Life after school? Resources and tips for young graduates

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At the end of their school career, holding a degree from the university or conservatory, the young musician wonders: What do I do now? The possibilities are many, the choices uncertain. In a competitive environment, it is important to keep our career goals in mind and, most importantly, not to panic. I will try with this article to answer some questions based on my experiences and those of my colleagues.

Diploma in hand, it’s the beginning of a new adventure. The important thing now is to find a source of motivation to keep improving our performances, our comfort on stage, and our confidence. Our mindset should be to never stop learning; it is essential to continue to improve and expand one’s knowledge.

Returning to study

Doctoral studies can be an interesting option if you want to teach later on at university. PhD programs are numerous. The site www.phdportal.com allows you to discover and compare different institutions of higher education. Doing research and taking lessons — even before you audition, with a few teachers from the schools you are interested in — is a good way to see things more clearly. Since the chosen professor will have to support you in your research, it is essential to discuss your thesis topic during the early lessons.

If a return to school is not in the plans, the musician must nonetheless continue to improve, to develop as an artist. For that, s/he must have a teacher whom s/he trusts. This may be the person who guided them during their university studies or someone else. Personally, I think it’s interesting to study with a brand-new teacher in order to experience a different approach and discover new facets. Some musicians may feel guilty about “cheating” their former teacher. However, one must not hesitate to talk to the former teacher and ask for advice.

Preparing for auditions

Preparing for auditions is essential and should not be taken lightly. Auditions and competitions are an integral part of a musician’s life, rejections included. In that sense, don’t ever be discouraged! It is by getting feedback and criticism that one learns to prepare adequately. One must learn to see failures as opportunities to learn from our own mistakes.

All auditions and competitions have their specificities and requirements. Therefore the musician must be flexible. A quality demo is an essential tool for the musician, since a number of organizations hold a pre-selection round. The sites orchestrascanada.org and yaptracker.com for singers are good tools to help you look around for auditions. The Quebec Guild of Musicians and the Union des artistes also publish lists of upcoming auditions.

Many musicians follow very specific routines to help them prepare. One must pay attention to one’s physical and mental health, as that will help you to give the best of yourself under stressful circumstances. Claude Webster’s Atteindre sa zone d’excellence (Achieving One’s Zone of Excellence) is a reference book to prepare for situations where performance stress is an issue. This book is based on the author’s experience as a vocal coach and the principles of neurolinguistic programming (NLP). The author offers exercises for calming down and understanding our reflexes and fears. If stage fright nonetheless takes over and the feeling of not being up to it becomes too heavy, do not hesitate to consult a psychologist (www.ordrepsy.qc.ca). This professional will be able to provide tools and tips to get to know yourself better and be able to manage anxiety. There is no shame in asking for help; on the contrary, it requires great courage!

Become an entrepreneur

Finally, young musicians may enrich themselves by developing their own projects: some take the initiative of organizing recitals with colleagues, for example, allowing them to gain experience. It may seem trivial, but organizing your own concerts is a good way to develop leadership and to refine your artistic vision. These projects also help you to develop in other facets of the music industry, such as event management, marketing, communications, and press relations.

Seek grants, teach

Learning to apply for grants is also part of the music profession. The Quebec Music Council (www.cqm.qc.ca) offers interesting options for the training of musicians and managers. Remember, many musicians also teach.

Teaching is useful for getting to know ourselves and putting into practice the knowledge gained during our formative years. The Université de Montréal now offers, for example, a micro-programme in teaching musical instruments, designed to give educational tools to musicians. This program is reserved for those who have completed a Bachelor of Music degree or are pursuing a Master’s degree.

The path of a young musician is constantly evolving. In this era where everything needs to be fast, upcoming musicians must learn to be versatile and must know how to distinguish themselves from others. It is by finding their own uniqueness that they are able to make their way in the musical world.

Translated by Adrian Rodriguez
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