317 - 1 passed, 316 failed

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trumpetsplus, Dec 18, 2014.

  1. trumpetsplus

    trumpetsplus Fortissimo User

    Jun 11, 2006
    South Salem, NY
    In the latest ITG magazine is a column "317" written by David Bilger. 317 refers to the number of applicants for a recent position in the Philadelphia Orchestra trumpet section, David Bilger is the principal trumpet of that orchestra. Mr Bilger very clearly outlines the audition procedure (wow, what a marathon) culminating in the choice of Tony Prisk for the 2nd trumpet chair.

    Congratulations to Tony Prisk.

    But what about the other 316, the rejects, those who did not win the position? What does trumpet playing life hold for them? For how many is this the last straw signaling their abandonment of trumpet playing? Their trumpet has let them down. How many are going to carry this disappointment into a teaching career "because they could not make it add a player"? Do our colleges prepare music majors for a life after music?

    I wrote about this issue 16 years ago for the Australian Trumpet Guild, and am still very worried.

    What do you think?
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Actually Ivan, I never think about this anymore. The world has built up vast resources to train ever more players and get their technique world class. The problem is what you need to be born with - and that is not just talent. In the "old days" one of the sitting players usually had a student that knocked everyones socks off and subbed regularly. The seated players had enough influence to short circuit the system and get them positioned. Externals had a tougher situation!

    Today, the whole thing is much more difficult as there is a different attitude about technical perfection, musical prudence and people management skills that don't get taught or quantified. Many +50 year old professionals in german orchestras say very openly that they would probably not win an audition in their orchestra if they had to. The experience so critical to everything really working out also does not have a "score".

    I think that it should be VERY clear to any and all thinking about the trumpet for a living that the odds have not improved compared to previous decades, centuries. It is a mix of skills that makes that unique player sparkle. It isn't just playing.

  3. Comeback

    Comeback Forte User

    Jun 22, 2011
    Fort Wayne, IN
    I teach business planning, among other things, Ivan. A good business plan includes contingency planning for when things go south. Likewise so should an individual's professional plan IMHO.

  4. mgcoleman

    mgcoleman Mezzo Forte User

    Jun 22, 2010
    I would like to break that question into pieces:
    - Performance majors are probably the least prepared by colleges/universities for life after music. As for switching to education, a performance major would have to go back to school in my state for the mandatory education classes to get their teaching license.
    - Music education majors are, at least in my state, decently prepared (mandatory student teaching helps) and the beginning pay is enough to live on. They can also bide some time working as a substitute teacher.
    - Interestingly, there are a few US colleges/institutions that have a Music Business major - an interesting and positive option since business skills can, to a certain extent, translate from sector to sector.
  5. mchs3d

    mchs3d Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 30, 2005
    Provo, UT
    I read the article and I liked it a lot.
  6. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

    Jan 21, 2010
    Great Southern Land
    I read a few weeks ago that the Juilliard School in New York has a low acceptance rate of about 6.7% which is about 1 in 15. Assuming a top-ranking music school education is needed to be considered for many of the top orchestra spots, then the 1 in 317 successful candidates for the orchestra mentioned above might actually be 1 in 2000 to 1 in 4000 of trumpeters in general including those who didn't get into a music school (but tried to).

    Making a living from this: When I lived in Ireland I was a bit disheartened by the low wages orchestras generally paid in Europe, coupled to the intense competition to get a look-in in the first place. When I go to hear an orchestra I'm sometimes smarting from the expensive ticket price, until I divide that price by the number of musicians and multiply it by the number I estimate of people in the audience and deduct a bit for venue and overheads costs. Then the take per player for the evening never seems that high.

  7. Reedman1

    Reedman1 Piano User

    Sep 5, 2013
    NY, USA
    Add to this the fact that orchestras are doing fairly well compared to styles of popular music that use trumpet regularly. But paying opportunities are rare in many fields these days, not just the arts.
  8. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I heard something once that talked about the statistic of Juilliard grads who are actually working in music - it was a pretty low percentage.

    Rowuk mentioned German orchestra players who admit that with the current standards if they had to audition for the slot they currently held, they could not win it. I've actually experienced that firsthand.

    After a handful of years after I initially got out of the Army I had change of heart about having left it, and when an opening came up in my old unit, I put in a packet for it. Keep in mind that this was a job I held and did quite well for 7 years.

    I wasn't even offered a chance to audition.

    Initially I was pretty bent about it because there was no question as to whether or not I could do the gig - I could. However, in the years between the time I initially landed the job in the early 90s, and the time I tried to go back over a decade later, a lot had changed, both inside the unit (it was already changing during the time I was there) and with changes to the economy, and the US music industry as a whole. There were more musicians vying for fewer jobs, and the quality of the average applicant was really high. In the unit, there was an effort to take a group that had initially only been known for their ability to march, and to make them excellent musically as well.

    Since they only chose to audition 5 applicants from the submissions, I just couldn't compete against guys who were all degreed trumpet performance majors. At least two of them had masters degrees, and one of them was well on his way to earning a doctorate. Yeah, I could do the job, but those guys had the potential to do things in the position I simply couldn't, and that was the hard reality of the situation.

    It was a pretty big piece of humble pie I had to swallow, but at the end of the day I had to admit that I was no longer competitive in that world. None of that changed the fact that I still manage to play and gig enough to keep me happy, even if I don't make my living doing it.
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Something to think about, and is probably more related to the original post than my first response, is the reason why it's so hard to make it as a musician these days. It didn't used to be like this.

    I know a guy who was in a top 20 band in the late 60s, and when that endeavor dried up (they were a one-hit wonder) he made a decent living through the 70s and early 80s gigging around the region - Baltimore, DC, Northern Virginia, and into the lower half of Pennsylvania. At times he gigged as much as 7 days a week in various clubs in the area.

    He started selling cars in the mid 1980s because the music scene started to dry up. Bands were replaced with juke-boxes and DJs, and even with the places that were still hiring bands, the $100/night pay in the early 80s wasn't nearly the same as the $100/night payday from a decade or so before. Inflation had driven up the price of everything, but club owners were still paying the same wages.

    With inflation and downturns in the economy, combined with easier access to canned music thanks to technology, and it makes for a better bottom line for a club struggling to make it in a city - at that point, it's a no-brainer to bring in a DJ, pay them 1/3rd (or less) than what you'd pay a 4-5 piece group, and you get less hassle because there are fewer people and flakes involved.

    I realize we're talking about orchestral jobs, but for those 316, in days gone by, sure, some of them might have hung it up for good, but others would have picked up gigs playing in bands or jazz combos where combined with teaching lessons, they could still make it as a musician. These days, the future for folks wishing to make their livings playing music looks pretty bleak for all but the cream of the crop.

    Even in my own endeavors, there will come a time, possibly within the next 5-10 years, where I'll mostly hang it up as a trumpet player looking to get paid, and I'll focus my efforts on playing drums for free with a church worship band.

    That's just what it's going to be unless we can somehow turn the tide back and get people to value live music as much as they used to.
    bumblebee likes this.
  10. kehaulani

    kehaulani Fortissimo User

    May 14, 2011
    Hawaian homey
    To reinforce mgcoleman's comments:

    The day's not over until the paperwork's finished. When I "repatriated" back to the US (Texas) I tried to get teaching jobs but was turned down because I didn't have a Texas teacher's certificate. Not even for provisional acceptance. Not even though I had a BM (cum laude), an MM (magna chm laude) and a doctorate.

    A friend of mine, also a "Doc" and a very fine conductor said that one of the best decisions he ever made was when he chose to get his masters in Business Admin.

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