Last Friday, our Composition Seminar focused on the nitty-gritties of being a professional composer. I’m always hesitant to discuss these things with students, because it can be pretty overwhelming to face the challenges of making a living when you are having a hard enough time getting some of your music finished, and an even harder time getting it performed once it’s finished. But I also feel like I’d be doing the students a major disservice if I didn’t touch on some of the realities of life after graduation.

Because of time limitations, the session was devoted almost exclusively to the concert composer profession, such as it is. Topics covered: licensing organizations, publishing, self-publishing, recording, management, taxes, websites, internet resources, competitions, grants, festivals.

All of these students already take career development courses that would have been almost unimaginable when I was a student. In those days, a musician who could present an attractive publicity package was seen as somehow suspect – how could you possibly devote yourself to refining your artistic skills and still have enough time to market yourself? Now all young musicians are expected to have some marketing savvy to go along with their artistic skills.

Is the world a better place for this? A yes or no answer would be foolish, since there are myriad advantages and trade-offs, even within one musician’s career. I tried to emphasize to the students that every career path is different. I told them that they had to constantly reassess and reprioritize their goals, striking the right personal balance between artistic and professional aspirations that would allow them to live the lives they wanted to live.

I hope they benefited. I hope, if they have questions or confusions, they come ask me, instead of stewing in any unhealthy juices.

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