Is it work or is it "work"?

Non-musicians think that musicians don't have "real" jobs.

On the other hand, musicians know first hand that being a performer takes a lot of hard work.

And yet, we're often the first ones to refer to work as "work."

That can't possibly help non-musicians get it.

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Cuts in budget for military bands

This article states that last week, "the House of Representatives passed Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s amendment to reduce the Department of Defense’s spending on military musical bands by $120 million," from $320 million to $200 million.

One of the comments following the article talked about the story of Winston Churchill, who was told by his finance minister during the Second World War to cut funding for the arts to help with the war.

Churchill's answer, “Then what are we fighting for?”

Picture from http://wapedia.mobi/en/United_States_Marine_Band


How to get your students to practice

Even when students want to become professional musicians, it can be difficult to get them to practice enough. 

Here is the simplest way to make them practice: don't let them pick which ones of their pieces they play in their lesson. Be the one to do that.

Keep them on wondering, and they'll keep on practicing.

Picture from http://www.artcommunication.com.au/Graphic%20Design/Graphic%20Design.htm


How to handle a rejection phone call

When you get a phone call telling you that you didn't get the job you wanted, it is easy to want to hang up as quickly as possible.

However, it means that it is the perfect time to prove how great you are! Here are the steps to follow so that next time they call you, it will actually be to hire you.
  1. Use a cheerful tone of voice: even though you're the one who's hurt, you want to make the other person understand hat you're not mad at them. The quickest way to send that message out is with a cheerful tone of voice.

  2. Thank them for considering you: You're grateful for having been considered for the opportunity, so make sure to let them know that. 

  3. Ask them to keep your resume on file: You know that you'd like another chance with them, but people aren't mind readers. Tell them that you would really love to work for them in the future, and that if anything comes up you'd love to be considered again.

  4. Thank them for calling you: So many places nowadays don't even let you know when they decide not to hire you, that the person who took the time and the courage to do so definitely deserves to be thanked.

  5. End on a positive note: Thank them again, remind them how much you hope to work with them in the future, and wish them well.

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Don't miss out on this free promo tool

The more sites you're on, the more people you can reach, and the more google results will come up in searches for your name. 

A current tool to not miss out on is Reverbnation. It is a fantastic website that allows you to create a great looking, and free, artist profile.

In a few simple clicks you can add photos, audio samples, video samples, concert dates and links.

Make sure to check it out.


Would this side job be great for singers?

When you're looking for a job in an area other than your own, it's best to get one that will still help you in your area. 

As I was at the Red Sox game Monday night, I realized that being a vendor could be a pretty cool summer gig for singers.

Here are the two reasons why.
  1. Support and stamina: To be heard in a cheering crowd, you got to be loud. To be loud for hours on end every day and not break your voice, you have to use support and build your stamina. Aren't those direct applicable skills or what?!

  2. Workout: Being physically fit has become important to have a career as a singer. Walk around for hours every day, while carrying around about 30 pounds of food for an entire summer, sure will get you in great shape. It probably even works your breath!

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Why the Red Sox make me feel lucky

My husband and I went to a Red Sox game last night.

The game was pretty close the entire time, and by the 7th inning some supporters decided to destabilize the other team by screaming out some pretty mean stuff at them.

That reminded me that no matter how much competition there can be between musicians, we can always play concerts without other musicians fans screaming mean stuff at us.

Booing and tomato throwing are things of the past, so we may just be in the most peaceful era for playing music!

Picture from http://bostondirtdogs.boston.com/2005/05/


Are we friends or competitors?

There are two ways musicians can think of other musicians. Either as friends or as competitors.

In The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin talks about that dilemma.

"As a TV writer in Los Angeles, my sister works in a notoriously competitive, jealous industry. When a friend of hers cowrote the screenplay of a movie that was a box-office hit, I asked her, "Does it give you the funny feeling that your pal had such a huge success?"

She answered, "Well, maybe a bit, but I remind myself that 'People succeed in groups.' It's great for him to have a big success, and his success is also likely to help me be successful."

By contrast, I have a friend who described her brother as having a zero sum attitude toward good fortune: if something good happens to someone else, he feels as if something good is less likely to happen to him. As a result, he's never happy for anyone else. "

Which camp are you on?

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4 money situations where you need to think twice before saying yes to the gig

As freelance musicians, we want to say yes to as many gigs as possible. However, here are the four money situations where you may want to think twice before saying yes.
  1. How much does it pay? It's not a good idea to accept a gig without knowing how much you'll be paid. You'll expect to be paid more than you'll be paid in the end, and it'll be too late to ask for more.

  2. Does it even pay? There are so many reasons playing for free is wrong, I had to dedicate an entire post to the issue, which you can find here. The only times you can play for free are for friends, as long as you follow these guidelines.
  3. Is there more to it? If a gig pays a fair price but comes with a major commute, terrible hours, or any other big difference from your regular gigs, think twice before taking it. You might end up resentful, exhausted, or both, and that wouldn't be to either yours or your employer's best advantage.

  4. Does it have a set amount of hours? When you're paid with a stipend, make sure that your contract includes a set amount of rehearsal times and performances in it.

    You don't want to end up in a situation where all of a sudden you have to cancel other paying gigs, because major hours are being added on to your load without making up financially for your lost hours.

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Have you read these articles?

Here are the articles that made me think recently.

Find out here what the Crosse-Eyed Pianist thought after having to evaluate someone else's student on her ability to pass an exam.

When you have some students constantly struggling, make sure to try this suggestion by Piano Addict. 

If you are interested in playing concerts in churches, you will find this article by Gretchen Pianos very helpful.

I often talk about changes academia should make, but I never stop to consider that when it stays like it is, it isn't changing for the worst. That is, until the Collaborative Piano Blog brought it up to my attention here.

To know more about how to get work on Broadway, this Musician Wages series is an absolute must-read.

Photo from http://www.thinksmartgames.com/blog/kids-learning-activities/


Are musicians successful or struggling?

Many people think that musicians are either completely successful or completely struggling.

However, the same way engineers are neither Bill Gates or unemployed, musicians are neither at the very top or at the very bottom. 

Most are happily in between.  

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How to know who is in charge when playing

You don't always need long conversations to decide which player is in charge of what in the music.

Here are five music passages where the music makes that decision for you.
  1. Pick up: the person who has the pickup gets to be in charge.

  2. Held notes cutoff: When a piece ends with held notes on all parts, the person who needs to cut off is in charge.

    For example, strings who are at the end of the bow, or singers, brass and woodwinds who are at the end of a breath.

  3. Start together: when all players start at the same time, the player with the melody, or the most important part, leads.

  4. Final note cut-off: the musician with the last note of the piece is in control of the cutoff.

  5. Rubato passage: the musician with the most notes in a rubato section gets to direct that spot.

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How to teach singers a difficult interval

The best solutions are sometimes the simplest.

When singers struggle with a particular interval, have them repeat the two notes of the interval out of rhythm and at a quick pace, over and over again.

Simple. Efficient. Works every time. 

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How to impress in 1 minute

Because we all meet so many people so often, it is crucial to be able to explain quickly what we do and what our goals are. 

To help you do just that, the Harvard Business School created this awesome and free speech builder.

It walks you through each step and lets you write down your thoughts as you go, before analyzing your speech with the amount of words you used. It even calculates how long it will take for you to speak it!

Picture from http://www.finearttips.com/2010/06/3-tips-for-artists-to-promote-themselves-their-galleries/


4 discussions to have with students about performing

Instrumental lessons focus much more on playing than on performing.

Here are four aspects of performing that need to be talked about.
  1. Dress appropriately: Many young performers do this right on their own, but I have still seen enough of them dress too casually or too over-the-top that it is still a good discussion to have.

    Dressing appropriately means wearing evening wear, with hair groomed, and make up for women.

  2. Walk on stage, bow: Most common problems arise on the way out of the stage, and on the second bow at the end of the concert.

    Students need to be told at least once before each recital where to go and how to go about it, until that thought process becomes mechanical for them.

  3. Body language: Many young performers think of their body only as it pertains to the technique of their instrument, and forget about the essential role it plays in transmitting music to an audience.

    Besides not looking bored, the body should indicate what the music sounds like, by matching its phrasing and intensity. The sooner students learn to do that in their lessons, the better they will apply it on stage. 

  4. Poise: Next to the actual playing, poise is the second most important and impressive aspect of a performance.

    Students need to know that looking confused or laughing nervously when something goes wrong (tripped, scores fell)  on stage is not acceptable.

    Poise is about being at ease, in charge, and dealing graciously with things that would otherwise have become awkward.

Picture from http://www.lunacystageworks.org/give.html


How to deal with tempo issues

One of my wonderful readers sent me this question: "Do you have any advice on keeping steady rhythm and pulse and not allowing dynamics and intensity to cause rushing or dragging?"

Tempo issues are a symptom and not a cause, so here's a look at some of the causes.
  1. Excitement: When we play intense pieces with dramatic dynamics, we can lose ourselves in the music as an audience member would, and let the emotions of the piece carry us away.

    When that happens, we go from being in control of the music to having the music be in control of us, and that's why tempos rush or slow down.

    It's the same situation a comedian face when they can't stop laughing at a joke they have to perform. They have to get it out of their system in order to perform it, and so do we for an emotional passage.

  2. Technical difficulty: When we're facing a difficult technical spot, our body goes into panic mode and takes over our mind.

    The key here is to use our practice sessions as a practice for our mind to remain in control, by always playing at tempos that allow us to stay in charge.

  3. Nerves: When our nerves take over during a performance, we stop thinking of the music to think of a million other things instead, such as what the audience is thinking or if we picked the right outfit.

    Our fingers are left playing on their own, which impacts the tempo in a big way. The solution is to make sure we keep a cool mind at all times.

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