It all began in August, as it does each year. Music hopefuls descended upon the nation’s college campuses and conservatories with much to learn. For those of you who are frantically trying to survive the final week(s) of spring semester with final papers, projects, performances, and yes, those dreaded juries — think about this. Of the many high school graduates who once participated in chorus, band or orchestra, only 1% go on to pursue a music degree. Half of those who sat with you in your freshman theory class will likely have changed majors by the end of the term. Whether you have a major with a concentration in performance, education or other pursuits — 1% is an incredibly small number!
For underclassmen, I’ll share some of the best advice I received: if you’re looking for ways to get ahead, be a volunteer, find a role model, and participate in professional organizations. If you only learn in the classroom in college, you’re missing a valuable education.
For those of you who are completing your degree programs — the surviving 1% — be gentle with yourself. Even the best plans are subject to random forces beyond your control (a flat tire making you late to an interview, family illness, etc). Many random events will shape your life. There is no substitution for being prepared when met with opportunity. Keep your options open. Your professional life may take some unexpected turns. Your very best efforts may not yield the desired result. A great joy in life is finding a job (and career) in which you can make a genuine difference. The job you want may be very difficult to get (especially in orchestral auditions and higher education). You may have to take “a job” of some kind, somewhere. While it may not be perfect at first, if you’re fortunate, you can begin to shape the job you have into the job you always hoped to have. In every step, make a difference, contribute, and pursue your dream.
For those of you completing final exams and juries, good luck! To those job-searching, we at J.W. Pepper hope you do find your dream job. We look forward to working with you wherever your dreams take you.