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Tips for becoming an orchestral musician


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kehaulani
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Joined: 23 Mar 2003
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a comment FWIW.

I used to look down on middle and elementary school music teachers as not being good enough musicians to "make it". I gave them credit as teachers but not, necessarily, as musicians.

Since then, I have known some middle school/Jr. high teachers who, while having a steady job but not tied down to marching band pressures, were able to pursue a pretty active and satisfactory side career as performing musicians.

I don't say this to sidetrack you from your goal, but it's something to consider.
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A. Frish
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Joined: 12 Apr 2019
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Location: South Carolina

PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey All!
I just wanted to say thank you so much! When I made this post, I was not expecting this much of a response. I have greatly appreciated all of the advice that has come in so far. That just shows what an amazing community the trumpet creates. Thank you!

Aaron
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MBMinSC
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Joined: 25 Dec 2017
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not in higher ed (or lower ed - I work on computers for a living), but I remember listening to one of the episodes of the Brass Junkies recently where Andrew Hitz talked about the hiring process they went through at Shenandoah Conservatory for a new trumpet teacher. They had something like 100 applicants, many with DMA's. He said the deciding factor was looking at the applicant's total body of work - performance, teaching, and entrepreneurship.

They hired Mary Bowden, who has established herself as a fantastic soloist, chamber musician, and educator. You can listen to her interview here:

http://www.pedalnotemedia.com/the-brass-junkies/marybowden
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markhyams
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Joined: 05 Jan 2005
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Location: Albuquerque, NM

PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2019 8:22 am    Post subject: Re: Tips for becoming an orchestral musician Reply with quote

A. Frish wrote:
My dream job is to perform in an orchestra and teach at the college level.


Here's some advice from a moderately successful orchestral trumpet player who is in his mid-40s, now transitioning away from music.

First, note that you have two dreams, playing in an orchestra, and teaching at the college level. Not that you can't achieve both of those dreams, but consider the fact that the two are quite different careers that have different requirements.

I'm not going to reiterate the good advice that you have been given here about practicing, studying, colleges etc. You know that you have to work hard, have great teachers, get a little lucky, and so on.

What I will say is you should have a very clear motivation of why you have this dream. I know many unhappy professional musicians who let their child-self decide their entire lives and career paths. If you wake up one day and decide that music is not for you, that's okay. I did that many times in my 20s. I would get sidetracked by some project or interest, but in the end, music kept pulling me back in. This is a sign that you are on the right track. Now, for me, after playing in orchestras for over 20 years, I've decided to get 'sidetracked' again. Music is not pulling me back anymore. And that's okay with me.

My best advice is to be honest with yourself, and allow a lot of time for introspection. And don't practice too much! It's easy to get injured by over-practicing in this phase of your trumpet journey. Spend equal amounts of time listening and practicing.

Mark
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Brassnose
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Joined: 07 Mar 2016
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Location: Germany

PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2019 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To respond to trumpet-cop: I am a (ex tenure track, now tenured) university professor - which is why I said the things I said in my earlier post. The statements are based on experience.
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LaTrompeta
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PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2019 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Biggest regret I have of college was immersing myself far too deeply into the music major bubble and not doing other things. I later developed a career in software and a passion for cycling, which passion rivals any passion I had for trumpet practice.
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MrClean
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PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2019 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How badly do you want it? Talent is very important, but work ethic even more so. I have not yet met the player that had enough talent to succeed without working *very* hard. This business does not reward half-measures. If you can be dissuaded then get out early - you can always play on the side for fun, or semi-pro.

A very small percentage of folks that major in music go on to do it for a living. The percentages are a little higher at the best schools, but there certainly is not room for everyone that wants to do it. However, there is always room for excellent, committed players that persevere. Again, ask yourself how badly do you want it? Sniff around and see where the people who are doing what you want to do went to school. I would not limit yourself to just principals of major orchestras. Winning ANY job that can support you is a big achievement, and these players are coming out of multiple schools. If you can, try to arrange lessons with some of these teachers to get a sense of their teaching style and to see if the chemistry is right.

Good luck - it's is going to be a tough road if you choose this path, but it can be very rewarding if you are lucky enough to realize your dreams.
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gringoloco
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PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2019 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are you completely in love with the rep? If you're not, don't do it. If you can't get at least a little excited every time you see a Mozart overture or a Beethoven symphony on the schedule you should probably do something else. It's not all Mahler. I've been principal for 17 years now and I know a lot of bored, bitter people that should probably be doing something else.
Also, develope your people skills! An orchestra can be as crazy as a three ring circus. You have to be able to get along and manage your and other peoples egos. This was never mentioned when I was in school. Conflict resolution is important.
If you do LOVE it, should be able to get it done. I'm sure glad I did.
Rob
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Denny Schreffler
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PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2019 10:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Tips for becoming an orchestral musician Reply with quote

A. Frish wrote:
... Obviously, I must practice a lot and I must be a nice person. I take private lessons, and I do practice a couple hours each day


Without commenting on many other things pertinent to your situation and your questions, two hours a day is nowhere close to being a lot of practice.


-Denny
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Steve A
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Joined: 26 May 2006
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PostPosted: Fri May 24, 2019 4:53 am    Post subject: Re: Tips for becoming an orchestral musician Reply with quote

Denny Schreffler wrote:
A. Frish wrote:
... Obviously, I must practice a lot and I must be a nice person. I take private lessons, and I do practice a couple hours each day


Without commenting on many other things pertinent to your situation and your questions, two hours a day is nowhere close to being a lot of practice.


-Denny


No question you're right, but if we're talking about two consistent hours of actual horn-on-face time (so, not counting the rests in between), if it's two smart, focused, purposeful hours directed at improving what most needs improving, and under the guidance of a good teacher, it's probably plenty of time.

Conversely, lots of people spend many hours playing, and it's admirable discipline in a sense, but there's a finite amount of really top notch focus available for a person in a day, and that can get used up at a high rate in intense but relatively short practice, or at a low rate in meandering practice over many hours. I think most times people play for many hours a day, it's the second, and that overcoming our biggest weaknesses is unlikely with anything less than laser focus. Since that's really what we need to get better, I'm hesitant to get too hung up on numbers.
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