My 500 Word Commencement Address

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This post was inspired by Kim Rowe’s May 18 blog post on the Harp Column website.

No, I was NOT asked to give a commencement address to music school graduates. But if I were asked, this is what I would say in 500 words:

Graduation SpeechDear New Music Graduates,

Congratulations! You are about to embark on the exciting adventure known as a career in music. Don’t listen to those who tell you that the terms “career” and “music” are mutually exclusive. As a one-time music graduate myself, I can tell you that you are about to experience a wonderful and unpredictable journey. And yes, that journey can include both music and a career.

In the years since my own graduation, I have seen unprecedented changes in the music business. And though it’s true that orchestras are experiencing hard times and critics bemoan shrinking audiences, I believe it is the best time to be a musician that we have ever seen.

The reason is the almost limitless opportunity that exists for today’s musicians. You have access to a world-wide market through self-producing your own recordings and videos. You have the chance to grow your own musical community through social media. You can be everywhere and anywhere you want to be.

The “jobs” in orchestras and academia that musicians have traditionally looked to for stability and security are becoming ever more competitive as new musicians like all of you enter the field. But the possibilities for earning your living at the craft you love abound if you are willing to expand your horizons.

Your success in music will depend on two things: your dedication to your craft and your openness to the world around you. You have already proven your dedication. You have practiced while your friends partied, enduring finger blisters and sore embouchures in the pursuit of excellence.

All you need to do is be ready to share your gift, your knowledge, your love of music with those around you.  The opportunities for performing and teaching are everywhere.  Whether you seek a career as a solo performer, a chamber musician, an ensemble player, or a teacher, you can create a space for yourself. Don’t wait for anyone else to do it for you.

The path of any career, let alone a music career, is rarely a straight one. The turns and diversions are unforeseeable except in the knowledge that they will happen. Very few of us veterans are making our careers in the way we pictured to ourselves at age 20. But your vision of bringing your music to the world, in whatever way you devise, can happen.

In closing, I would ask you to remember three words: play, share and grow.

First, you must play. If you love playing, don’t let anything stop you.

Second, share. The universe is large and generous. Sharing your music and ideas with others doesn’t mean you give up ownership of them. Rather it makes you part of a vital and flourishing worldwide community.

And last, grow. Continuing your learning and growth that you have started here will keep your skills strong and your love for music alive.  And that is what I want for you. Live your dream.

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