I grew up in a world where one thought that if you practise enough you will have a career. And if you didn‘t have a career you simply hadn‘t practised enough, so sit down and practise!
However, after 25 years in the business (and mostly on the organiser’s side of things) I have understood that this is not the case, unfortunately. Also, I suspect that it was never how major careers actually got shaped but in pre-digital days and from the point-of-view of ordinary people it was very difficult to imagine that it could be otherwise. In many ways we were far more innocent then. After all, we believed what we read in the newspapers and what we saw on television 😁.
Today, it is clear to me that to make a career – in music or elsewhere – you do indeed require the basics: talent, devotion, the ability to sit down and stay at it for endless hours, patience and endurance, favourable surroundings, encouragement.
But you must look beyond your music-making and keep your eyes open: You must be endowed with large portions of astuteness, independent thinking, self-confidence and… diplomacy. You should be organised, reliable, know languages and used to travelling through different countries and cultures. And you should not mind spending hours after hours on your own.
Like a good friend of mine, excellent Spanish composer and pianist Antoni Parera Fons, says: „I am never bored. I love being on my own thinking thoughts to myself. It is the most wonderful pastime.“
Above all you should love music and your instrument, no matter what your career is doing. You should never force yourself to play only because somebody told you so. The audience can hear this. It immediately reacts to a musician that is not inspired. To put it bluntly: if you feel no vocation, you are not making real music. And you should not be making music professionally.
But you must also have the humility to understand and accept the fact that you might not be made for a professional career in music, for whatever reason. Or that you are maybe not made for a stellar career (who is?) but for „only“ an ordinary one that keeps you in the profession, lets you earn a living (more or less) and allows you to spend your days doing the thing you enjoy most.
Like in all aspects of life, you will unfortunately not be able to influence that crucial factor, luck: to find the right teachers, those who inspire you, those who can help you – those who will help you selflessly, those that will give you the right advice. And most importantly: the chance to be in the right place at the right time.
You can, however, work on things that might pave the way once you have indeed encountered a spell of luck, things that might help you unlock some doors that take you further on your way.
I would like to write about some of the things that in my experience have proven important and that are evidently often not taught to aspiring musicians. Or ignored by them 🙂. Many will be questions (me too, I like thinking my thoughts) rather than answers. But they might give you some helpful insights when thinking your own thoughts about music and your career.