with information within the category in chronological order).

FOR PERFORMERS

Performers will emphasize performance experiences on a shorter, focused, résumé that doesn’t need wordy descriptions. According to The Musician’s Résumé Handbook by Bob Borden and Kathy Ivy of the Eastman School of Music, “Performance résumé must be limited to one page and should include only educational training and performance experience. All material should be listed in order of performance, without any description or list of duties.”

However, while its up to you how much and what information you include, you might consider noting your roles as either a section player, principle, or soloist, unless you’ve exclusively been a section player only and repeatedly mentioning it is unnecessary.

What to include:

  • Ensembles with which you’ve played: orchestras, operas, bands (be selective–don’t mention your garage band to a professional symphony admin or anyone you want to take you very seriously).
  • Teachers of note
  • Master classes in which you’ve performed or taught. Mention notable artists with who you’ve worked.
  • Freelance work and recording gigs. Note studio names and other meaningful specifics about the nature of the gig.
  • Major recitals and other solo performances.
  • Major artists with whom you’ve performed or accompanied.
  • Touring experience.

FOR TEACHERS

  • Workshops and masterclasses you’ve led.
  • Private teaching experience, whether at a studio, a music school, or in your home.
  • Non-music teaching experiences that reflect your capabilities.
  • Certificates and memberships with associations like MENC or Suzuki.

ADDITIONAL SKILLS & INFORMATION

Ttowards the bottom of the page, include info that shows you’re a well-rounded individual with other marketable skills:

  • hobbies
  • languages you speak
  • community service involvement
  • achievements
  • computer/recording skills
A modern résumé layout by Conor Luddy. Choose a style and readable font that reflect the impression you hope to give about yourself.
A modern résumé layout by Conor Luddy. Choose a style and readable font that reflect the impression you hope to give about yourself.

MAKE IT LOOK GOOD

There are many ways to take advantage of the space on the page of a modern résumé, limiting white dead space and including all the important information you can. Working with columns and even spreadsheet cells can help distribute information evenly across a page.

Using light colored paper, like a classy off-white, can also give it a nice touch. However, as most résumés are distributed online now, you may not need to worry about paper. Still, you could make the background of your résumé a non-white, unassuming color for interest in your PDF or digital file.

DISTRIBUTING YOUR RÉSUMÉ

Now you’re ready to send! Send this résumé (along with a brief cover or introductory letter of inquiry) by e-mails or snail-mail to orchestra managers, school administrators, or other potential employers. You might even Include a recording (on a CD or as a sound file attached to e-mail) or yourself performing.

TIP: Once your résumé has been handed over, don’t just wait for a response, be ready to perform! Have audition pieces ready, to play, be brushed up on your conducting, or have a first lesson for students prepared.

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Once your music résumé is complete, we would love to see it here at Kennedy Violins! Feel free to contact me at liz@kennedyviolins.com with questions or with your résumé for review. As supporters of the music community, we want to see you succeed.

All the best!

The KV Team

The Musician’s Résumé – Part 1: Getting Started

Photo by Nguyen Hung Vu
Photo by Nguyen Hung Vu

In a previous post on our Kennedy Violins blog, “How to Find Gigs: Musical Networking,” I talked about ways to make connections within a music community when searching for performance opportunities. Diving further into the networking process, I want to zone in today on a specific and powerful networking tool: the musician’s résumé.

DO I NEED A RÉSUMÉ?

Anyone and everyone looking for work needs a résumé, including musicians and performers. When you’re a student, you rely heavily on your transcript as a reflection of your accomplishments, but once you’ve graduated from high school or college, your work experience becomes the substance of your marketability.

A SENSE OF DIRECTION

Where do you start when drafting your résumé? The first step is not to focus on where to begin, but where you want to end up. Think about your direction, motives, and professional goals. What kind of work are you looking for?

If you’re primarily a performer looking for gigs, your résumé will highlight your performing experience. Or perhaps you are primarily a music educator looking for private students or a position as a professor, conductor, or school orchestra teacher. You may be interested in an administrative position with a music-related organization. There are so many different opportunities, so your résumé will target the type of employment you’re looking for.

WHERE TO BEGIN

If you’ve come down with a case of writers block before you’ve even started, here are a few ideas:

  1. Make a list of your career goals and the types of jobs/gigs you’re looking for.
  2. Make a second list of specific employers or companies you’re targeting. For example, if you want to play in a professional symphony, look up open positions first so you know your options. The music union (the American Federation of Musicians) is also a helpful resource for finding work opportunities.
  3. Make a third list of major experiences and jobs you’ve had in one column and your skills in a second column. Don’t think too hard, just free flow stream-of-consciousness-style, jotting down anything and everything of import in your life.
  4. Weed out the unnecessary. Underline or highlight the most significant information to include in your résumé. Make decisions about what information is important to keep by asking yourself whether or not your future employer would find it relevant.
  5. Work on your layout first, then fill it in. Sometimes its easier to fill in the blanks (perhaps in a template) rather than stuff your content into a layout later.
  6. Look for examples. Ask to read résumés by people you know or Google résumé examples, templates, and tips online.

FIND EXTRA HELP

Gleaning knowledge from other people can be extremely helpful as they offer you some extra perspective.

  1. Sit down with someone who knows you well to evaluate and point out the marketable skills you have that are apparent to them but not always to yourself.
  2. Meet with a professional adviser who can help you put together your résumé, review your current résumé, and offer editing suggestions.
  3. Meet with a professional who does what you want to be doing. Discuss your goals with someone who has achieved them. Someone experienced in your field is sure to have advice and direction to share.

GET READY TO BRAG

Creating a résumé is a chance to highlight your best. This is the magical opportunity to put your best foot forward, make a memorable first impression (without even being present!), and highlight your greatest achievements. Don’t be humble! Any relevant experience counts–even that one time you subbed with a specific orchestra or played in that masterclass you completely forgot about. Adding up all these details–even one-time experiences–will create a full and impressive résumé.

For information about specific items to include in your musician’s résumé, stay tuned for “The Musician’s Résumé – Part 2: Writing & Distributing.”

 

Tidings of Comfort and Joy: 10 Ways to Tune Up the Holidays

Sargent Major Mercy Diez sings Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” for a United States Army Christmas concert. (Photo by United States Army Band)

The debate continues. The tension increases. Individuals and societies pit themselves against each other over THE question, yes, that question: when is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?

Whether you crank up tinsel-tunes before Thanksgiving, after Thanksgiving, or sometime in July, one truth remains: music brings meaning to the holidays. Unlike any other holiday throughout the year, there is more music associated with the Christmas than any other holiday–even Easter. Not only that, but every nation around the world that celebrates Christmas does so with song.

So what could be more appropriate than to celebrate the holidays by pumping them full of melody? Here they are:

TEN WAYS TO SPICE UP THE SEASON WITH QUALITY TUNES

  1. Give the gift of music. First things first. You know you’re sweating over your Christmas shopping list. But here’s a little secret: everyone loves music. Easy peasy. Wrap up your favorite CD, give an iTunes gift card, or tie a bow on the violin your child’s been bugging Santa about for years. Don’t forget the frosting on the fruitcake: sheet music and accessories!
  2. Go caroling. Bundle up and don’t even worry about bringing music along if you don’t want to. Sing the standards you know: “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow,” “O, Christmas Tree,” and all your other favorites. Gather a group of friends and family to carol around the block or drive around the neighborhood to loved ones’ homes. Organize a group of musicians to play or sing carols at a nursing home. You’re sure to brighten someone’s day.
  3. Organize a holiday recital. During the holidays, people are looking for excuses to get together. If you’re a private teacher, schedule a holiday recital for your students to play for their parents, friends, and other family. If you’re a solo performer or play in a quartet, organize a performance with some traditional tunes. Don’t forget to pull out the cookies and hot chocolate after the show!
  4. Host a singalong. It’s especially fun if you have a piano. Make copies of Christmas songs and put them in binders. Invite a pianist to accompany and ask guests to bring a holiday treat to share: think peppermint bark, caramel corn, and gingerbread men. Now there’s something to sing about.
  5. Light the Menorah. Learn and sing the three Chanukah blessings when lighting the menorah: l’hadlik neir, she-asah nisim, and she-hekhianu. And don’t forget to sing “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” when you pull out the top.
  6. Hire a quartet. There’s nothing classier than a live quartet or small ensemble providing beautiful background (or foreground) noise at a holiday party. If you’ve never arranged for live performers at a gathering, ask around to find a good group of experienced players. Appreciative guests will be telling you all evening how much they love the entertainment.
  7. Attend a concert. Holiday concerts are never few and far between. And school orchestra and choir concerts are only the beginning. Look through the paper or online to find out where and when you can attend. For some extra interactive fun, find a local “Messiah Sing-Along” to attend and rock out with Handel’s famous oratorio. Don’t forget to warm up those vocal chords before you go!
  8. See The Nutcracker. What could be more classic? Enjoy taking part in a historical tradition by attending this popular ballet. Tchaikovsky’s famous, heart-warming melodies will definitely leave you feeling the spirit of Christmas.
  9. Send a musical card. Come on, birthdays aren’t the only occasions worthy of the stationery sound chips. Distant family and friends will especially enjoy finding  a tune in the mailbox to fill them with Christmas cheer.
  10. Watch cartoons. Christmas brings out the kid in everyone, and there’s no better time to tune into classic holiday specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Sing along with classic toon tunes like, “Christmastime is Here,” and “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch.”

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It’s time to celebrate, and what better way to do it than with music? After all, that’s our specialty. Happy Holidays!

Sincerely,

The Kennedy Violins Team