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10 Tips to Creating your Musical Pot of Gold

Heather Broadbent

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Published: March 16, 2014 at 11:15 AM [UTC]

luck-152048_150I remember clearly when I was at the University of Colorado at Boulder having a meet and greet with some musician alumnis talking about Life after the University.  All I remember was hearing them say that there was plenty of work to go around.  As I am writing, I remember feeling that little twinge of fear of the unknown... how was I going to support myself as a musician after I graduated.  Now...ahem...almost 15 years later.... I can look back on all my wonderful experiences and share some extremely comforting advice to anyone with that same fear.  

You can Do IT!

(Envision an image of Nike slogan here with a musical note.)

Take a deep breath of peace, calm, and confidence. With the right attitude it is totally possible.  

After I graduated from CU-Boulder with a BM in Violin Performance and a BA in English Literature, I immediately became a makeup artist for Calvin Klein cosmetics. Whoa - I know I said it is possible to make a living as a musician after the university...keep reading.  This was in 2001, and Boulder area was booming and EXPENSIVE.... I didn't want to leave Boulder, I loved it there - the air, the mountains, the energy, the I grabbed onto the nearest and fastest way to make money so I could support myself and stay in Boulder.  Well, needless to say after training in San Francisco and three months of make up artistry, my soul was completely dying inside. I clearly remember the horrible stomach aches I would get.  Every day I would go to work I dreaded it..  I knew from that moment on I had to make a living with my violin.  So I went into the mountains sat on a rock and asked the universe ...tell me where to go and what to do and I will go.

The answer was, "Go home.."

Now home for me at that time was back in Wisconsin.  Believe me, that was NOT the answer I wanted to hear.  I had to leave my beautiful state of Colorado, I was just about to move into my own apartment, Actually had everything in storage ready to move in - just moved out of a bad roommate situation - my life was like a deck of cards thrown up into the air at that time. So I packed everything I could in my little honda civic and moved backed to Wisconsin crying all the way.  But it was the best thing I could have done at that time in my life.

I moved in with my parents (they were on their way to retire in Utah so I got to house sit before the house was sold) and immediately started teaching violin.  I generated a studio very easily thanks to the support of one of my first violin teachers. My car was starting to have problems and I really needed to generate some money fast - I was desperate. Without a car I was screwed, so I called my first violin teacher and asked for some performance opportunities and she connected me with the personnel manager of a nearby orchestra.  When I called him, he was so thankful because he needed a second violin for a rehearsal that night!!! I was completely available and so happy to be working as a violinist. This was the beginning of my freelancing throughout three states - Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.  For a short time I worked part time for the husband of another violin teacher and friend of the family as a website designer. (completely not planned and now looking back on it just another experience that added to me building an online empire) The money from the part time website design allowed me to purchase a baby grand and a much needed bow.  With the purchase of the bow, I connected with a violin shop in Milwaukee and started working there part time. 

During this time, I generated enough income to find a nice house for me to rent near the lake.  Pretty amazing stuff and it happened FAST! Within that first year of moving back to Wisconsin I built a violin and piano studio and started freelancing with some of the best orchestras and musicians in the area.  It seriously all started with my car breaking down and a couple phone calls.  That first gig led to another and another and another......

I know there are tons of musicians out there freaking out, holding themselves back, building some crazy walls and barriers to making some musician money because the overpowering limiting starving artist belief is a heavily ingrained one.  Let's all throw a big beautiful whole note at that glass ceiling.


1. Believe you can do it - be flexible and OPEN.  Don't close the doors to opportunities that present themselves.

2. Create some colorful, beautiful, unique business cards with your phone number, logo, and email. If you have a website - add that too but a website is not necessary at the beginning.

3. Don't - I repeat DON'T PERFORM for free.......Once you start that way you are digging yourself into a VERY BIG DEEP DARK hole. Set a performing price and stick to it.  You can always raise it later but making the transition from free to paid is pretty difficult. People TALK.   The only way to perform for free is for Bridal Shows to advertise yourself or your contracting business with other musicians.

4. Play for weddings - Great way to make some money especially in the summer when orchestra seasons slow down.  As mentioned above, play for bridal shows that are typically held in the winter.  Be prepared with business cards, pamphlets, logos, cds, website. Be prepared to gather a lot of names.

5.  Do Donate your time as a teacher to schools in your area.  Call the orchestra directors or music teachers and do instrument demonstrations, Create a kid show, Help with sectionals and hand out those beautiful Business cards you created.


6. Start a private teaching studio. Have your students perform for local events and be prepared again with your business cards. I encouraged all my students to participate in local competitions for their own benefit and year after year I gained more students after these competitions because other parents wanted their children to do just as well at the competitions.

7.Hold recitals at assisted living centers.  All of my recitals were at beautiful assisted living centers with nice pianos.  Everyone benefits and there is always a potential new student within the grandchildren of the visitors.

8. Every gig you play be professional, prepared, organized and on time.  Always know the appropriate dress, whether to bring a stand and mapquest or GPS is your best friend.  Be helpful to other musicians.  Network with love - not with $$$ in your eyes or vulture on other people's activities. Being professional with love goes a very long way and people will be asking you for your business cards.

9. Take auditions. Constantly take auditions for every opening in your area whether it be a sublist or permanent position.  Play for concertmasters or principle players of nearby orchestras if there are no upcoming auditions.  

10. Press - advertise all concerts, shows, recitals, studio recitals in your local newspaper.  Create a following so people know you by name.  You are creating your reputation.

If you feel feelings of overwhelm, fear or dread just make an intent to do 2 small steps this week to get you where you want to be.  Share in the comments below what you intend to do to get your name out there and start Creating your Musical Pot of Gold. Don't wait ! Your time is now and you are READY!

Love and Light


Posted on March 16, 2014 at 8:27 PM
Hi Heather - This is a wonderful story and fabulous advice. How did you end up in Bulgaria, and how has this changed your career and financial path?
Posted on March 17, 2014 at 2:04 AM
This comes at a great time, Heather; I really need to address the issue of my musical desires and how I will support this desire. I have no plan to be honest, but the gigging is definitely where I'll start (as I continue my Viola studies). I'd also like to travel around, so I think I have to take that into account (Orchestra might not be best for me).

Regardless, you've reminded me of what I need to do...and more importantly, that it is possible!


From Heather Broadbent
Posted on March 17, 2014 at 7:52 PM
To answer the question how I ended up in Bulgaria...I am a violinist with the Gabrovo Chamber Orchestra here and First violinist with String Quartet Sintez where our mission is to expose Bulgarian music to the world. I am very happy to answer the financial question which I find very interesting and extremely relevant given the topic of the post. My choice to move to Bulgaria and perform with the Gabrovo Chamber Orchestra has changed my life in beautiful ways. I continue to teach my studio in the states online and did that before I "ended up" here. I started this when I was on tour here and in Italy for different music festivals so it was a very easy transition. Students actually chose to have lessons with me online even when I was in the States - they enjoyed it so much. Since my studio went global, I have taught violinists and have students now all over the world; United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico, Bangladesh, Africa, Germany, Brazil and the list goes on... Because of my online presence, I also started creating violin teaching videos not only to teach my students but for violinists all around the world. Feel free to check out my youtube channel as well. These videos were only the beginning to what is now Violin Secrets Academy, an online violin video empire where I have infused my 20 years of passionate teaching experience into videos covering newbie to professional levels. So in a nutshell, my musical pot of gold has blossomed in every color of the rainbow (including the green) because of my move to Bulgaria.... If you want more information about my violin journey, feel free to read my bio at
From Heather Broadbent
Posted on March 17, 2014 at 7:59 PM
You are on the right track knowing what you want to do and thinking about what musical opportunities will allow or not allow you to live your desires. So many times, musicians think that there is only one path but in all reality the path is different for every one of us. Not all answers lie in winning a job with an orchestra....Congrats to you and I wish for you all the beauty on your musical journey.

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