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!
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.
Here are a few pointers when learning to improvise:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Keep in mind that your résumé should include a combination of the information below whether you are a performer or teacher.
Everyone needs to include the same basic information to start, regardless of your end goal:
Contact information (phone, e-mail, address)
Educational background and degrees/certifications obtained
Primary Instrumentand style (classical, jazz, folk, rock, etc.)
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.
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).
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 recitalsand other solo performances.
Major artists with whom you’ve performed or accompanied.
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:
languages you speak
community service involvement
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.
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:
Make a list of your career goals and the types of jobs/gigs you’re looking for.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meet with a professional adviser who can help you put together your résumé, review your current résumé, and offer editing suggestions.
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.”
It takes a long time to establish your reputation as a musician and performer in a new town. After living in Utah for six years, I felt so well connected to a great number of musical organizations, schools, teachers, orchestras, recording studios, and the like. I enjoyed playing regular gigs, teaching a steady number of bass students, and growing strong relationships with musicians and performing groups throughout the state . . .
. . . and then I moved.
My husband’s work brought us to Oregon, which meant starting from scratch as a stranger hoping to freelance a new music community. So the first thing I did in the months leading up to and following my move to the Portland area was contact absolutely every musical organization I could find. I made phone calls, sent e-mails with my performance resume attached, and inquired about upcoming auditions. During the summer before the move, I took extra lessons, practiced 20 hours a week, and performed a recital in preparation for auditions I hoped to take once arriving in Oregon.
The day after we pulled our moving truck into town I abandoned our unpacking efforts to attend a masterclass sponsored by the Portland Youth Philharmonic featuring Erik Harris, principal bassist of the St. Louis Symphony. Sure, I was a college grad, so what was I doing hanging out with the youth symphony members? I was also looking for connections. As with most professions, the fastest way to find work is through effective networking and personal referrals. So my goal? Get connected!
Let me tell you, it doesn’t take much but confidence. You know you’re a good player, so put yourself out there! And if you don’t feel like a good enough player to get those gigs, try The Art of Effective Practicing. It takes a lot of work to be a marketable performer, but you can do it!
Here are a few ways to get connected with your local music community:
Keep your chops up by performing regularly. Put on a house concert. Keep practicing. Find an open-mic night at a local venue to sing, fiddle, or do whatever you do. Play at your church or synagogue. Busk at the local farmers markets. There are endless opportunities to perform, and you can create those opportunities yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to do what you can do on your own. You’d be surprised by how many restaurants, café’s, bookstores, and boutiques there are that would be so happy to have your live music in their space.
Don’t demand paying gigs right away or all the time. Be generous in sharing your talents with others! You can do this while still maintaining your stance as a professional. Playing for free allows you to enjoy the opportunity to meet other musicians without stressing about money and union talk. You’ll be surprised how many connections you’ll make that can lead to future gigs. And come on, we all know the economy is tight, and if all musicians refused to play without pay our artistic community and musical culture would suffer tremendously.
Participate in your local community orchestras! You don’t have to wait to win an audition with a semi-professional or professional orchestra to play the great orchestral works. Community orchestras are excellent for meeting teachers, performers, and conductors who can hook you up for future work—and they’re just plain fun. You can relax and play great music with a smile on your face. Sometimes when money is in the mix, musicians can become surly, bitter, or demanding individuals, losing sight of why they chose music as a career in the first place. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let the joy of playing be belittled by your pride or hunger for pay.
Connect with local schools. I decided to call and e-mail local orchestra teachers offering to conduct a free masterclass for their bass sections. It turned into a very fruitful experience. Give it a try! And who knows, maybe they’ll even ask you to come back. Regardless, reaching out to the youth in school and community music programs is a great way to make a name for yourself as a teacher. Be sure to get your name on the list of private teachers the orchestra directors provide for their students, and remember you can receive 10% off with your teacher discount through Kennedy Violins!
Don’t just teach lessons—take lessons. Even the most experienced professional musicians can benefit from taking lessons into their old age. Musicians can always benefit from the perspective of another performer with fresh ideas, techniques, and style.
It might be challenging to find the gig of your dreams. But don’t wait miserably for a Golden Ticket while throwing away the chance to enjoy that delicious Wonka Bar right in front of you. There is music to be played, players to meet, and stages on which to perform. So have at it! Make a connection! And keep us posted along the way.