November 25, 2020
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Illinois Wesleyan University
University of Bridgeport
Eastern Washington University
University of Massachusetts Lowell
Illinois Wesleyan University
School of MusicWebsite
Franklin Larey: I am immediately drawn to activities that are outside of candidates' areas of expertise. This reveals a lot about the candidates, about their character, and their broader world-view. Any work that contributes to social justice jumps at me.
Franklin Larey: In musical studies, and especially in performance studies, a gap year could sharply focus on honing one's skills further. It is an opportunity to expand exposure to the wide variety of expertise in one's field. It requires careful planning and thoughtful outreach to this expertise. At the same time, it presents an opportunity to search for growth outside of one's specialization area: developing a broader understanding of our world and becoming a better citizen.
Franklin Larey: The pandemic forced all musicians and teachers to pivot to virtual concerts and online music lessons. This reliance on technology will become even more critical over the next couple of years-it presents an invaluable opportunity for young artists to promote their talents. Recording and video technology, then, will become more important and prevalent in our field. The current popularity of and interest in composition for video games may become even more popular.
University of Bridgeport
Department of Music & Performing ArtsWebsite
Frank Martignetti Ph.D.: UB's Music Education graduates enjoy great success in the job market. Principals identify the substantial experience they attain by completing our yearlong, full-time internship program in a public school as a distinctive strength. They know our graduates know how to engage students because they enter the profession with a wealth of practical experience.
Frank Martignetti Ph.D.: A gap year is only useful if a student has a schedule or plan behind it and has the familial resources to support themselves during that time. During a gap year, gaining work experience can help a high school graduate mature and enter college with a clear understanding of the "soft skills" needed for workplace success. This will help them be more successful in college and beyond. We have many undergraduate music majors who enter UB later in life, and they bring maturity, work experience, life experience, and valuable perspective to our classrooms.
Frank Martignetti Ph.D.: For music educators, current and emerging technologies for communication, collaboration, recording, and editing have become more critical than ever before. This trend will continue.
For performers and content creators, methods of disseminating performances over the internet through live streaming paid video platforms allowing subscriptions and ticket sales, and other ways to share their art with an audience will become ever more critical. Upgrades in HVAC related to COVID and other illnesses are vital for the live performing arts to return.
Gloria Lum: Music has changed drastically in the past year due to the pandemic. Because it has not been possible to perform in person in front of groups, many musicians have learned how to use the online space to perform and teach. A recent graduate in the field of music also needs to understand how to operate their own business in the sense that they will most probably have a career that will consist of a combination of performing in some group or solo, teaching at a school or privately, and the willingness to do other jobs to help them round out their career.
Gloria Lum: Right now, the best thing to do for a recent graduate is to learn how to exist in an online space. Most music and teaching has gone remote, and in many ways, that has opened up opportunities for a lot of young musicians. More people can be accessed online than can be in a traditional setting of one on one teaching. So the more familiarity a graduate has with online technology, in all of its guises, the better they will be positioned to take advantage of the vast online audience that exists.
Gloria Lum: The salary prospects for a student graduating in music are varied. There are no ready-made jobs to walk into, as there may be in other fields. The most reliable financial path is to audition for an orchestra, and the competition is fierce. And right now, few orchestras are hiring, much less working. The majority of graduating students will have to find income from many different sources as they build their contacts. In music, one's reputation as a good, reliable player is the surest way to develop connections and get gigs in a freelance world. Music is not one that you enter unless you are motivated by the overwhelming desire to play music and connect with others through that medium. It is not an easy career path. No one will be handing you a job. You will need to make your own. Be prepared to support yourself through other means as you build your career. That being said, having a career in a field that you love is the kind of satisfaction that not many people get to experience.
Dr. Andrew Phillips: I think the days are mostly long gone for music, where you could be a fantastic performer on your instrument. The people I see getting the most engagement, opportunities, and fulfillment entering the workforce can do more than play. They are excellent performers on their primary instrument but have other interests or facets that diversify and set them apart. These could include different musically related skills, such as teaching, conducting, composing, recording, and audio engineering/production, or could be an entirely different discipline, such as fitness, science, writing, or any anything else they find relates, correlates, or could be in conjunction with their musical ability. Musicians now need to have another skill or set of skills when looking for work to diversify themselves and be a good player on their instrument.
Dr. Andrew Phillips: The most saturated areas of musicians are the most metropolitan areas of the country. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago; there are many excellent musicians all vying for work in these cities. This also means that there are tons of opportunities around for these musicians to support themselves. As you get into the less densely populated or more spread out cities and towns of the United States, jobs and opportunities may be slightly less, but each area of the country and each place has its own culture that seeks to support the arts in some way. It's incredibly individual to a given location. I believe that musicians can mostly find work for themselves in any country if they go in with appropriate skills and proactively make the right connections.
Dr. Andrew Phillips: Technology has almost completely changed how music has operated, since the conception and birth of so many musical events, as they originated. Concerts used to be in person only - we now record, live-stream, and produce remotely performed shows anywhere in the world. Teaching used to be solely in person - now entire generations are making a living by giving virtual lessons to students worldwide. Music used to be hard to come by and only in print - I've played concerts entirely on iPads with no physical sheet music. Virtuoso musicians who have passed on were mourned as their music would never be experienced life again - now you can go to concerts with a digitally produced Michael Jackson and Maria Callas to enjoy their music too. The point is that technology has already impacted almost every fundamental part of how music is being listened to, performed, and produced now. To attempt to stop that or fight against would-be futile; technology will continue to influence and shift our market. As contemporary musicians, we must be willing to learn, use, and create with technological advances.
Annie Heiderscheit Ph.D.: What experience stands out on resumes? Highlighting experiences that relate to or are connect to the position you are applying for help make your resume stand out. It is helpful to underline in these experiences the roles and responsibilities you held, as they connect to the position you are applying for. Demonstrating experiences, whether these are work, internship, or practica; employers want to see that you have experience in what they are hiring for.
Annie Heiderscheit Ph.D.: If a graduate needs to take a gap year, what skills would you recommend to enhance, and how should they go about doing it? It is helpful to continue to find ways to engage the skills that are important to or relate to clinical work. This may include finding opportunities to volunteer or working in positions that focus on service or helping others. Positions within human services and human services related areas are incredibly helpful.
Annie Heiderscheit Ph.D.: What technology do you think will become more important and prevalent in the field in the next 3-5 years? Technology, such as providing telehealth services and electronic healthcare or medical records that are compliant with HIPAA. Technology related to creating and recording music is vital as well.
William Lawing: This only applies where you have very focused, specialized majors. So somebody who majors in film composition would move to LA. There isn't a company or group of companies that would answer a broader degree in music.
William Lawing: The more important answer is that music professions are always highly competitive, so increase or decrease is very relative. That saidm, since there is no live performance anywhere, work is horrific to come by at present.
William Lawing: Many different opinions. Probably 80% of the commercial music arena's work is in NY, LA, and Nashville (maybe Austin too), but that is countered by the fact that probably 80% of aspiring musicians go to those places. There is also meaningful work, though less connected, in every other major city in the U.S.
Eastern Washington University
Dr. Jody Graves: In music, evidence of substantive performance experience in various concert settings, such as large ensembles (choir, band, orchestra) is expected. Students with a music degree should demonstrate a high level of skill and artistry on their instrument, both as a soloist and a collaborative artist. Additionally, students should have teaching music skills, both in a classroom (K-12) setting and as a private studio teacher. Pedagogy skills as a studio teacher are especially crucial as many musicians establish private studios after graduation, and that career path can be very lucrative.
For example, we have former EWU music students who are teaching privately and playing in various groups such as the Spokane Symphony, making a living upwards of 50K. If students have interned with an area music school or program during their college residency, that experience is also noted in their resume. Students who held leadership positions in arts organizations such as NAfME or MTNA during college are recognized as valuable strengths as well. Abilities in composition, music arranging, and applications in film scoring or video game music are another critical area growing in the music field.
Dr. Jody Graves: If students take a gap year, they should continue lessons on their instrument with a reputable artist to develop skill and ability as a performer, and not lose that strong growth in preparation for returning to college studies. Scholarships are talent-based so students must be aware of that aspect. If students can take on some private students and get more experience teaching, that can lead to internships and outreach experiences, upon returning to college. Additionally, staying connected with other young artists via professional organizations is extremely valuable for current trends in the music field and encouragement and support of creative ideas and projects.
Dr. Jody Graves: The technology-related specifically to music includes live-streaming platforms, recording software, sound design, audio and visual engineering, and multi-media presentations. This is already in place during this time, and access is readily available for musicians to take advantage of the industry trends in music recording skills. Students should consider combining their artistic training at the college level with programs that offer music technology, arts management, and audio engineering. Someone who is both a fine player and skilled in music technology will garner many career options for the music graduate.
School of MusicWebsite
Barbara Lister-Sink: There are several enduring impacts on graduates, I am sure, who are finishing up their degrees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, they have learned to really appreciate the luxury that they now miss of training on excellent pianos and organs (in our program) in beautiful recital halls, something we all took for granted. In fact, I'll attach a little blurb I wrote, with a photo, about an organ pedal made out of pool noodles by Salem graduate students who could not get to any organs to practice! It's really a testimony to how musicians make the most out of limited materials (think Beethoven's compositions).
Second, they have had to become extraordinarily creative about teaching and learning, devising all sorts of unique and innovative ways of communicating in virtual reality.
Third, they realized that their graduate recitals, rather than being limited to a recital hall seating 200 people, could go global. The seven recitals that were performed at Salem College in April-May 2020 in the Virtual Piano Recital Series saw thousands of viewers and continue to live on in virtual reality. This gave our international students from China and Turkey, among others, the chance to broadcast live to their loved ones and friends who would never be able to make the trip to the US. Graduate students also learned that they could create really beautiful "house concerts," complete with concert attire and professional protocols, from their own homes. And even though they had to play on digital, hybrid, upright, and out-of-tune pianos, they somehow made it work. What a lesson to learn!
All of the above, means that graduates will appreciate much more what they have, and also be able to make the very most out of highly extenuating circumstances. Out of limitation can come great art.
Barbara Lister-Sink: I cannot speak specifically geographically to this question, but I do know that our students love living and working out in the "grassroots" of America and find ample opportunity to serve their communities, great and small, through their musical talents as performers, teachers, cultural entrepreneurs, administrators, community leaders, etc., etc. "Art is local," as has been said. And building a strong local base for their musical gifts not only contributes greatly to the cultural life of communities, no matter the size but also gives these graduates a critically important sense that they are truly making a real difference. Living in large urban areas can be much more challenging for young musicians just getting started---financially, professionally, socially, etc. Becoming a part of a rich musical community where your gifts are acknowledged and appreciated is fundamentally important to ensuring a joyous life in music.
Barbara Lister-Sink: The necessity of having to rely on technology to survive, as a music student or professional, during the pandemic has brought with it newfound awareness of a rich and seemingly limitless world of possibilities for musicians as performers, teachers, administrators, etc. Graduates (and their teachers) have had to learn new skills and ramp up old ones. All of that learning has been a remarkable example of neuroplasticity in action. We have all literally been "rewiring" our brains, exciting them with new discoveries and opportunities for creativity, expansion, and innovation in our careers. However, it is not without its cost.
Once the technology "honeymoon" was over, musicians have seen the negative effects of loss of true connectivity, of loss of ambient and true sound in a concert hall, the loss of that utterly terrifying yet inspiring presence of hundreds of live, attentive human beings, of our inability to literally reach out and touch (professionally) a student to demonstrate a technical lesson, and the, as yet unstudied but, anecdotal risks to the eyes and general health of sitting and staring at a 13-inch or even a 56-inch blue-lit box for hours on end. We have learned a great deal, but we are also learning in the post-technology honeymoon that there is no substitute for the"real thing," the sharing and exchange of our musical energies in the same space. We receive so many tangible and intangible benefits that will never be felt in virtual reality, for all its thrilling possibilities and rewards.
University of Massachusetts Lowell
Dr. Brandon Vaccaro: Of course, the pandemic will have an enduring impact on music graduates entering the job market. This has been a major event that will have lasting ramifications for decades. As an example, event-based industry segments, including sectors like live music, conference A/V, theater, and dance, have been devastated. It will be several years until those industries begin to spin back up to anything close to pre-pandemic levels, and many of the existing companies and organizations may not survive that long. Students who had planned to start internships, in any of the sectors connected to live events, as the first step in their careers have had to rethink their career paths. Many students realize that they don't have the resources to "wait it out" for a few years and are exploring other career options.
Dr. Brandon Vaccaro: Geographically, no. We've seen numbers go up and down all over the country. Our internships last 15 weeks. The places that looked like they were in good shape at the beginning of the summer didn't maintain that, and areas that were struggling early on have improved.
In terms of industry segments, yes - some fields have fared better than others. Any industry segment connected to live events saw major disruptions that will continue for some time, likely 18 months or more after the pandemic has passed. In our department, that has impacted Sound Recording Technology majors looking at event audio jobs; Music Performance majors focused on live concert performance and Music Business majors. In many states, funding cuts have impacted music education majors entering the job market, though we've done better than expected so far in Massachusetts.
Other areas have been done well. Professionals working in post-production for film, television, and games have continued to work, and those industries have and will likely continue to boom as people have more time to view and play content.
In the end, this is an issue of resiliency. The students in the Sound Recording Technology program at UMass Lowell came through a degree pathway designed to build a solid foundation of skills and knowledge for many audio-related industry segments. I often tell my students that they will have to make at least one major career pivot in their lifetime, and the success of our program is in preparing students for what happens after that pivot. I'm incredibly proud of our students who go to intern and work in major studios in LA, New York, and Nashville, but I'm equally proud when I hear from a former student that she is leaving her studio job, after ten years, and going to graduate school to study computer science with the goal of writing audio software used in studios.
Dr. Brandon Vaccaro: At this point, there isn't an aspect of a career in music that isn't already deeply impacted by technology. Even the most traditional of musicians must master some basic techniques to be able to record auditions, give virtual lessons, etc.
Department of Instrumental MusicWebsite
Andrew Pease: Of course, no question, especially for performers. Traditional performing groups look likely to be shut down for this entire season - the Met Opera in NYC, for instance, has already done so. That's already having a huge and lasting impact on anyone who performs for a living. Some of these groups will not make it through the pandemic. This means, though, that the groups that do return will have a greater share of an audience, hungry for live music. Also, the door may be open for more young innovators to make their mark with their own flavor of performance. It will be a different world for sure, but the college graduates of the near future will have plenty of opportunities, just maybe not in the most traditional avenues.
Andrew Pease: I'm tempted to say "anywhere" in response to this question! If anything, the pandemic has shown us that we can connect with each other from literally anywhere in the country. One of our professors who lives in the Albany, NY suburbs has even maintained a robust recording and teaching career without leaving his house! That said, it is helpful to be in a place that takes COVID seriously, and that has a robust arts scene, to begin with. It should also be a place that takes good care of its public schools, as you will find greater opportunities to teach, either via private instruction or in the classroom, in a place with robust school music programs. Oneonta, NY, for instance, is a beautiful place to build a music career!
Andrew Pease: Technology has already had a major impact throughout this pandemic. It has allowed us to normalize things like Virtual Ensembles that were unimaginable even a decade ago. But none of it has replaced the electricity of live performance. I hope that live performance again becomes our default mode of being. But I will say with certainty that whoever perfects and effectively markets a zero-latency, high-audio-quality remote performance tool for musicians will become filthy rich! I fully expect such a technology to become commonplace within the next five years.