January 11, 2021
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.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Michigan State University
University of Alabama in Huntsville
Eastern Kentucky University
University of Nevada - Las Vegas
Converse College’s Petrie School of MusicWebsite
Christopher Vaneman: Our music education majors, who have been preparing to teach music in school classrooms, are doing fine: flexibility is of the essence for them, since they need to be comfortable teaching online and accommodate themselves to social distancing requirements. But there are plenty of jobs out there for them.
The same is true of music therapists: they're having to adapt all the ways they interact with clients, but they're finding work both in the southeast and throughout the country.
Performers, songwriters, and composers are having a tougher time with it, thanks to the pandemic. Established groups and artists who had already established an online presence have been able to successfully monetize that presence, but younger artists entering the field have found themselves in a temporary holding pattern. They're like a bunch of airliners circling around a crowded airport, waiting for a chance to access a runway.
Christopher Vaneman: For music educators, it's all about state certification, and for music therapists, board certification. For performers and composers, it's about skills as much as credentials: can you edit video and build websites? And can you flood social media with daily tweets and posts that your audience can depend on?
Christopher Vaneman: As far as place, performers and composers have been pouring out of Brooklyn and Manhattan for more than six months now. "Place" is online in 2020 and 2021. All those with the online skills to prepare audiences for themselves in '21-'22 will find audiences all over the country waiting for them, and eager to gather in concert halls again.
College of Arts & Sciences
Scott Lyle: My assessment is no. Will the graduates remember and be forever affected by the impact of COVID-19? - Yes undoubtedly. But will the pandemic make our graduates less resilient? - No, I believe they have indelible foundations and a strong drive to succeed and influence their respective futures as well as the future of our global society.
Scott Lyle: They will need integrated technology skills. They will need to be familiar with software and applications that enhance their efficacy in their given fields. For musicians, they will need sound engineering software knowledge and fluency, and the ability to make quality musical "sound documents and products." They will also need musical notation software proficiency. These are no longer luxuries; this is mandatory and necessary equipment in our field.
Scott Lyle: Proof of comprehensive fluency and immersion in all of one's musical abilities and a strong foundation in academic understanding. An acquired knowledge of the technology mentioned above is no longer a "plus," but a necessity. The more diverse one's academic and performance portfolio is, the more recognized and prized the jobseeker will be.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Department of MusicWebsite
Kevin Hartman: First, we have to take a broad look at careers in music. When we think about careers for students who major in music we immediately think about performance, and our second thought is probably music education. While those remain viable options for some of our students, there are many other paths students can take. There are dozens of opportunities - arts administration, instrument building and repair, music cognition research, music criticism and journalism, and stage management are just a few from that extensive list. The vast majority of performers are independent contractors but other music careers - administration, publishing, technology, education - are most often set up in a traditional employer/employee framework.
With that broader view in mind we can look at what has changed in 2020 and what the industry could look like going forward. Opportunities for performers have obviously been limited by the current public health crisis, but as the COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out many of those opportunities will return. I think that audiences will be eager to get back into the concert halls, theaters, and clubs, and we'll see a revitalization of live music performance. That being said, some smaller arts organizations and some popular music venues will be casualties of the pandemic. However, the pandemic has also increased awareness and usage of recording and music production technologies in ways that may be permanent, and careers are now being built around new platforms and new ways of presenting performance to the public.
Kevin Hartman: For performers the resume is essentially just an experience tracker. The quality of performance is the real determining factor as to whether a musician will work or not. But for jobs that have traditional interviews much of the work student musicians do correlate directly with many universally desirable skills. Students who perform chamber music are imbued with leadership, communication, organization, collaboration, and time management skills.
Kevin Hartman: For the most part, the professional arts world exists in cities. Highly-skilled freelance performers can earn a living in medium to large cities, and full-time work in the arts (outside of performance) is primarily found in cities. However, K-12 music education happens in virtually every school district in the country, and most universities have very high music education placement rates.
A growing exception to the "arts in cities" general rule is in fields based in electronics - recording, composition (including film and video game composition), and even small publishing ventures can happen anywhere there is an internet connection. Again, most of this work is freelance and entrepreneurial, but it is certainly a growing area of the music industry.
Department of MusicWebsite
Dr. David Vroman: Music is a strong reflection of our daily lives through all kinds of interactions, so the isolation students have had to endure will help them to value many activities that were quite often taken for granted. Collaborative music-making as well as traditional family gatherings will be looked at in a more vital and positive way for years to come. (Don't some say you don't know what you have until it is taken away?) Young people who emerge from the pandemic with a positive attitude and relentless work ethic will be the ones who help all of us overcome the difficulties in the music fields. It won't be easy but it has never been easy.
Dr. David Vroman: Successful young graduates will not only need the expertise and experience required for their field of study, they will also need to be passionate collaborators and creators. Successful music careers, regardless of the field, are built on day-to-day success that continues to grow over time. Those who embrace creativity and new problem-solving methods will be attractive whether they are going to be teaching, performing, composing or working in the music industry.
Dr. David Vroman: Often the cover letter and resume need to work together. Both offer an individual the chance to present themselves in the best possible way to a new audience. Performing musicians prepare for an audition through an application of fundamentals and repeated success and their material (musical book) matches the job they want. Similarly, resumes that boast success, but are also honest and modest, can often capture the reviewers' attention so that they will want to know more about the applicant. If the experience is relative to the position and the applicant has taken advantage of all the opportunities that previous experience offered them they will rise to the top of the list. At Bradley we tell students that getting outstanding grades and passing required classes is not enough. Any student who creates the beginning of a professional pathway before they graduate will be successful for years to come. For example, they are not a Music Business student -- they are a Music Business Professional and have to think and work with that mindset throughout their collegiate career.
Thomas Juneau: I'm asking myself these same questions! Given the pandemic, I think we are going to see a trend of audience members who really want to go to a performance but might be afraid to. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain the hybrid model (in-person/online) of presentation for all engagements. Whatever your project is, how can you hybridize the presentation?
I've been working on keeping all of my groups moving and growing. I'm a conductor/composer, and I have a wonderful position at Wagner College where I oversee 175 singers. I also have a full-time church job at Saint Joseph's, Carteret, and a wonderful community choir, Summit Chorale. The most important way to keep things growing and moving is sincere communication and hard work. As you can see, which I mention later, I have diversified my resume.
I also think that, post-vaccine, we will be in a new, bright era for the arts. So performances will be on the up!
For those looking for teaching, church, or club gigs, they will all return, so make yourselves competitive! Practice your piano, or take voice lessons regularly. Learn how to play for yourself while singing and not be nervous about it. But if nothing else, practice. The new world will see a lot of new talent, and you will need to be able to compete. And remember, while you may have those one or two skills you are proud of, diversify and think about what other skills in the area of the arts and music you can strengthen. You don't have to be an expert at all of them!
I'm trying to use Zoom to my advantage. With that type of direct contact, a musician can literally have conversations with their audience.
We will all continue to see the need for hybrid engagement in our workplaces. So become fluent in digital media, especially Zoom, Google Classroom, and digital recording, for example. Find a friend who knows something about this, take them out for a beer (outside with a heater!), and ask for help. You'll be glad you did.
Thomas Juneau: If a graduate needs to take a gap year, then work on diversifying your music resume. Practice your piano (a lot!). Think about what other areas of music you are interested in. If it's digital music, ask some friends and colleagues what they do, get the software subscription, and get to work. As a composer, find your favorite pieces of music, get the musical scores, and copy them down! So many of the famous composers learned how to write by getting a notebook and copying down the music of their predecessors. It's a great way to learn structure and orchestral color.
For those who want to do live performance, work on making a digital performance notebook. Record yourself practicing, and when you think something is good, try it out by sending it to a few people. You may have friends who are into digital work and might want to help you make a video. The great thing about the arts is that we work better when we work TOGETHER. The term "one man show" should really be called the "best team show"! I love working with people, and it took me a long time to learn that a great team is worth everything. Most of my college instructors thought it was always a one-man show, so I've always worked to build teams. I think it has paid off greatly in my career!
Thomas Juneau: DIVERSIFY YOUR MUSIC RESUME! I personally believe that musicians need to continue to do what musicians always do - adapt to the world they are working to make art and a career in. Diversification of musical and artistic skills is always the best thing an aspiring musician can do to adapt. Those who are experts in digital music should take time to practice their piano, and traditional musicians need to become experts (albeit reluctant) in the digital mediums of the modern world. While social media is still a good way to market one's self, the traditional means of networking are still the best. Think about who you know, who you studied with (even your kindergarten music teacher, you never know!), and send them your work, your thoughts, and your dreams. Odds are that it will inspire them to help you and to help you network. Remember, ALWAYS keep it positive. The world of music is as much about building and maintaining personal and professional bridges as it is about the music itself.
Michigan State University
College of MusicWebsite
Anonymous Professor : It's hard to talk about a monolithic job market in music because there are so many different facets of the industry. Because the music industry is based so much around live performance, many of the trends in the job market depend upon how swiftly the U.S. can return to safe, in-person performances and whether arts organizations can engender consumer confidence to return to large, in-person gatherings.
Anonymous Professor : - Audio and video production skills
- Communication and teamwork
- Teaching and leadership skills
- Budgeting and finance (these tend to be rarer in the arts)
Anonymous Professor : Typically opportunities are concentrated around urban areas, but the answer to this depends on what field you are in. For instance, many jazz musicians find the bulk of opportunities in New York City. Recording tends to be concentrated around Nashville and Atlanta. Film and studio work is most prevalent in Los Angeles and Seattle. However, the pandemic has taught us that many creative products can be produced from anywhere.
University of Alabama in Huntsville
Department of MusicWebsite
Dr. Carolyn Sanders: In the music market in general, the trend right now is away from jobs in the performance realm (given the environmental safety factors in place with the pandemic) and toward jobs that can be focused on the virtual environment. This includes everything from music educators - especially those who enthusiastically embrace online teaching - to software and hardware developers to recording engineers to online musical instrument supplier.
Dr. Carolyn Sanders: A bachelor's degree in music from an accredited institution is always a major plus. Beyond this, and separate from the specific technical skills required in each of these career categories in music, the attributes that really stand out in a universal way are the application of creativity and communications skills. In this pandemic-influenced environment, prospective music-oriented employers seek employees who can exercise flexibility and creativity in their approach to marketing their services in unique ways that best suit the virtual environment. Highly-developed communications skills have always been important in the job market. During the pandemic, where the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas face-to-face is limited, first-rate communications skills, both verbal and written, are even more critical.
Dr. Carolyn Sanders: Landing a job in the music field has always required that one be particularly flexible in connection to job location. This is true to an even greater degree in the current environment. As related to the jobs listed above, some of the largest metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Nashville, Austin, and Atlanta, stand out as providing the most optimum opportunities for well-qualified musicians.
Heidi Henderson: We have a number of graduates in the class of 2020 who were intending to find places to dance. They are a very talented group with nowhere to go. Most have found work related to their other majors - neuroscience, premed, arts administration, for example. These are the jobs they were intending to do after a dance career.
Heidi Henderson: At present in the dance world, there are zero opportunities for entering dancers, no matter their skills. Company dancers are laid off, and studios are closed.
Heidi Henderson: All dancers need to find work beyond dance in order to pay rent, food, student loans, and such. So in this climate, skills that allow a dancer other work are essential. Most of our dance majors are double majors. Dance jobs are obtained by connections and auditions rather than resume. We provide our students with guest artist experiences that help to connect them to the dance world beyond Connecticut College. Summer workshops also provide connections. Dancers graduate from college and then head to a city of their choice, begin to take classes with choreographers they are interested in working with, and make their own work to perform in showcases. It takes some time - sometimes years - to be seen. In this time of Covid, it will take even longer.
Eastern Kentucky University
School of MusicWebsite
Dr. Bernardo Scarambone: Yes, Graduating students will have gone through some unique and unforgettable experiences because of coronavirus. The ability to adapt has always been extremely important to music students, but with the COVID pandemic, students were forced to become flexible and make the best of the situation. This "forced" adaptability will be forever present in these students and potentially help them a lot in their future careers.
Dr. Bernardo Scarambone: One of the main ones is to be adaptable to change, and the pandemic forced that into all of us. One main issue that has bothered me for years is that universities create specialists in the field, but when the time comes to hire someone, we want someone who can wear many hats. In other words, students learn how to perform baroque ornamentation or analyze a sonata; but besides those important skills, students must also learn how to recruit, help the community, be able to teach, and many other skills that are sometimes neglected during the years of traditional education. I would recommend students to try many different activities to gain different experiences.
Dr. Bernardo Scarambone: Depends on the job, some experiences are more valuable than others. In other words, a resume geared toward a teaching position will value more teaching experiences, while a performance position will value past concerts, and so on. So a student must collect all of those experiences throughout their tenure at school. I always tell my students to experience playing for a choir, make some chamber music, enter a competition, play for a retirement home, sight-read some hymns in a church, and many more. In closing, the experience that stands out on resumes is having experiences - LOTS OF THEM.
University of Nevada - Las Vegas
Department of Music TechnologyWebsite
Sam Friend: As much as I love technology, and it is my profession, I believe we are in a time where technology is forced upon people. With every new invention, there is a point of overuse, and I believe Covid is exploiting that. I'm going to say, "When" this is over, there's a strong possibility that people will have a greater appreciation for human interaction, and the popularity for a more organic approach to music will spike. With that said, I think it's very wise for every musician to become functional with music technology as a means of being self-sufficient in producing their own content. I do believe content creating is as close to a future-proof occupation as I can come up with.
Sam Friend: It's inevitable that this pandemic has impacted everyone, especially students, in a negative way. I think an important perspective to look at is that these times are calling for people to persevere and battle adversity (which is inevitable in life). Most students will learn what they are motivated to learn, regardless of the format. The key is staying optimistic and motivated. What students lack in the "typical" college experience is made up for in the ultimate resilience test. Is the pandemic bad enough to kill your spirit, as someone trying to better yourself? I hope grads can look back at these times and say, "I didn't let it ruin me." I truly believe that if we stay healthy, not only physically but especially mentally, the long-term negative effects will be minimal.
Sam Friend: I think a strong cover letter explaining your mindset and passion for what you do is every bit, if not more important than a resume. If you're a student, odds are you don't have that much professional experience, and nothing looks worse than a fluffed out resume. People can see right through that. Whatever you do on a resume, make it inviting, unique, and reflective of your personality. Lastly, including an easily accessible link to your portfolio is a good idea too. If you don't have a portfolio, make one!
Smith Center for the ArtsWebsite
Catherine Gordon: Of our four majors who graduated last spring, three received a degree in music education and one a degree in music performance. In many ways, these four students represent almost all of our music majors. Two of our graduates in music education found jobs. One is teaching in the Marist School System in Atlanta, Georgia, and the other is teaching elementary general music and Portuguese in a private Catholic School in Massachusetts. All of our graduates in music education, in fact, find jobs right out of college, unless they decide to go on to graduate school.
Our third music education student is currently pursuing a master's degree in Music and Wellbeing at the University of Leeds, England. The fourth graduate in music is pursuing a master's degree in Vocal Performance. We've had other majors who have gone on to law school, medical school, and Ph.D. programs in music and other fields.
What stands out on the resumes of all our students - what they all have in common - is a firm foundation in the liberal arts. Not only do our students score higher than most students from around the country on their music education certification exams, but all our students have learned to write well, communicate clearly, and think critically through PC's liberal arts curriculum. In other words, their liberal arts background armed them with skills that have helped them negotiate the world beyond Providence College. Their music studies have also equipped them with the necessary skills to pursue advanced degrees from the best music schools and conservatories in the United States. Several of our students have gone on to enjoy careers in music performance, specifically opera and early music performance (historically informed music studies), music pedagogy, and in the academic areas of music history and theory.
Catherine Gordon: Technology has already impacted the field of music in extremely significant ways and will continue to do so. For this reason, we have devised a minor and a major in Music Technology and Production, which are in the process of being approved, we hope, by the Faculty Senate and the president of the College.
Today, and in the future, music and technology can hardly exist separately from one another. Modern musicians use a diverse assortment of acoustic, electronic, and digital technologies to compose, perform, record, edit, and analyze music. These days, a successful career as a twenty-first century musician includes, not only composing and arranging, but also live and studio performance, audio engineering/editing, and mastering, music synthesis, and programming, as well as most or all of the business aspects related to music. A successful career in music needs to combine creative, collaborative, and specific technical skills, such as media writing, audio engineering, audio production and post-production, sound editing for film and multimedia, audio mastering, signal processing, and sound design.
This semester, our knowledge of music technology and access to various programs has made it possible for our students to perform for each other by recording themselves and transmitting their performances online. Next semester, we are going to initiate a recital series by "bringing in" electronically professional performers of all kinds. This is only possible through our ability to use and access technology.
Catherine Gordon: It is hard to say whether or not the pandemic will impact our students. Our recent graduates had to take lessons and classes on Zoom for only two months. They did, however, miss their final ensemble performances, and one student had to present her senior recital live on Zoom and so, missed out on celebrating her recital with friends and family. In addition, our student teachers were not able to complete a full semester of in-class teaching. Most students say that what they miss most is the in-person contact with friends, schoolmates, and faculty members.
So far, it doesn't seem that the pandemic has prevented our graduates from finding jobs and attending graduate schools. The effects of the pandemic have been felt by everyone, so I don't think our graduates are having more difficulty than anyone else.
I am concerned about our seniors who will be graduating this coming spring, 2021. There are certainly skills in music that are very difficult to teach remotely. Student teaching this spring will also be challenging, since we do not know whether or not host schools will be open. The Music Department, however, has worked very diligently to overcome as many obstacles as possible. Our ensembles have met outside in tents most of the semester so that students are able to experience playing and singing together in person. Some of our lessons are being taught through Zoom and others on campus. Either way, it seems that students are still learning and improving. We have also been able to offer students the opportunity to perform on our Fridays at Four student recital series. Students were able to record their performances, which we combined and presented online to our students, faculty, staff, family members, and friends to watch and enjoy. The final performance for each of our ensembles will also be recorded and presented through various types of media for all to watch. Seeing and hearing yourself perform in this way is very educational. We have always encouraged our students to record their performances so that they can learn what works and what does not work by observing themselves in an objective way as possible.
Even though everyone finds it difficult to work with and enjoy each other at a distance, whether, in lessons, ensembles, or academic classes, I do not get the sense that our students feel they are missing out academically. The most difficult aspect of the pandemic is missing out on the social aspect of college life. Students study together and learn so much from each other. Hard work often forms a bond amongst students. From what I understand, the lack of this social connection has had the greatest impact on students, faculty, and staff alike.
I do know that the performing arts have been hit hard since the pandemic struck; many musicians are out of work and barely make a living. As awful as this is, I think that the current situation is temporary and that the arts will be back to normal in a year or two. I hope so. I also think, however, that our ability to adapt has had its advantages. Our students, faculty, and staff have learned to appreciate each other. We have also grown and learned a great deal as we discover creative ways to make and learn about music.