Monday, February 07, 2022

Leaving Classical Music?

Since the start of the pandemic, many classical musicians have made a shift away from traditional classical music work, in whole or in part. Clarinettist Zach Manzi writes about his experience on why he left the profession

As much as I’ve felt like a failure over the last almost two years, I don’t regret my choice. I wish it was more normalized to move on from music as a profession , but there’s so much shame around “quitting.” I wish I’d known earlier that moving on would allow me to grow in ways that would not have been possible if I stayed. I’ve been working to know myself apart from my identity as a musician, which I always held in higher regard than my inherent worth as a human being. Even for musicians, life is much bigger than music, but I never really understood that until now. 

When I think about why I want to share this story, I think about younger musicians who are struggling to figure out what they want to do with their careers. Many are anxious and depressed, trying to find their way, exactly as I was, realizing that their career in music is not giving them what they had hoped it would.

Zach's follow-up article on what it means to end a career in classical music looks at how is identity changed as he was no longer defining his self-worth in terms of success as a musician:

So what did I mean by ending my career? Although I would characterize ending my career by no longer depending on the classical music industry for income, that feels like the least significant part of it. I still practice the clarinet occasionally, take gigs when I want to , and enjoy talking about and listening to classical music. It’s still an important part of my life. The most significant part of ending my career in classical music has been far more existential. 

The end has primarily involved attempting to separate myself from my identity as a musician, which has led to my understanding that I’ve let my talents and abilities define my worth. There were times in my adult life when I literally thought being a musician was the only interesting thing about me. I’d convinced myself I could not give up that identity because then nobody would want me. I thought worth came from being admired for the things I did, having talent and creating something beautiful in the world, and ultimately, my career choice.

How does it feel to "make it" outside classical music when there are fewer and fewer jobs in orchestras and university teaching jobs are mostly sessional/adjunct positions that don't pay very well? Some of the musicians that I've talked to mentioned these things:

  • once you leave classical music, there are way more than the half dozen positions available every year in your field across North America
  • the pay for an entry-level programming job is often the same as a position in a major orchestra
  • less anxiety
  • more time for exercise
  • since hours are often flexible in remote positions, you can still take on freelance performing work
Musicians who have left the profession, what have your experiences been like? Leave a comment below. 

(Image courtesy of Michael Jasmund on Unsplash)

No comments:

Post a Comment