Benign Advice, Profoundly Mistaken

I can’t get enough of Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED Talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Yes, it’s old, but the topic, largely ignored by the Establishment (which includes educators and educational publishers), is still just as relevant today as it was 13 years ago.

I strongly recommend watching the entire talk, but if you’ve missed it until now, the gist of his argument can be summed up with this quote:

“Don’t do music; you’re not going to be a musician.’ Benign advice – now, profoundly mistaken.”

Sir Ken Robinson, TED 2006

Yes, Virginia, art is a real job

The vast majority of parents, relatives, and our circle of influence (including classical musicians themselves) were educated out of creativity and therefore deem non-business, non-management training to be non-essential.

After all, the point of acquiring an education is to land a job that will pay the bills, right? And, with the exception of a fortunate and famous few, who has ever made a living as a musician or artist?

In his talk, Robinson offered the example of Gillian Lynne, a little girl who could not sit still. She went to dance school to be with others like her and went on to choreograph some of the world’s most popular and influential stage works. She also became a multi-millionaire whilst at it.

How many of those around you who advise you to “Get a real job,” are earning as much as Gillian Lynne did?

Art is a “real job,” and you CAN make a real living pursuing your passion. But you have to know how.

You Need More Than Music Lessons

Creatives are really, really good at learning their craft but not so good at learning what to do with it – how to turn that craft into a viable living. It’s no wonder, we’ve heard for so long that it is impossible to make a living as a performer. We often don’t know where to turn, or where to look for good advice – advice that will help us turn our passion for live classical music into a decent income, a decent lifestyle.

We even hide (and I mean it, we HIDE) behind the seemingly altruistic conception that we are in it “just for the art.” That is a falsity just as bad as “get a real job!” I’ll say it again: art is a real job. And guess what? People get paid real money for real jobs.

Furthermore, there is nothing altruistic about struggling to survive, pay your bills, and live comfortably. If you are spending all of your energy just trying to keep your head above water, you have very little left to use for creativity. You aren’t able to use your gifts, connect with others, and help them make sense of their world through the language of emotion we call music. How on earth can that be altruistic?

You Need a Mentor

Despite what family or well-meaning friends may have told you, it is indeed possible to live comfortably as a professional musician. Thousands of people are doing it right now.

The problem is, as good as conservatories and music programs are at teaching the craft of music, almost all fall woefully short teaching students the business of being a performing musician. You have to seek out that education on your own.

Find a mentor or guide. Invest wisely in a relationship or program that can help you transform your life by taking your craft (in which you’ve already invested so much) and turning it into a lucrative career. Music can provide more than just enjoyment, connection, and beauty. It can also provide an income that enables you to live well and thrive not only as a creative but also as a human being. In other words, with the right help, music can be a very good ‘real job’.

If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.