January 5, 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.
Geoffrey Stephenson Ph.D.: Computers! The industry was already heading in this direction, with every actor needing either a Facebook or Instagram presence at the very least, and at best a very professionally put together website. Auditions in New York now are all prescreened through online video, so an actor can submit for a myriad of jobs per week. So knowing how to navigate all this is incredibly important for a college graduate entering the job market.
But of course there is a cost to this. Most auditions are not just to assure that the actor has the requisite skills, but also what kind of person they are. I have a friend that is a company manager for Broadway tours, and he says it is really important to know whether or not you can live with a person when on tour. Some actors aren't cut out for it, and they can make life difficult for the entire company. I'm not sure that quality can be assessed when the audition is mediated through technology. I'm assuming (hoping) that actors go through a live audition as well.
Geoffrey Stephenson Ph.D.: If they are going into the musical theatre industry, they must get with a voice teacher to keep developing those skills - either live or online. Likewise, if they are dancers they need to participate in some sort of consistent training of their skills. Singing and dancing are physical skills that require consistent participation in order to improve. So in that case, it isn't at all about class credit, but much more about preparing for a career.
Geoffrey Stephenson Ph.D.: If there is anything else that you could do as a vocation, do it. (Oddly enough, that is the same advice I got when I briefly considered the ministry! Ha!) Seriously though, it is a terrific idea to have something else that you love doing while looking for a performing job. I have students who now teach dance classes, work as personal trainers, write and direct in addition to performing, teach acting and professional management workshops, even editing podcasts. The industry has changed a lot since I was there in the late 80s/early 90s: everyone has a side hustle. Gone are the days of just working as a waiter or in catering.
Beyond that - and I can't emphasize this enough - a young performer needs to have faith in themselves and know in their heart that they belong in that audition, whether they're what the casting folks are looking for or not (and a lot of times you go to those auditions just to remind them that you're there, you're skilled, you're friendly, and you're a professional). One of my biggest mistakes when I was in New York was that I became so desperate to get a performing gig, I became a nervous wreck - and the casting folks can smell that desperation on you - and it isn't attractive. No one ever performed well with a loaded audition held to their head.
Kirstin Chavez: When it comes to the business of classical singing, I think we will see a number of marked changes that will be directly linked to our time in this global pandemic. So many of us have had to up our technology game-to learn new ways of studying with coaches and teachers, to find new ways of collaborating with other musicians in online platforms that can function successfully, as a result of high-quality audio and low latency sound transmission. It has been quite a slog for us to figure this out, but we all banded together and shared the things we were learning and discovering, and so there has been an overall significant improvement in the kinds of music-making we can achieve, even while separated. I believe that, even when we can have the blessing of speaking of this pandemic in the past tense, we will carry with us many of the new-found technological capabilities, and I believe that creating digital content in our medium will be very much a part of the way forward. We all look forward to the day when we can safely welcome our audiences back into the theaters to enjoy the art we make, but I truly believe that there will continue to be a sizable market for more and more digital content, and I think that kind of consumption of classical music will exist alongside the live-theater version.
Kirstin Chavez: We have already seen the huge demand for low-latency, high-quality audio transmission. I think we will see vast improvements in that arena, and I believe that we will also see significant developments in broadcasting capabilities that will allow opera companies and orchestras, and other live performing organizations, to broadcast their work to a much wider audience. We will soon see that we can enjoy 'live' performances, with no compromise in quality, from halfway around the world and in real-time. These advances are already in the works, and the pandemic has thrust them into high gear. I, myself, am preparing for performances with my pianist-she is in Montreal, and I am in Utah-and, with the combination of several applications and web platforms, we can perform together in real-time and broadcast over the internet to the entire globe. This kind of performance will become more and more common, and it will vastly expand our ability to collaborate with a huge number of artists who, previously, felt unreachable because of physical distance. That will no longer be an issue.
Kirstin Chavez: Art is art. It continues to be wildly relevant and supremely important and necessary. Human beings hunger for it, even more so in times of stress and challenge. That has not changed during this period of crisis, nor will it do so in the future. I think the circumstances of the pandemic have only put the need for art and expression and communal experience into greater focus. There will definitely be a demand for more and more well-educated and talented artists to go forth into the world, and those who learn from the lessons of this pandemic and adapt their art to new platforms and new mediums will find great success.
Longy School of Music of Bard College
Ashley Hall: Graduates from music conservatories first need to consider who they are as a multifaceted human. What do they value, what type of career(s) would be meaningful to them, and how can they craft a path as an artist that allows them to intersect their values with their career? Young musicians need to be good at marketing, time-management, and networking. They need to be organized and clear about their goals with the mental flexibility to be open to paths that correlate with their musical lives well. Young musicians need to stay curious, be excellent at their craft, and always be prepared and easy to work with. Also, acquiring a business and entrepreneurial skills can be quite important for this field.
Ashley Hall: My simple answer to this question is "anywhere that you have or can easily make meaningful relationships" and "it depends on the work." The large cities are always going to be places where a wide variety of creative outlets exist. The music field is full of possibilities, and with creativity, persistence, and lots of courage, any community can be a place where graduates can find work.
Ashley Hall: I don't think any technology will ever be able to replace the feelings of connectivity that we experience as humans through the collective power of live music. Live music and art will always be a part of the fabric of a vibrant society. This pandemic has shown us that technology does open up many possibilities for teaching, masterclasses, professional development, and even holding efficient meetings across time zones. Some of these advances and changes will likely remain and become the "new normal," and perhaps, the advances in technology will provide increased opportunities to access and reach new audiences. But technology will never be able to replace the experience and necessity for the arts in our world.
Greg Abate: They will need social skills and respect.
Greg Abate: For jazz, a career is challenging. One must be prepared to get exposure, and networking is the key, along with number 1.
Greg Abate: It may take the classic feel out of the art form of real Jazz and creative playing a live performance.