In mid-July, Orchestras Canada posted an opening for volunteer book reviewers on our Facebook page.
The idea? That we could recruit people with particular perspectives to review books of potential interest to developing AND established Canadian musicians, strengthen our dialogue with friends and supporters, and—as a side benefit—get some great content for the OC blog, which has been languishing of late.
Compensation? It’s sadly modest. Our reviewers each got a copy of the book in question, and our heartfelt thanks.
Despite the terms, we were overwhelmed by the interest shown by our Facebook fans. It was not easy to select just one person to review the first book we chose: Angela Myles Beeching’s Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press 2010). So we didn’t. Instead, we asked three people at different stages of their professional careers to read the book and reflect on it.
Our reviewers of choice this time are:
Alexis Anderson is a Montreal-based freelance trumpet player pursuing an orchestral career. After completing her undergraduate studies in performance at McGill University, she was accepted into the Masters program at the Royal Academy of Music, in London, England. Two years of studying abroad has not only given Alexis the opportunity to work with some of today’s leading brass musicians, but has also given her an international perspective on the business of music. She feels fortunate to be currently working with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra box office as they prepare for the opening of their new concert hall and their 2011-2012 season.
Violinist Pamela Hinman is from Calgary, Alberta. She studied at the Conservatory of Mount Royal College, where she was a member of the Academy program and received her Music Performance Diploma. She continued to complete her Bachelor of Music Degree in Performance at the University of Calgary, and completed a Master’s Degree at the University of Toronto in Music Performance, graduating in December 2008. Pamela has been active in Toronto’s music scene since relocating here in 2004, performing with such groups as the Via Salzburg Chamber Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. As a violin teacher, she has taught at Branksome Hall, the Classical Music Conservatory, privately, and most recently with The Hammer Band.
Christian Sharpe is a bassoonist who held a position in a professional orchestra for over 15 years before moving into orchestra administration. He wishes he read this book 25 years ago!
Our heartfelt thanks to Alexis, Pamela and Christian! And now…their thoughts on Beyond Talent.
In Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music, author Angela Myles Beeching has compiled the most pertinent information from the vast musician’s ‘self help’ genre into one useful reference tool that provides straight-forward advice on a broad range of subjects applicable to a musician’s career development. The main topics covered include networking, self-promotion, recording, grant proposals, concert presentation, and time management.
Drawing from her experience as a career advisor to students at the New England Conservatory as well her background in performing, Beeching’s step-by-step instructions highlight her deep understanding of the music business. She shares her wealth of innovative ideas for creating performing opportunities through an abundance of examples of actual performers she has advised. Included are useful templates for promotional materials such as biographies, CVs, and press releases.
For the performer, reading this book is not only about becoming more business savvy through learning how to manage your own career. Beeching prompts her readers to think about what it means to be an artist in a community. Throughout the book are tips for finding ways to communicate better with today’s audiences. Also addressed are the different approaches to teaching required depending on an individual student’s needs and interests.
For those pursuing orchestral performing careers Beeching’s ideas may seem limited to solo or chamber playing and teaching, but the information provided in this book is useful to performers of all genres of music. Surprisingly, while she uses many examples of orchestral musicians, she does not include a chapter specifically on orchestral auditions. Also, although the information regarding tax filing and grant applications is rather specific to the United States, it still contains points useful to Canadian artists.
Although the book has been praised as an essential tool for the budding musician, it is equally useful for teachers mentoring emerging artists as well as for established performers seeking to expand their professional careers. Following Beyond Talent’s instructions, readers will find the focus and direction they need to take their careers into their own hands.
Look in the career section at your average “big box” bookstore and you will find books and career guides to help start and steer you down the path of almost any career you can think of. However, when it comes to the career of a Classical/Jazz musician, books on this subject are rare. In an industry which is probably one of the most difficult to navigate a career in, a book of any true value to someone trying to follow this path would be equally difficult to write. But Angela Myles Beeching does so with flying colours. I was sceptical at first, but I can now honestly say that I have been nothing but impressed with this book.
As the title Beyond Talent suggests, it isn’t just enough anymore to be a talented musician and play/perform well. There are so many other skills necessary to put a successful career together in today’s music industry. A book that can be read from front to back, or used as a pick and choose kind of field guide, it has something for musicians at all stages of their career. Sections on business etiquette, internet and social media, artist management, financial management, day jobs, media relations, networking, performance anxiety and more, are thoroughly and thoughtfully explored and supported. From its organization and attention to detail, to its easy flow with interesting diversions and examples of many different musicians and musical endeavours, sample resumes, contracts and press releases, it remains coherent and to the point from beginning to end. This book is a must for music schools looking to educate their students on more than just the art form, and for young musicians who want hope and encouragement in facing the intimidating task of making a life as a musician. It is realistic, practical and honest.
Perhaps my favourite thing about this book is Ms. Beeching’s inquisitive approach, asking questions of the reader and reminding musicians of the importance of regular personal introspection as a kind of beacon for the choices we make in our careers, and that our lives as musicians are not as black and white as they once were. The opportunities that we have to contribute our talents to the world are endless.
If you’re like me, finding out that I loved music was a huge relief, providing a level of security as an adolescent because suddenly I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I had a direction that gave me a confidence and assurance through the difficult years of high school, and even university. This was a path to follow, and it was easy, providing that I practiced and studied hard. Then came graduation and making a living, and suddenly it was hard!
For those musicians who don’t land a “big job” right out of university, or don’t play an instrument that is used in orchestras or aren’t interested in working full time in one, making a living in the music business is difficult and rife with traps and dead ends. After reading “Beyond Talent” by Angela Myles Beeching, I’m happy to report that there now exists a textbook for creating a career in music for anyone who is willing to put in the hard work that is required.
Ms. Beeching (who draws upon careers as a cellist and Director of the Career Services Center at the New England Conservatory of Music) views the musician as an entrepreneur. Her book is organized so that almost any musician can look at it, recognize a path that they are on, and find detailed instructions and suggestions on how to make that path a successful one. From writing resumes, to recording CDs, writing grants and fundraising, promoting yourself or your group, booking and running a tour and much more, Ms. Beeching provides a lucid argument for how it can be done. She even includes a section on personal finances and tax tips, and equally important, a chapter that deals with the many types of injuries that can waylay a musician’s career and the many resources that can be brought to bear to get you back in playing shape as quickly as possible.
I like how each chapter is set up with examples from musicians both composite and actual, with plenty of references, both in print and website form. You can see how actual musicians have put these principles into successful practice. At the end of each chapter there is a worksheet that walks you through the topic at hand, and then a very helpful “Suggestions for Moving Ahead” that asks you the questions that you will need to ask yourself to ensure success in your projects.
The author also realizes that readers will pick and choose from chapters that are applicable to their situation, and so repeats common topics in each section, for instance how to raise the money required for each project. This is useful; you don’t have to search around for where you read that particularly useful tidbit, and if you read the entire book by the end you will be an expert on those items that are common to each chapter.
The only drawback to this book is that it is directed primarily at an audience making a living in the US market; some of the information (particularly tax and medical) is quite US specific in its particulars, but the advice given therein is germane and easily applied to our own market with a little work on the reader’s part. Finally, I would have placed the very generic “5 Trade Secrets Revealed” at a point near the end of the book rather than at the beginning to prove that the principles within are applicable to virtually any entrepreneur; a large part of the charm of this tome is that it is so specific to a very specialized small industry for which little information exists. I was so excited by what I was reading once I got past this address (that she made to career counseling industry professionals from all fields) and into actual examples that I feel she could have left it out entirely!
I wish that there were a course taught in each and every music institution that included this entire book. In fact, it is a text book for that course, and should be a part of every musician’s personal curriculum. If you make it to the end of that course, and were to actually follow all of its precepts in your career, you’d also have a greater understanding of the many organizations with which a musician works in the course of their career, and could probably get a job in any one of them if performing for a living paled. You can do both, which is exactly the point of this book, and you will need to for your successful career.