Brad Carman asked.
1. Doubling. (Pros and cons). 2.Balancing general practice with performance preparation. 3. Pros and cons of specialization. 4. Managing a profitable career (with and without government assistance. What it takes...how many different components, etc.)
Hi Brad, here we go, hard to answer everything, but I did my best.
1. Well, hard question, and very specific for your region. Here in Holland and Europe we do not need to do it perse, but it can be handy if you're looking for gigs.
Pros: more opportunities for gigs, obviously, as long as you're in the right network. Usually doubling comes together with combining classical with jazz. Like the sax section in the Metropole Orchestra.
It can be a lot of fun as well, I imagine. But I am not a doubler. I live of playing the classical saxophone only, in classical gigs. Something like 80-90 percent of my income comes from playing. The rest is teaching.
Cons: Less time to focus on your chops on your specialty, in my case the sax. At school I aimed at being fluent in all saxophones. That was my form of doubling. But in my case there was an artistic reason. The repertoire for sax is limited. And I did not want to limit the rep even more by just playing 1 or two saxes. Tomorrow I am playing a recital and I am playing three saxes. Honestly, I am not so keen on including the soprano, but I won't leave rep out because it's on the soprano. I just need more time to prep myself because it is not something I do regularly.
I am someone who wants to go for it 300%. Doubling means less time to invest in becoming fluent on the thing I want most.
But again, this is from a European viewpoint.
2. At the conservatory, in the first year the balance is like 90%-10% general practice-performance prep. The second year it's something like 80-20, third 70-30, fourth 60-40. Give or take 10%!
Right now, for me it's 100% performance prep, just because I do not have the time to do general rehearsal. But my performance practice is also general practice. I am working on developing my chops and musicality at the same time.
When I was injured in 2008 it was 75-25, because I had to relearn the technique of the right hand...
It is based on what you need. Find out what you need. For example: legato is very easy, right? So why does everyone practice scales legato? Well, to learn smooth transitions from one note to the other. Ok, so what after this? Try attacking a low B flat, keep it for 4 beats, have two beats rest, then play a low c, not, that's hard!
If you have nothing to work on that really needs to get better, you should go see a good movie, work on your hobby or work in the garden... But I am sure that in school there's enough to do!
3. If you are specializing you are aiming on a margin. If you specialize in contemporary American music, you know there s very small market for you. But if you market yourself wisely you are the one that small market calls if they need someone who can play that type of music very well.
I did not specialize, and till this day I am wondering whether I should change this... I am someone who likes to do everything and only specializes on the short term (several weeks max) and then goes on to the next thing.
4. Wow, if I would know that one! :-)
Well, I live of playing, I am privileged, but I worked my ass off to get there. I studied hard and tried to be the best. I made sure I was and am at every network meeting that seems valuable for me. I talk to people easily. I created a network and still working on it. But I can tell you that the pro network you create at school is the most important one you will ever have, career-wise. Be very careful with this, invest time and effort and make the right choices. Know where you're going and speak to those people who can bring you closer.
Do not always say yes, but say yes a lot. You do not have to do everything. Create your own work and opportunities. There is no market for us, we have to create it. Abstract right? Well, it will always remain so... Can't help it. You have to find your way and you should always be prepared to choose new paths.
The path your teacher chose might not be the path for you. Find your own way. Really....
A former co-student of mine, Ralph van Raat, is a very succesful performer of contemporary music. If he would have asked advice about his future career people would have never told him to specialize in Jarret, Stokhausen, Boulez, Ives... That would be like digging your own professional grave. But he did it. He plays all around the world. He is passionate about what he does and people know this... They want to listen to him because he has something to say.
All the best,
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