Pursuing Two Careers Simultaneously


 by Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

Dear Edna:

I am a composer, recently graduated with two Masters degrees, and I have chosen the administrative route for a small and ambitious organization. In your earlier column entitled “Overqualified and Underemployed”, you rightly wrote that many connections can be made working in an administrative position in the field of music. The downside is that (especially in this economy) many administrative jobs are 50+ hours a week, plus additional hours for commuting. The result is little time and energy for pursuing one’s musical craft during the week (and family members have their own ideas about your weekend time). Here’s my question: One disconcerting thing I have heard from multiple sources is that an administrator (I’m an executive director) is not taken seriously as a “real” musician; the implication being that if one is REALLY talented, one wouldn’t need to take a day job. Is this a reality? Not counting academia, are there musicians/composers with good reputations as both? –CS Rusnak

Dear CS Rusnak:

While I am not totally surprised to hear that numerous people have questioned the seriousness of a musician’s commitment and level of accomplishment if they hold a day job, it does seem peculiar both from the point of view of today’s economy and the number of established and renowned musicians who do both, with great distinction. In the case of younger musicians, it should come as no surprise that opportunities don’t always present themselves right out of school and that composers, in particular, who rely on commissions, might need to supplement their income in other ways. My colleague, Kristin Lancino, who is Vice President at G. Schirmer Inc. in New York, tells me that there are four people in her office who work full-time and who are active composers or performers/conductors. If one looks at higher profile administrative positions, one finds Ed Harsh, President and CEO of New Music, USA, himself a composer, and Laura Kaminsky, Artistic Director of Symphony Space in New York, who received a prestigious Koussevitzky Music Foundation-Library of Congress award to write her recently premiered piano concerto for Ursula Oppens. Undoubtedly, these arts administrators find that their day jobs lend an extra dimension to their creative lives, removing them from the potential isolation of a composer’s daily existence and immersing them in the heart of the performing world. Their interaction with music industry colleagues on a daily basis also serves to increase awareness of their creative output. More importantly, their administrative positions afford them opportunities to build new audiences and to mentor and assist young musicians, while possibly giving them exposure. Composer Missy Mazzoli was Executive Director of MATA, an organization committed to helping young composers. Some of today’s most beloved artists have managed to assume leadership roles in arts administration, achieving all of these goals and more, while maintaining a rigorous performing schedule. A towering example is Placido Domingo, founder of the Operalia Competition, who concurrently juggled General Director positions with both the Kennedy Center and the Los Angeles Opera. Musical America’s 2012 Musicians of the Year, David Finckel and Wu Han, show no sign of reducing their busy solo, duo or chamber music performance schedules, while simultaneously lending their brilliant vision and artistic direction to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as Music@Menlo, which they founded. Hopefully, these examples prove that if one is a REALLY talented musician, one might still want to take a day job (or two), for the sheer joy of sharing one’s experience with others, expanding opportunities for the next generation of performers, and ensuring that the venues in which they will perform will be run with the vision and openness needed to promote those performers’ increasingly innovative and groundbreaking ideas.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2012  


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.