Develop and Display Confidence

Peruse the personal development shelves of any bookstore, and you’ll find dozens of books about how to increase your own confidence and inspire the confidence of others. We know why confidence is desirable for us (Who wouldn’t want to avoid the crushing pain of insecurity and fear?), but why is it attractive in others?

Confidence - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

As human beings, we have an innate need for connection and safety. Confident people can make us feel both, and that is why we are so drawn to them. We get nervous around people who are not confident about what they do. When others seem shaky and uncertain, we absorb that feeling, and it puts us on edge. This is particularly true when we watch someone perform.

A confident performer, regardless of whether he’s a musician or a figure skater, allows us to relax and enjoy the journey of emotion that’s being shared. An anxious performer, on the other hand, causes us to worry. Are we going to get the experience we came for? Are we going to have to participate in someone else’s embarrassment or disaster? It’s nearly impossible to connect with a performance like that.

Confidence vs. Arrogance

While confidence is attractive, arrogance is off-putting, and there’s a fine line between the two.

Confidence says, “I know who I am; I know what I can do. I’ve prepared my part well, and I am ready to do my best.”

Arrogance, on the other hand, says, “I know who everyone is. I know what everyone should do, and given the chance, I could do it better than they can.”

Interestingly, arrogant people – people intent on proving that they are better, more important, or more intelligent than the others around them – are generally the most insecure. When you are confident, you understand your place in the whole. You know the part you are to play and understand the importance of playing it well (whether in music or life).

When people insist on trying to insert themselves into other’s roles, it is because they don’t believe that the part they are supposed to play is valuable enough. Essentially, they aren’t sure that they matter. Unlike confident people, who value learning from others who are further along than they are, arrogant people are intimidated by better players. They blow themselves up, act as though they know everything to avoid being seen as “inferior.” They lack humility.

This lack of humility makes them unteachable. When you can’t be taught, you can’t improve.

Developing Confidence

As a musician, if someone asks you to play a C major scale, no doubt you feel 100% confident about your ability to do that. You’ve done it a million times. You are well prepared.

Preparation and exposure are great confidence builders. Classical musicians tend to have an abundance of confidence in some areas and a complete lack of it in others. You may be confident about performing a piece, but not confident talking to the audience or booking a show.

The best way to develop confidence in a new area is to practice. Isolate a specific skill, say, stage banter, and focus on doing that well until it begins to feel as simple as that C major scale.

Confidence is grown like a seed, little by little, but once it blossoms, it’s beautiful to behold.

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

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.

How to be a Supportive Person in a Competitive World

We’re all drawn to people who uplift, encourage, and actively help us achieve our dreams. After all, why spend time and energy on Negative Nellys and naysayers (except those well-meaning family members we just can’t avoid) when you can surround yourself with positive vibes that help you get stuff done?

But support is truly a giver’s gain concept: if you want supportive people in your life, you have to be a supportive person.

Support has become something of a buzzword. We talk about supporting ideas, supporting policies, supporting the arts, when what we really mean is we agree with or appreciate those things.  Truly being supportive means giving encouragement and actively giving help to someone who needs it. Support requires action, not just thought.

Supportive - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Break the Lack Mindset

As professional musicians, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that another player’s success is our failure. After all, if they get the job, that means we don’t get it right? How can you genuinely support someone else’s ambition if it seems to preclude your own success?

Here’s the truth: classical musicians (and classical music in general) face a lot of challenges, but other musicians are not one of them! True, we are all vying for the attention of the public, but what we are battling against is the distraction of modern life – Netflix, Candy Crush, and the host of other easy entertainments that consume the few free hours people have after working long hours and caring for families. It’s simply so easy to sit at home with mindless entertainment these days, and that makes getting people out the door to see live music a challenge.

Understand that a rising tide lifts all boats. If you can create a thriving culture of live entertainment by supporting other players, you too, benefit. Everyone benefits. It isn’t an either/or; it is an and/also.

Everyone has a different gift to give. Respect and support the gifts of others without falling prey to the idea that acknowledging their talent diminishes your own.

How to Show Support

Obviously, showing up to watch performances is supportive, but how else can you encourage and help fellow musicians and the other people in your life?

1. Be an active listener: This applies to every interaction you have and is a sure way to gain people’s trust and admiration. When you’re having a conversation with someone, slow down and listen to what they are saying. Don’t use their turn to just think of what you’re going to say next. Avoid generic responses, maintain eye contact, and ask questions. And please, please, put your phone away.

2. Offer advice only when asked. This one can be tricky, especially if you see something that could use improvement. Though it’s true that tough love can be a form of support, it’s generally better to focus on the positive. Offer encouragement by telling someone what you appreciated about their performance, what you thought they did particularly well. Be authentic, don’t lavish generic praise on a performance you thought was merely ok, but do look for good things to encourage.

If you are asked for advice, remain positive. Instead of, “That middle section was rough,” try something like, “The first movement was great! If you can work on putting the same emotion into the second movement, it will be brilliant.”

3. Don’t gossip. This should be a no-brainer, but sometimes our lesser angels get the better of us, especially if we’re still caught in the trap of competition. When someone shares something with you in confidence, keep it to yourself. This applies to struggles and victories alike. It’s impossible to feel supported by someone who is talking being your back.

4. Share the wealth. If you hear of opportunities that would benefit others, tell them! “But what if they get it, and I don’t?” By being generous with encouragement and information, you are exponentially increasing the odds that others will reciprocate. Next time they may tell you about an opportunity that is a perfect fit for your gifts.

5. Work on your building your own confidence. When you believe in your talents and value what you do, it becomes so much easier to offer support to other people.

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

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.

Whatever Happened to Professional Joy?

It’s a familiar story. A musician works for years through a rigorous music program nursing the dream of one day becoming a professional performer. At last, it happens. Then, a few years later, this dream job has become routine. Wake up, do the work, go home. Something feels missing.

When we turn professional, when our livelihood depends on our music, we tend to kill the joy of it. Why? How? And what can we do about it?

Long-term Love Is a Choice

Committing to a career, especially one as personal and emotional as music, is a lot like marriage.

There was a story on the radio recently about a man who’d been married for 65 years. He was talking about how he and his wife had managed to stay happily married for so long. He said, “Over the past 65 years, I’ve been married to 10 different versions of my wife. She became ten different people, and I chose to fall in love with every one of them.”

He chose to be in love. Over and over again. Happiness is a choice, and it requires a daily commitment.

When we go into professional music, especially after striving for so long, it can feel like a huge celebration, a wedding party if you will. But every day is not a party, and we shouldn’t expect it to be.

No one, regardless of career, goes to work every day and loves their job every moment that they are there. A life in music is hard work. Wonderful, yes, but also work. Managing expectations helps repel disappointment and disillusionment. So remember, every day is not the wedding day. Sometimes it’s the garbage night. And that’s ok.

Take Responsibility for Your Happiness

Often, when musicians are disappointed in their careers, it’s because they feel stuck. They feel like they are no longer in charge of what they do, and what they find themselves doing is draining, or even boring. It’s easier to blame a director for their unhappiness than it is to admit that, ultimately, the responsibility for happiness lies in their own laps.

But the truth is, no one is keeping you where you are. You have the ability to craft a career you do love. There are no hard and fast rules about what a professional music career must be. If you don’t like the situation you find yourself in, even after accepting that some days will be better than others, then change it.

A word of warning: if you don’t like the career you’ve crafted, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. However, you always keep crafting!

Remember Your Audience

Disgruntled performers make boring performances. Full stop.

Consider the influence your attitude is having on the people you are there to serve. Even on your worst day, your job is to communicate the emotional language of music to people who may have never experienced it before. You can’t do that if you are selfishly obsessed with how much fun you aren’t having.

Think about the people who are listening to a piece for the first time, even if you’ve played it a million times before. Be an actor. Communicate the emotion of the music. Find it, and amplify it to the audience. It’s hard to be bored when you’re invested in honestly communicating emotion.

You may have decided on a career in professional music because it was the most fun you’d ever had. That’s wonderful, we want our professional lives to be fun. But it’s important that when you step over that threshold from avocation to vocation, from wedding to marriage, that you remember that you’re making a commitment – a commitment not only to your career but primarily to your audience. You’ve committed to making the world a better place by communicating through the language of emotion. That’s something to be happy about, even on the rough days. 

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to Classic Jabber now.

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.

What shocks me may surprise you

With the latest old-school icon from the hippy era crumbling under accusations of serious misconduct, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile expectations with responsibility.

The #MeToo movement continues to reach deeper and deeper into society, and classical music is clearly not exempt.

Now that Placido Domingo, one of the original Three Tenors, is under fire for sexual harassment since the 1980s, to be perfectly honest with you I am utterly shocked at three things…

Actually, they are the same three things I have struggled with over the past few years as these various stories come to light.

And what shocks me may surprise you:

  1. I am shocked that anyone is surprised by these post-hippy-era stories,
  2. I am shocked that anyone would consent to any form of what is now considered gross misconduct under any circumstances (let’s explore that in a moment), and
  3. I am utterly shocked and saddened that there are STILL people in the classical music industry who use these very painful experiences as a hook to promote their services!


Yes, I just received an email from a cheap, multifarious classical music “coach” who launched an unsubstantiated attack on Domingo and then spent the second half of her missive justifying an upcoming event and incorporating the Domingo story into descriptive links for her coaching programs and social media accounts. 

That makes me almost as sick as when hearing about the original story itself.

To me, it signifies just how low our industry has stooped – that it’s become OK to sell our wares on the backs of those who endured absolutely awful experiences with lifelong impact.

It is, perhaps, one of the most underhanded, despicable and unprofessional selling tactics anyone could possibly imagine. 

Aren’t we better than that?

Why aren’t we better than that?

Now, I am not diminishing anyone’s victimhood AT ALL, but I am saddened anyone thinks it was ever ok to either ask for sexual favors or that actually giving or engaging in such behavior was ever necessary.

It doesn’t take a degree to understand right from wrong, yet for whatever reason so many of our peers seem unaware of the impact of their words and actions.

What may be said in jest by one person could actually be very harmful for another. Stack such comments on top of each other over time, and a mindset of self-worth and wanting to make our world a better place through music may be damaged beyond repair.

There is ALWAYS a way out, but many times it is REALLY DIFFICULT to see it, act on it, or prioritize it. Especially when a primary income is at stake. So we put up with the comments and taps and slaps not realizing just how bad our situation is.

We are NOT talking about rape.
We are discussing harassment.

Why would anyone think there is no alternative?

We live in an era in which sexual freedom is popular, that followed an era in which sexual experimentation was popular.

On top of which classical musicians are ensnared in an industry that promotes one way of thinking, one way of doing, and only one possible path… a path that was created 100 years ago and is no longer suitable for the real world.

Well, no matter how many options and opportunities there may be to get out of a potentially sticky situation, it doesn’t surprise me that sexual harassment is rampant in the established classical music industry. I witnessed it many, many times in my college days.

But it shocks me when others declare surprise.

And although it doesn’t surprise me that talking about such important topics occurs within our circles of influence (it’s what we’re doing right now), I DO remain SHOCKED TO THE CORE that some of our classical music peers ride on the lifelong pain of others in order to make a buck… and woe be coming to those who get swallowed up by such cheap Machiavellian antics.

Craft vs. Career

Every year, thousands of students graduate from music programs across the world. These are talented, dedicated students, and yet, many struggle to build fulfilling careers as performing musicians. Why?

Because they haven’t learned the skills required to build those careers.

Craft or Career?

What School Doesn’t Teach You

There is an enormous difference between mastering the craft of music – our instrument or voice, composition, conducting – and mastering the skills required to build a career sharing live music with people. Many people spend 10, 15, even 20 years figuring out the craft, but expect the career to just be there upon graduation. It doesn’t work that way.

Is it the fault of the music programs? Not really. University was never intended to be a vocational school. You have to look elsewhere to learn the day to day skills required to find and book gigs. You may need to beef up on your people skills or your selling skills.

In the movie, The Founder, Ray Croc, the man who brought McDonald’s to the world, realizes that he is not in the hamburger business, he’s in the real estate business. Similarly, you are not as much in the music business as you are in the people business. You must put the same effort into mastering your relationships with people as you did mastering your instrument.

Thankfully, there are some skills that transfer between music training and career building.

  1. Diligence: In order to master your music craft, you had to be extremely disciplined and dedicated. Think of all the hours spent woodshedding in practice rooms. The same diligence serves you well as you craft a career.
  2. Resilience in the face of rejection: Every time you failed an audition or were passed over for first chair, you experienced a little bit of rejection. Hopefully, you learned to take that in stride and keep going. Learning to deal with rejection is one of the most important career skills you can master. A lot of talented people leave music because they do not understand that frequent rejection is just part of the package. Nine times out of ten, you will hear no. That’s ok. That means that one time you will hear yes, and it all rides on that one time.

Insecurity is Unimportant

As a classical musician, you spent years before teachers, fellow students (competitors), and judges, having every single move picked apart. They focused on the three notes you could have done better instead of the 5,000 notes you played perfectly. That was their job, but it still leads to fear that everyone else is scrutinizing your playing in the same way. Years of that level of critique makes it easy to believe that you are less talented or worthy of success than you really are. Bam. Fear of failure.

But what if you’re successful? What if you land the gig, or garner the praise? Well, deep down, you don’t believe you deserve it. Someday, someone is going to realize that you are a fraud. This is called Imposter Syndrome, and it’s a big driver behind what people refer to as “fear of success.”

These are all perfectly normal, even common fears. Never should you imagine that you are not capable of having a successful career in music because you harbor these kinds of self-doubts. Nearly everyone does! The key lies in overcoming them and learning the other skills that will allow you to build a profitable, fulfilling life in music.

Tips for the Road

These tips are critical for building a career in music, but they apply equally to building a career in any profession.

  1. It’s not who you know; it’s who you know that wants to work with you. How do you make people want to work with you? Be your best self every time you show up.
  2. Everyone you meet in your field is a potential colleague. You never know what opportunities or connections are lurking behind a new face. Be nice to everyone.
  3. Be your own best advocate. No one is going to come knocking on your door to offer you your dream job. You have to go out and create it for yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission – you’ll be waiting a long time.

You’ve mastered the craft of music and already overcome numerous obstacles. Spend time mastering the business of music (the business of people), and you’re on your way.

If you would like to hear the live discussion about this topic, head on over to now.

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.

Can You Be Trusted?

Music is a uniquely personal business. It is the language of emotion, and in order to communicate in this language, we require that other people participate. We need an audience, and very often, we also need fellow musicians. The whole thing is built on relationships, and there are few things as important to relationships as trust.

Trustworthiness - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Professional Trustworthiness

In a professional context, being trustworthy means being reliable. Doing what you say you will do, showing up on time, knowing your part so that rehearsal doesn’t have to stop while you get up to speed. Handle yourself and your emotions with integrity. Don’t fly off the handle when criticized or corrected.

Garnering trust doesn’t require being perfect; it just requires being honest and upfront about what you can do and then following through. The old adage, “under promise and over deliver,” is very good advice for building trust. 

It’s much easier to make plans with trustworthy people, and the only way to get things done is to make plans. It doesn’t take much sand in the gears to throw everything off. So, hold up your end – do what you say you will do and do it with quality.

Personal Trustworthiness

At its heart, trust is about honesty and truthfulness.

The music business can be challenging, and it can make a lot of performers desperate. There is often a mistaken feeling of lack, an idea that there are only a limited number of opportunities, and it’s every man for himself.

This isn’t true, and acting as if it is, is a sure way to lose the trust of everyone around you. Trustworthy people don’t betray others or stab them in the back in pursuit of success. As a result, people flock to trustworthy people. They build real relationships and connections – both of which are critical in an emotion dependent field like music.

The Trustworthy Performer

Finally, to build relationships and rapport with your audience, they must be able to trust you. When you get in a taxi in an unfamiliar city, you trust that the driver knows the way around. Similarly, your audience has to trust that you know your way through the emotional journey that you’re taking with them.

It’s okay to take risks and be playful – it’s wonderful, actually – but you must be certain that what you are going to do is going to work. It doesn’t have to be 100% perfect (in fact, your audience probably won’t notice if it isn’t) but you do have to arrive where you told them you were going to go. You have to provide the experience that they expect you to deliver. Like our taxi driver, it’s okay to take a trip down a scenic back road, but it’s not okay to end up out of gas in a dangerous neighborhood.

Ultimately, there is an element of trustworthiness that is out of your hands. You can act in a trustworthy way, but being deemed trustworthy is in the eye of the beholder.

No worries. Consistently show the audience that you are enjoying yourself. Display the joy and pleasure of the performance without anxiety. Stay calm, unharried, and confident, and your audience will trust that you will deliver them exactly where they want to go.

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

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.


When we talk about responsibility, we usually think of things we have to do in order to avoid being irresponsible. Take care of our things. Show up on time. Responsibleness doesn’t automatically spring to mind as an attractive characteristic, but it’s opposite, irresponsibility is universally unattractive.

As adults, one of the worst things we can be accused of is being an irresponsible person. It’s easy to come up with a list of things that irresponsible people do: show up late, or not at all, neglect their finances, take poor care of their belongings, or worse yet, other people’s belongings. But what does it actually mean to be responsible?

Responsibleness - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

The Buck Stops Here

There are a bunch of definitions for responsible, but for our purposes, we’ll use this one from the Oxford English Dictionary: being the primary cause of something so able to be blamed or credited for it. In other words, it goes beyond just doing what you say you’ll do. It means taking ownership and being accountable.

Of course, there is a difference between taking ownership and usurping authority. No one is the boss of everything. Very often, especially if you play in large ensembles under a music director, you are under the authority of someone else.

Even so, there is always something you can take ownership of – your own performance, the creative choices you make, the direction of your career. Being responsible means stepping up and letting the appropriate buck stop with you.

What Are You Responsible For?

As adults, we are all responsible for all the things that make our lives run smoothly. We’re responsible for paying our bills, feeding ourselves and our families, remembering to get the oil changed in the car before the engine blows up.

As classical musicians, we can add to this list showing up on time, knowing our pieces, getting promotional materials where they need to be. The list goes on.  But more than anything, we are responsible for delivering the outcome our audience has paid us to deliver.

As a performer, you are accountable not just to the director or the venue owner, but first and foremost to your audience. It is a fundamental principle of success that we will only achieve our goals when we help others achieve theirs. So what is your audience’s goal? Why have they come to see you perform? Are they there to relax? To get pumped up? To escape?

You must take ownership of the experience that you provide your audience, and do your best to ensure it is meeting their goals. That is being a responsible performer.

Sometimes you’ll get it just right, and you get the credit that comes with that. Sometimes you won’t. You win some; you learn some. Responsibleness requires looking at those misses honestly, without blaming it on someone else, and figuring out what the lesson is and how to do better next time.

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

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.

Why Youth Orchestras Don’t Equal Youthful Audiences

Today, there are more youth orchestras than at any other time in history. Yet, there is still the misconception that only people over the age of 70 enjoy classical music. Why? Because when one looks out over the average audience at a classical performance, there is a sea of white hair.

So, what’s happening to these young people involved in music programs across the country, and indeed the world? Why aren’t they filling the seats?

Soccer and Symphonies

Classical music is not alone in this dilemma.

On any given Saturday morning, nearly every park is filled with hundreds of kids wearing shin guards and cleats, chasing a black and white ball around a field. Youth soccer is a huge industry. However, here in the US, that young enthusiasm hasn’t translated into a big passion for what everyone else in the world calls professional football.

Far more kids play soccer than American football, but you’d never know it if you judged by the sports adults watch. Americans seem to have a very hard time drumming up enthusiasm for the World Cup, even as we take our children to soccer practice every Tuesday and Thursday.

Classical music faces the same conundrum. Every evening, thousands of children are diligently practicing their instruments, yet nearly every classical performance is devoid of these young enthusiasts.

Checking Boxes, Not Building Passions

So why does youth involvement not lead to adult participation? In part, it is because parents sign children up for band, orchestra, and music lessons (as well as soccer) not to foster a love of classical music, but to foster the skills that come along with diligent practice of any team effort – persistence, teamwork, comradery.

As students get older, it is often they who sign up for these same activities, not because they love them, or are even particularly interested in them, but because they check off some box on some yet to be completed college application. Music: check. Sports: check.

The Missing Piece of Music Education

For all of the diligent teaching of scales, rhythms, dynamics, and working in concert with other players, there is often very little instruction in one critical part of music – listening attentively. There is a lot of focus on the individual student and even the group as a whole, but not much on the importance of music as community and communication.

Certainly, some teachers break the mold. They vigorously encourage students to go hear professional performances. They keep an ear to the ground, looking for opportunities and programs that will enthrall their students, and then put together groups to go en masse. These are the teachers who are most likely to run into their own students at the local symphony’s performance of Harry Potter – they’ve instilled a certain enthusiasm that grows even without direct involvement.

Programs and Preferences Are Important

Of course, it’s not always as easy as it should be for these teachers to find suitable performances. While it’s true that virtually every single classical performance is open to young people, it is also true that very few of them go out of their way to engage younger audiences.

I once invited a young cellist to come see a performance of an orchestra I was conducting. This 12-year-old had some interest in perhaps pursuing professional music, and we both thought it might be nice for her to see what a real orchestra does. She was enthusiastic to be there but was sound asleep by the middle of the second piece. There was nothing she could relate to in the music at all. There was nothing familiar, nothing to latch onto, so she got bored. When I mentioned this to the director of the orchestra, he said, “Well, that’s not my audience.”

He’d just missed a chance to gain a new loyalist, an enthusiastic player who may have attended performances for ten years before becoming a professional herself, and he couldn’t have cared less.

This is the wrong attitude to take. No, it isn’t necessary to cater specifically to a young audience, as we’ve discussed before, but you can be certain that a program that at least considers the engagement of all audience members will certainly be no less popular among the typical (read: older) members. 

First Things First

Yes, classical music has been shown to have many benefits. It makes you better at math; it increases your attention span. But the real purpose of classical music or any music for that matter is enjoyment, beauty, and emotional connection.

If parents and teachers focus exclusively on developing the brains, skills, and resumes of young players, they are never going to instill that true love of classical music. And that love is the key to developing audiences.

If you would like to hear the live discussion about this topic, head on over to now.

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.

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.

You Don’t Have to Be So Serious to Be Taken Seriously

Classical music is serious business. Right? All those tiny notes, all that counting, all that Italian. Very serious stuff, indeed.

Many of us have spent years before teachers, adjudicators, and in competitions proving just how seriously we take our craft. We finally leave academia and discover that the rest of the world is just not that impressed with how seriously we take ourselves. They are, in fact, rather turned off by the whole stiff upper lip thing.


Because serious is BORING.

There’s a Reason It’s Called PLAYING Music

Hopefully, you began your life in music because it brought you joy, and not say, because you were forced into it by some terrifying schoolmarm who thought it would do you some good.

Learning to play well, being able to communicate real emotion through an instrument (voices included) is exhilarating! Expertly executing a tricky passage feels like flying down a rollercoaster at top speed and pulling into the station with your heart racing and your hands still in the air.

In other words, it’s fun.

And your audience should know it. They should see it, feel it, experience it right along with you because people like to see other people have fun. It’s how we spread joy. That joy that started this journey.

Cultivating Playfulness in Performance

There’s a misconception that playful equals sloppy. Not so. Playfulness is actually the masterclass.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Learn the rules so you can break them.” The equivalent here is, “Learn the music so you can enjoy it.” There is a difference between insisting on quality (which you should do) and taking it so seriously that executing a piece takes on an entirely different meaning.

Yes, some pieces are serious and deep. They call for a certain somber intensity. By all means, perform those pieces appropriately. But don’t include an entire program of that kind of music.

Make It a Game

Playfulness isn’t only an attractive characteristic for performance; it can also make the entire business of music more fun.

Turn choosing venues into a game.

Picture yourself playing in a particular space. Does it make you smile? Give you those little bubbles of joy? Book it.

On the other hand, if visualizing yourself on that stage makes you queasy or itchy, no matter what else it has in its favor, skip it. If you can’t even imagine yourself having fun, how on earth are you going to show your audience a good time?

Have a long list of business calls to make? Set a timer and see how many you can fit in before it beeps. Aim to break the record next time.

Joy is a Choice

Baring the few tragic events that inevitably occur in every life, each day, in each situation, you have the ability to choose happiness and joy. Playfulness is a way to get at that joy, and interestingly, it’s also what naturally happens when joy bubbles out of you.

Life is short. Look for ways to make it fun. You may be amazed by how many people will want to come along for that ride.

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

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.