Monday, January 7, 2013

Faculty post - Kimberly Roberts - Prepare now!

The first blog post of 2013 is from Assistant Professor of Music, Dr. Kimberly Roberts
Prepare Now!
by Dr. Kimberly Roberts
To have a career in music, whether as an educator, a performer, or any other musical path, you must begin preparing now. It isn’t enough to just “be in school”. You must have a mindset that you are a product for sale. You only have a few years to develop your technique, your professionalism, your work ethic, and your overall package. How can you do that here?
1.   Set goals for study every semester. Sure, your teacher has a plan for your progress, but you need to be an active participant in your musical path. Talk with your teacher about what you want to accomplish, and find out what they want you to accomplish. You must push yourself to go beyond the requirements – if you can barely achieve the minimum requirements each semester, you are not motivated enough for a career in music.
2.   Try to incorporate some of your applied work into your other academic work. Use music you are working on for the basis of a research paper, find a new concept in Harmony class in your current repertoire. For that matter, fully research every piece you study – composer biography, poet biography, time period, dramatic importance, historical significance, major recordings, etc.
3.    As soon as you and your teacher think you are ready, spend your summers doing something in your field. Whether that’s going to a pay-to-sing opera program, working for an opera company or symphony, working at a summer music camp, or doing an apprentice program. Not only will you get experience, you will get exposure and the beginning of a network! The musical world is small, your tenacity and networking skills are extremely important.
4.   Do competitions. You may or may not get any useful feedback, you may or may not win – but that is not the purpose. What you do get are pressure-free audition experiences! Nothing is at stake in a competition. You also get to know the competition in your area and age group, and you get heard by more people! Totally worth the money!
5.   Do your research. You should know who the major and minor agents are, and what opera companies, symphonies, professional choruses, festivals, YAPs, outreach programs, and competitions are in your area. Do you know where the major and minor YAPs in the nation are and who is singing in them? Do you know who the winners for major national competitions are? Do you know what the 10 most performed operas, oratorios, and symphonic works are? You should. Music is a business, and if you aren’t going to do the market research, what chance do you have in marketing your product?
6.   Make sure your materials are prepared. Even though you don’t have much to put on your resume, write down every musical experience you can think of. Tons of resumes are online, but don’t try to compare yours to someone that has a national or regional career. Look for ones that are just a level or two above you. Get a good headshot! Keep current quality recordings of yourself.
7.   Develop a five year plan. It is ok if that changes, but you must have goals to work toward. Opportunities may come up that take you away from that plan, but that’s great. The most important thing is to always ask yourself – if money were no object, what job would I want? What am I doing to earn that job? I’ve seen Met winners end up teaching day care because they weren’t interested in taking their career into their own hands. On the other side, I’ve seen a girl who was in vocal peril for most of her schooling figure things out and within one year of graduate school win an Adler Fellowship. If you don’t know what that is, it’s time to do some research.
8.   Don’t rely on hearsay and speculation. Do the research yourself! Ask for guidance from your teachers, not your friends. I don’t know any student here that knows enough to give you accurate advice. Remember that the faculty have a ton of life experience and numerous degrees in music. We are here to help you become marketable and successful musicians, but you must take ownership of your own progress.

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