a hard rain’s a gonna fall…

It is that time of year when recent college graduates are on the prowl, looking for their first job as the vice-president of a company.  Yes, ma’m, that’s a little harsh, but only a little.

I hear 10-12 music graduates every year say pretty much the same thing:

“I don’t want to teach.  I just want to play my instrument. I got my certification as something to fall back on in case I don’t land a good paying gig in a year.”

Good luck with that.  Unless you are already playing professionally at some level, then you will not be playing professionally at ANY level any time soon.  Not now, not ever.  Not where you went to school.

If being a professional musician is your goal, then you should have started this path 15 years ago, back when the people with whom you think you will compete for that 2nd chair orchestra gig got started. Then they studied and practiced with the best teachers in the world. Then practiced some more. Then they subbed a bit in a third-rate orchestra when they were 16. Then they practiced some more.  Then they studied at one of those tiny handful of schools that adequately prepare students for the heartbreak of the life of a professional musician. Then they survive that ordeal, leaving hundreds of really amazing players in their wake, earning the occasional sub in a second-rate orchestra–usually the one in which their teacher performs. After memorizing every excerpt ever composed, they audition off and on for YEARS at 3rd rate, or maybe even 2nd rate orchestras waiting for someone to die (see also, the Life and Legend of Bud Herseth, who held the principal trumpet chair in Chicago longer than most of his competition–if there was any–were born, auditioned, lived, and died).  Then they win that audition on a one-year basis, filling in their meager income with teaching, gigging a little, and eating more Ramen.  Then they practiced some more.  Finally, they land the gig with an orchestra that actually records CDs, and continue their struggle up the food chain of “professional musician,” working on their next audition, then the next, then the next…

Then you show up fresh with your newly-minted B.A. in Music, ready to play.

By the way, a good teacher doesn’t “fall back” on teaching.  They work just as hard, and prepare just as much, and dedicate their time just as much as that oboe/horn/violin/tuba/etc player that just wiped the audition room with you.

In short, I don’t want you teaching my grandchildren.  Never.

Yes ma’m, this is a little harsh.  But if you think this is harsh, just wait until your first real gig.  That vice-president is going to cloud up and rain all over you.


About Jonathan Hooper

Funny you should ask. I'm older than you, funnier than you, more embarrassed than you, about as creative as you, sleep less than you, stay up later than you, more content than you, enjoy working more than you, worry less than I used to, enjoy home more than away, enjoy family more than friends, play more music than you, listen to less music than you, eat more ice cream than you, drink less than you, read more than you, ride bicycles more than most of you, break stuff more than you, fix the broken stuff more than you, appreciate silence more than you, look for solitude more than you think I do, enjoy grace exactly as much as you (except for, well, my niece Grace), always wished I lived someplace else, and have been overweight since birth. I despise authority, avoid confrontation unless absolutely necessary (which it usually is), ask a lot of questions, give a lot of answers, trust others too much, wish I was more visually creative, wish I had been better at the political game while taking pride in avoiding it for so long, support the Democratic Party even though I am a Christian and support equal rights for all even if they love someone of the same sex (which also offends me out a bit, but that's my problem as much as theirs), hate oil addiction, think most Republicans are short-sighted (if not lemmings led to destruction), cannot see Russia from my house, do not want to organize my community, think the best and worst people in the world are my former students, is frustrated by Alzheimer's (because it is approaching), wants to change the world (but fears the world has changed me), worships God the best I can given the limitations of my heart and geographical location, love my wife above all others, love my two sons next, two daughters-in-law after them, then the new grand-daughter follows, and the rest of you are somewhere later--but I like you guys, too, enough to get your back from time to time as needed. Five of you are on my list of people I can trust in a life and death emergency (and three of you don't even know you're on the list). But mostly, I eat more ice cream than you (except my brother David).
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