Is There Life After Music School?

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Sokak SanatsCongratulations, graduate! You are now a real musician, with the degree to prove it, and you’re ready to set the world on fire!

But what will your life be like after music school? And how will you keep from ending up living in your parents’ basement?

You have plenty of talent, education and dreams, but no job in sight. Maybe you’re waiting for your big break into the music scene or that plum orchestra job. You know that there’s hard work ahead and you’re willing to do it, but you’re not quite sure where to start.

As someone who once was where you are now and has become a successful musician despite the odds, let me pass along my “Waiting to Hit It Big” Checklist. These are the survival strategies that will make it possible for you to hang in there, stay positive and eat something other than ramen noodles.

(This is the first of a two-part post. In this post I will cover my “Essential Three,” the three things you MUST put in place now before you do anything else! Read on…)

Here are my “Essential Three.”  What makes them so essential? They will provide you with the “why,” the reason that you are struggling and persevering. They will not only keep you motivated and prevent you from frittering away your day with video games, but they will help you make decisions about what’s really important. When you know “why” you are making choices, it’s much easier to know which choices to make.

1. You need a schedule.

I know you are just beginning to savor the freedom of not having to go to class. But that lack of structure helps to end more dreams than any alarm clock. Without a plan for your time, you will end each day wondering what you did with it. Having a daily and weekly schedule and sticking to it will allow you to get your important work (like your practice) done no matter what else is happening.

That schedule will also give you an advantage over nearly every other competitor. We all have 168 hours every week, but very few of us use them well, and you can bet that most other musicians won’t be using them well either. That’s why I believe having a schedule is your number one secret weapon for success.

2. Decide where you want to be in five years.

Take a trip into your future. When you look ahead, five years from now, what do you see? Where are you living? What are you doing? What does a week lookk like in your future life?

Don’t take too long with this vision, and don’t stress out about it. After all, it’s only in your mind and you can always change your mind. But having that vision in your mind will allow you to fill your schedule (see step one) with the activities that are going to prepare you to change that vision into your reality.

3. Plan for action.

Most people dream about “maybe” or “someday.” But you are now different from most people. You have a vision that you want to bring into being. The only way to make that happen is to take action, massive action.

Bring your vision from step two back into focus. Then imagine what would have happened right before that vision became real. Would there have been an audition, a recording, a meeting? And what would have happened before that? Practice? Rehearsals? Coachings? Making contacts? All of the above? Keep thinking backward until you get to something that you can do right now – today. Maybe these are things like practicing or meeting the people who are important in your field. Or making phone calls to prospective employers or sending out resumes. Or maybe you need to put together a resume first!

Make a list of things you can do and start doing them today. What you can’t do today, put in your schedule for tomorrow. Don’t just sit there. This is how you start to make your dream happen!

The next four points in my checklist will be in next week’s post. Those are where we talk tactics and take more action.

In the meantime, make a quick schedule for tomorrow and then get to work on your five year picture. Then answer this question in the comments below:
What one action will you take today to move you toward your fabulous future?
And don’t forget to share this post!

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  • Michelle

    Great article, Anne. Thank you!
    What I am doing today to move forward is working on my “gig master” profile, creating a song list right now.
    And of course, practicing! I will be practicing solo rep and some orchestra excerpts to expand my orchestra repertoire.


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