A career in music… for some, the phrase can feel elusive and difficult to pin down. For a long time, the only “viable” options seemed to be making it big as a performer or taking the “easy” option and teaching in a public school (for anybody that has stepped foot inside an elementary music room knows it is anything but “easy”). I always felt that I had to choose between wanting to better myself as a performer and wanting to accel as an educator, that they were two different paths, but as I went through school and got closer to launching a career, I began to realize that even if we wear different hats from time to time, we keep all those hats in the same bag.
I was a student in a college for a long time (4 years of undergraduate, 4 years and some change of graduate work). Eventually, I noticed that stipends alone were not enough to live comfortably. I was very fortunate to take on some private students (and thanks to the digital era, I have been able to continue with some of them despite moving around the country and living in a handful of states in a handful of months). This also turned into picking up an adjunct position teaching saxophone at a community college in the area. To me, this was always the most logical addition to my portfolio, as I went to school for music education and felt comfortable in those roots. This also allowed for evenings to be spent networking at jam sessions or freelancing in the area as an on-call substitute.
When presented with the opportunity to grow, I try to imagine not moving forward but outward. For example, as I began my first year of doctoral work, I decided I wanted more teaching opportunities – but was hoping for more variety. As a result, I was able to find a position as a graduate writing tutor at my university. Once I realized how much I loved writing, I sought other opportunities where I could make music and writing intersect. The following year, I discovered that Lisa’s Clarinet Shop was seeking musicians that wanted to write, and here I am recounting the events to you all right here! The trick with developing a portfolio career is thinking about how your experiences are additive and cumulative, even if on the surface they seem like they diverge from the ultimate goal. I never would have found this opportunity had I not sought to combine two passions of mine and add that to my own portfolio.
A lot of these opportunities appeared because I was in the right place at the right time and jumped at them as they became available. However, there are ways you can be proactive, like the Ambassador Program at Lisa’s Clarinet Shop. The program offers variety and flexibility to expand a portfolio career by finding what fits best with your interests and goals. What makes you stand out in the music field? How can that help you find the perfect piece to fit into the growing puzzle of your career? No two careers in music look the same, but there are networks out there ready to help you advance your career outward in the way that is best for you.