As hundreds of young string players leave college in a few months, music careers expert Angela Myles Beeching hands on advice for life after graduation

Launching career after university

Photo: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

In a rapidly changing profession, unemployment and the difficult economy are always on people’s minds, yet with change in the marketplace comes new opportunities.

Today’s emerging string players are looking beyond the traditional career roles of being a soloist, orchestral player or chamber musician – and are committed to forging their own paths.

Some have a clear vision of their intended future, and others are still exploring. Many are going on to further studies to refine their skills and expand their options, and there are those who are interested in creative collaborations across disciplines, exploring a diverse musical palette, connecting with audiences and making a difference.

During their undergraduate studies, many string players find that their goals and sense of their future undergo metamorphoses, as they gain experience, knowledge of the field and feedback on their own playing.

Ambitions and plans typically become more refined and players often find projects or interest areas they want to explore further, whether it’s new music, early music or a particular project where they want to take a leadership role.

For the next generation a music career is more than earning a living or making a splash – it’s about contributing something of value. To help, here are six strategies for advancing your own career:

Cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset
Most musicians daydream about special projects – creative ventures they’ve always wanted to tackle but never get around to. Dreaming isn’t enough: the time to act is now. Whether it’s the plan for a recording, a commission, an ensemble or a festival you want to launch, take that first small step: learn as you go but get started.

Articulate your vision
What are your ultimate goals? What’s the life you imagine for yourself one year from today and beyond? Get specific so that you can communicate this to others in just one or two sentences. Clarity of intent is essential.

Cultivate your network
People skills are crucial because the music profession is so interconnected and relationship focused. As a professional, you need to get out and connect with new and old colleagues, to gather ideas and suggestions for your projects. Cultivate your own personal advisory board, an inner circle whose advice and counsel you value. Success requires others: you can’t do it alone.

Perfect your pitch
How well do you connect with others, verbally and in writing? Are you able to interest others in your goals and projects? For biographies, fundraising or covering letters, grant proposals, or any other promotional piece, you need to be able to articulate what is distinctive about you and your music making.

Work your plan
To bring your vision to life, break it down into manageable action steps. Having realistic short-term goals and practical ‘to-do’ items completed each week will keep you focused and motivated. Clarify what concrete steps you can take – this year, this month, or this week – to help you towards your long-term goal.

Take care of business
Organise your finances. Create a budget. Know what you spend each month so that you can live within your means and make good decisions about the work you take. Manage your finances and you help to manage your stress.

Above all, fire up your love of music and share it with others. You need to be able to motivate yourself as you forge your own entrepreneurial career path.

This article was originally published in The Strad's July 2012 issue.