Maximize Your Music Education

August 29, 2011, 7:56 AM ·

If you’re studying music with the aim of becoming a professional, then, to succeed after graduating from a conservatory or university, I propose that you need to do much more than excel in school.

With that in mind, here are five career-building maneuvers to undertake throughout your education - I hope that you'll find them helpful. All are fleshed out in my book The Musician’s Way.

1. Draft a Career Plan
For starters, identify a range of career paths that might interest you - it's best to explore diverse options as opposed to prematurely restricting yourself to a single choice.

To learn about professional tracks, research them online, talk to teachers and mentors, visit the Music Careers page at, and consult with your school’s career services staff.

2. Educate Yourself
Next, learn about the inner workings of appealing careers and get experience in as many of them as you can.

Attend workshops, for instance, do some observing, subbing, and volunteering; maybe offer to assist busy professionals.

3. Network
Your professional network connects you to leaders in our field and, therefore, to opportunities.

Begin by assembling a network at your school – collaborate with peers, maintain positive relationships with teachers, attend numerous performances, and contribute to your school’s culture. 

Also go to conferences and festivals, join music organizations, and take part in local and online communities.

4. Fill Many Niches
Although performers work hard to ensure that they play at a high level, active professionals often fill roles beyond performing, particularly now that traditional jobs are scare.

They might organize concert series, let’s say, provide recording services, direct choirs, teach, contract, publish, and so forth.

That is, the public's demand for music remains robust, but the ways in which music and music-related services are consumed continue to evolve.

Take care during your education that you gain know-how in multiple career niches. Then, you'll have a wealth of art-making and income-earning channels that you can rely on.

5. Polish Your Image
“To find your place in the music world, there are two images that will need your attention: your self-image and your professional image.” (The Musician's Way, p. 305).

Fortify your self-image by setting attainable goals, practicing efficiently, carrying out the abovementioned maneuvers, living a balanced life, and getting feedback on your progress.

To boost your image as a pro, abide by the highest standards of professional conduct – be punctual, prepared, and courteous; be easy to reach and quick to respond to messages; build your Web presence.

At the same time, I encourage you to do what you can to help your colleagues succeed instead of competing against them; then, you’ll all rise together.

*  *  * 

A version of the post first appeared on The Musician's Way Blog where you'll find a variety of articles about Music Entrepreneurship.

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein


August 29, 2011 at 03:25 PM ·

 If that were true everyone who have already followed those advices would have a successful career. In fact the only people successful with these kind of advices are those who give or eventually sell them through lectures and boring cheap psychology books. 

August 29, 2011 at 04:38 PM ·

Why the hostility, Egon? We're all part of the same music community.

I've learned during my 30 years of teaching that college and conservatory students greatly benefit from taking these sorts of steps to build professional competence while they're in school. 

In contrast, students who don't draft career plans, educate themselves, network, etc. often find themselves under-prepared for the professional world.

August 29, 2011 at 06:00 PM ·

 Sorry, I did not intend to be hostile. If you are sincere in your words I would apologize. It is a fact I don't believe in this kind of thing. I believe in real artistic development and not in business. I trully believe because business has replaced art cases like the Philadelphia Orchestra are going to become more and more common. Business is killing art. Without art there will be no audience. Without audience nobody will have a career.


August 29, 2011 at 06:22 PM ·

Egon - I am not sure I understand what your alternative is to Mr. Klickstein's sensible recommendations.  Unless you are some enormous prodigy discovered at an early age by Yitzhak Perlman or some other famous musician and nurtured, the way forward is not always obvious.  Particularly if you are good but not exactly the top tier of international soloists.  Getting into a career in music in that case is not a simple task.  All of the steps he recommends are good, and many aspiring musician may be aware of some but not all of them.  Indeed, these recommendations would probably work in almost any arts or other career.  My 28-year old son is in tv production in Hollywood, and I can see how he acts in accordance with them.

August 29, 2011 at 07:51 PM ·

 Artists like Perman are a result of a rich enviroment full of people with a very strong and different personalities presented to others trough their music. That was his childhood situation in Israel. He was one among many good violin players. Music comes first, art comes first, business is consequense. When people decide to start from business, mediocrity takes place and art dies.


August 29, 2011 at 10:01 PM ·

 Egon, nothing in Mr. Klickstein's recommendations seems to contradict anything about personal musical excellence.  His suggestions are more along the lines with how to exploit, professionally, the excellence one acquires in the practice room, in playing with other musicians in ensembles, and in study.

Surviving as a professional in the music world (or the academic world, or in business, or...) goes beyond personal excellence these days.  I don't like that fact any more than you do, but it is a reality one either copes with, or chooses another path.  

Personally, I didn't care for living out the requirements of maintaining a professional musical career, so I opted to make my living at my second-greatest love (English literature) and save my music for my heart.  For me, that has been satisfying and growth-inspiring and I have few regrets, but that's only because I had a second love to follow.  

August 29, 2011 at 11:24 PM ·

As a young musician planning to do music as a career, this article was very interesting. Perhaps when I am in school (assuming i make it in), this will be more relevant. Have any advice for those who are not yet in college, but still want to go into music?

August 30, 2011 at 10:00 AM ·

 Yes, I do. Find a good teacher, try to be artist and not a businesman, practice with inteligence, knowing what you are doing with your body and mind. Look for a beautiful tone. Develop the capability of making beautiful and expressive musical frasing, similar to opera singers. They know how to frase. Listen to opera. This is a simple key to success. The rest is consequense.

August 30, 2011 at 01:49 PM ·

 Egon's right, as far as he goes.  

I would also suggest playing in ensembles with the best musicians you can find, get to know the best musicians locally--they can teach you things your practice room won't.  Learn, by keeping your ears, mind, and heart open.  Never assume you can't learn something from any other player.   Even those not as 'good' as you will have things to offer.

After all, not many make music by themselves.  It's a shared activity, and learning how to do that well is at least as important as rhythm, accuracy and beauty of sound!  You want to become the kind of player others enjoy making music with.  And remember, it IS play (at least in English).  

August 30, 2011 at 05:01 PM ·

 Ok, ok...

Egon and others bring up the sine qua non, musical preparation, but Mr. Klickstein never negated this precondition – instead he contributes the EXTRA that can give all serious musicians, in today's professional environment, an edge over the musically excellent but perhaps socially and entreprenuerially (!) "green". Mr Klickstein does not ever mean being business savvy is a replacement for being musically accomplished...

We all know great products that fail because marketing is inadequate, just as we all know inferior products which do well due to savvy promotion. To get to the top of the pyramid in any endeavor, why should one leave any tools out of the tool chest?!? 

I know I've benefitted immensely from reading "The Musician's Way" – I highly recommend it! It gives useful answers to many persistent questions common to all musicians and artists, while stirring the reader into meaningful soul-searching and creative solution-finding toward professional and personal fulfillment! 

On a personal note, any regular ASTA Conference participants will recognize Mr. Klickstein as an influential and involved presence, always offering pertinent advice (the result of wide-ranging experience and deep insight), on top of being a great listener...

Best of preparation to all!

August 30, 2011 at 09:32 PM ·

I wonder if our Egon has ever read Mr. Klickstein's book. Those of us did, loved it. I have a fantastic teacher and friends who are serious musicians. Many of us find his work extremely valuable and we keep recommending it to others.  Just not sure where Egon's anger came from.

August 31, 2011 at 11:09 AM ·

Being a good, committed musician is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition, for finding the kind of career you want as a musician.  Playing very well takes you quite a ways, but you clearly need more than that in today's world.  Mr. Klickstein provides excellent guidance on what else you need to think about.

August 31, 2011 at 01:20 PM ·

 Hello, I am not angry. Having opinion different from others is my constitutional right. Unless the Third Reich took over the US and Canadian music world I am entitled to say I DO NOT BELIEVE IN THIS KIND OF THING! I respect the author of this book and admire him for trying to help young students. It's his way of doing it. I RESPECT HIS POINT OF VIEW EVEN IF I DON'T AGREE WITH!  UNDERSTOOD? 

August 31, 2011 at 01:59 PM ·

Egon - your use of all caps to make certain points in your most recent post connotes anger to a lot of folks.  Nobody disputes your right to your point of view or to express it on this site.

August 31, 2011 at 02:07 PM ·

 Hello Mr. Holtzman,

I understand what you are saying. But first of all I am not north american, English is not my first language. Capital letters in lots of other languages and cultures don't mean anger. They mean reinforcement in order to call attention to what has being said and that is all and nothing else. I believe this is the same meanning in English at least the one I learnd at school, maybe in the streets of the US it is different. In the culture I belong to people are not afraid of saying what they think and they do not bother if others enjoy it or not. Freedom of speech is garanteed by law. In the US is the same by law. Unfortunatelly things apparentely are changing here. Authoritarism is growing since September 11 and people little by little are surrendering their freedom of thinking and speech to those who try to own the political power, many times related to corporations. If this sick behaviour is comming into the noth american music wolrd it means the end of the artistc world here. I am sorry if my words sound hard, but I do not enjoy what I am seeing in the US music world. Good art has beeing abandoned in favor of business. This is not what the audience wants. This is not what the audience deserves.

August 31, 2011 at 03:06 PM ·

 On the Internet, capital letters are the equivalent of yelling. Just so everyone knows. :) Play nice.


August 31, 2011 at 03:48 PM ·

Censorship working... Proves I am right once more... Ok, I am out of here... Tchau! 

September 1, 2011 at 08:20 AM ·


In the chance that you may revisit this blog (as criminals feel compelled to revisit the crime scene), I'd like you to consider a few things...

Business has been part of the arts for centuries: Mozart, Beethoven, etc. wrote on commission, others received honorary doctorates, presided over music magazines, dabbled into music publishing, endorsed instruments, etc. The legendary players of the past and many of the present, as well, also have recording contracts, give promotional interviews, sign CD, meet with fans, write blogs... The concept is not new: make the most of your resources and capabilities, regardless of your environment and time ("Do the very best you can, right now, right here, with what you have.") – it breeds personal excellence, self-esteem, professionalism, and, yes, relevance. Also worth remembering that "good art" (your term) is subjective, while business savvy is not.

Although American by choice, English is not my first language, either. But I've learned one thing: if I want to belong to a group, club, culture, country, forum, I have to conform to the agreed norms and regulations. It's called respect, and it's part of being civilized, regardless of one's first language and country of origin. Otherwise one is just an abusive narcissistic parasite.

And, by the way, when you decide to get off your soap box and stop lamenting at the demise of "pure" music-making and the decline of American free speech, please also remember the correct spelling for "ciao". Yes, it does matter, even on the internet...

September 1, 2011 at 10:38 AM ·

  Andrei, I am very sorry for you compulsive inner need to be obedient like a lamb. I am a free man born and raised in the new world. I did not come from the old world, where submition is a condition to survive, above all in the ex comunist contries. Since I was a little child I was tought to be independent and free to think and make my own decisions. I was not raised to do what I am told, I am not a slave of any system and I am not afraid of confrontation. But I also choose my own battles. I chose not to discuss or even talk to you anymore, because it is a waste of energy and time. And nothing good and constructive will come out of that. So, for you, not the others, I say TCHAU AND GOOD LUCK!

The speling of CIAO is italian. TCHAU is portuguese. I bet you don't know any of this languages. 

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