Music college can be a great thing.
But often it’s bad at preparing you for a life in music after graduation.
So many musicians coming out of college ask me (some version of) this: “What should I do now? Help!”
Here’s a question from Simon:
I realize that becoming a professional saxophonist is not a walk in the park, and I am willing to work as hard as I can to make it work, but do you have any wisdom that you would be willing to share as to the what and what not’s to do? Any advice is welcome! Thanks again!!!!
Before I answer, a couple things to consider…
In general, the stuff we need to know coming out of school—Should I move to that city? Should I get a day job? How do I rent an apartment when I don’t have a job? Is it a bad idea to take that gig?—is where institutional jazz education comes up short(est).
I went to a great music school. But I remember sitting in Legal Aspects of the Music Business wondering if “songwriting splits” and “who pays for music videos” was the information I needed most as an aspiring jazz saxophonist?
When I respond to questions like Simon’s, I always think, “I should put this up on my blog.” But then I think, “Nah, it’s incomplete.” And, “Who am I to give advice, anyway?”
But I’ll borrow from designer James Victore: “I don’t have all the answers—only mine.”
If this helps one person I’m happy I posted it.
12 things to keep in mind if you plan on becoming a professional saxophonist
- Being a great player should go without saying, but will only carry you so far. Be a good person, too.
- Make any sacrifices necessary to play with musicians better than you.
- Be humble, but do the work required to be confident in your abilities.
- Make every situation you play in better because of your contribution. This means knowing what and when NOT to play, too.
- Tone is job number one. If that’s not great nothing else matters.
- Be a listener first; player second.
- Details matter. A lot. Never cut corners.
- Have (at least) a rough idea where and what you hope to be doing 10 years from now. Make decisions that lead toward that. Otherwise, life will make them for you.
- Never burn a bridge.
- Be careful what you say yes to; they’ll ask you to do more of it.
- Pay attention to money! Respect and manage it or it will teach you to respect it by managing you.
- Everyone gets the same number of hours in a day. What will you do with yours?