Once upon a time, long ago, conductors, during their travels, could invite an exceptional player to come to his home city and join his orchestra. Today, unions and orchestra committees make that impossible. I can remember, also a very long time ago, a certain teacher absolutely guaranteeing two young boys that they would achieve a permanent spot in the tuba work place! Those days of, circa 65 years ago, are now gone forever; today, no one has a guaranteed future in the music business.
As tubists continue their incredibly remarkable ‘tuba evolution’, they must deal with the fact that there are no guarantees in realizing their dream of success in the business part of the musical world. Further, teachers continue looking for those right words that convey both honesty and encouragement. This is not an easy aspect of a teacher’s responsibilities!
Of course, this is not just a tubist’s situation, it’s happening in music centers all over the world. Japan, for example, has experienced a huge enrollment drop in its conservatories. Students, especially men, are unable to envision a profitable career in traditional musical performance, therefor women, now dominate the enrolment numbers in Japanese brass classes by around 80%. Perhaps this represents a general contempary work place dynamic in the Japan. This is not a bad thing, Japanese women are slowly becoming a genre of truly world-class great brass players; stand by, there will be a lot to hear and see in the future regarding Japanese women brass players.
For several decades the ‘big-prize’ has always been winning a position in a symphony orchestra; if one does win such a job, it’s a truly big accomplishment but in today’s musical world there are more alternatives to that coveted symphony orchestra position, equally fulfilling and arguably, sometimes more fulfilling.
Teaching positions in conservatories, music schools, collages and universities for many have become as coveted as symphonic positions with the result of an emergence of extraordinary teachers who ironically, are producing even greater numbers of highly qualified players. Recently, there has been a huge emergence of the tuba appearing in diverse settings and with notable economic profit. This includes brass quintets, both small and especially larger brass ensembles. (This will be discussed at length in a near future blog called CHAMBER ENTERTAINMENT). Perhaps a course in marketing should be a part of the conservatory curriculum.
Sadly, the world is a troubled and turbulent place in these times leaving many people feeling helpless in what an individual can do to make it a better place. Music and the teaching of music could very well be one of the most positive things we can do. The world needs music and music needs teachers.
Our situation is not as grim as it used to be; there are new tuba (and all brass) activities visible and at greater frequencies including rock, jazz, country and all verities of pop music. It’s very smart thinking for all who hope to realize a career in music to have an alternative plan (a B plan) ready for life’s realities, i.e. having a job, forming a family. As you create your B plan, keep playing, have a direction and practice your butt off.
August 31, 2014, Tlahuitoltepec, Mexico