Yale School of Music Seminar offers career advice to musicians

I was honored to participate in a panel discussion at the invitation of Associate Dean Michael Yaffe about what it’s like building a career today. The Yale Daily News covered our seminar.  Read the excerpt below, or read the full article.  

Saturday’s discussion featured guest speakers Alecia Lawyer and Paul Murphy MUS ’06, both professional musicians who have made their careers by combining artistic passions with community leadership experience. Lawyer, for example, is an oboistwho founded the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston, and Murphy is a trumpeter who has worked for outreach programs at Carnegie Hall and The New York Philharmonic. Both said they believe community engagement is necessary for any ensemble that wants to attract audiences today.

“It’s funny because I do this community engagement work because I love to do it first of all,” Murphy said. “But second of all, I do this work because I can pay my rent.”

Murphy noted a “paradigm shift” that has taken place in the art music field over the past five years in which major intuitions have begun creating jobs for trained musicians that focus on reaching out to the community. Murphy, himself, works as a “teaching artist” for the New York Philharmonic, a job that allowed him to both perform and work in the orchestra’s education programs.

The Saturday seminar is one of four to be held this year as part of the Saturday Seminar series, which got its start last year when the school offered a series of four panel discussions all focused on community engagement. This year, the program has evolved to feature four distinct workshops,Yaffe said. The first one, held on Sept. 25 explored financial management and musical entrepreneurship and was led by New York-based life coach Astrid Baumgardner and local accountant James Remis.

Over the past five years, Yaffe said the Yale School of Music and other music schools around the country have been reexamining the way they prepare musicians for careers in the music world. He cited aging audiences and reduced funding for music education programs as two factors that have made it more difficult for professional musicians to find jobs.

“I think one of the strengths of the Yale program is that they recognize that it is not enough any more to be a great musician,” Jordan Kuspa MUS ’12, a student at Saturday’s talk, said. “You have to understand how to build a career.”