Article: How to be happy and successful as a professional musician

 Success is as much about allowing yourself to fail or make mistakes as learning from them. Success is as much in our heads as it is with the music, technique or talent we have.

You’ll be pleased to know that I take my job very seriously. More often than not, the most common issue people want to talk to me about during a consultation lesson, during their music degree or after one of my adjudication sessions is “How do I become a professional musician?”

There are no set rules, or specific pathways on this topic, but thinking about these three specific ideas helps them gather their thoughts.

  • Potential – What are you good at? What are your strengths both as a musician and as a person? What do you enjoy most about music?
  • Environment – What is your current environment like? How do you want it to change, to look, to feel? Do you want to travel? Who do you hang out with? What are their aspirations and goals in life? What get’s your creative juices flowing?
  • Outcome – What do you imagine yourself doing in 10 years time? If you had to write your own obituary what would it say about your life well spent?

I am always keen to engage with those who take the initiative and time to ask, and besides, I like sharing my passion, my own experience in the music industry and what it means to me to be a creative and happy professional musician.. If in turn this inspires another soul, young or old to pursue their own path, regardless of their eventual destination, then I feel the conversation was a worthy and priceless investment.

I believe the mentoring of any musician, or indeed any quirky creative soul is vital for the enrichment of our society at large. Many just need the permission and a good listener, to enable them to have the confidence to go out and seek their version of success and in turn seek and find their own happiness.


10 awesome tips on becoming a successful and happy professional musician

1 The importance of building strong relationships – be personable, passionate about what you do and keep on giving back to the community you live in – it’s all about investing in people. The networks you have both socially and professionally are your support and future growth.

2 The need to be able to promote yourself and your skills unashamedly and realistically – if you’ve never read a business or marketing book, do so – now.

3 The need to be mentored and receive and know where to go for good advice – find someone who has gone through a similar journey and career – ask questions as to what they have learnt on the way – don’t be tempted to re-invent the wheel – that is unless you think it needs re-inventing!

4 Music should be fun. Yes, easier said than done, but some musicians find it hard to maintain joy in what they do. I think people confuse professionalism with being serious and highbrow – particularly in the classical music industry. I feel musicians and their work place should be a fun environment – it keeps the creative juices flowing and allows us to dispel any tension during sessions or rehearsals.

5 Think big. Be big. Think successful and be clear and realistic in your goal setting. If you don’t have an action plan, write one!

6 Strong technique = strong foundation = life-long skill. Make sure your technical foundations are strong. Develop a practice structure and schedule. Get professional advice and read up on practice and performing tips. Structure, professional advice, planning and personal body-shape all determine your success on the instrument.

7 Enjoy the satisfaction of sharing and helping other people. Find ways to share your knowledge and volunteer your services and expertise to the community you live in and that has supported you through your development and training. Don’t wait till you’re ‘really good’, share your experiences and knowledge now and at all stages of your development – I have and I’ve learnt invaluable lessons and made many friends and professional colleagues along the way.

8 Be honest and genuine in all your interactions.

9 There is nothing more inspirational and motivational than hearing how someone overcame adversity and turned it into personal success. If you have a personal or professional hurdle that you have overcome, tell people and your fans about it.

10 Strengthen your technique. Tidy up those issues you have been putting into the too hard basket for too long – be brave. It is incredibly liberating to actually address issues that have been nagging in the back of your mind. What’s in the back of your mind?

inspirational quotes

What we play is life.  Louis Armstrong

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engineers of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might.
Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality.
  Ralph Waldo Emerson

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.  Michelangelo

To achieve all that is possible, we must attempt the impossible. To be as much as we can be, we must dream of being more.

When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target. Geoffrey F. Fisher

When we are doing what we love, we don’t care about time. For at least at that moment, time doesn’t exist and we are truly free.  Marcia Wieder

Make the commitment now to be the best you can be. Accept nothing less and you will achieve your goal.

Only become a musician if there is absolutely no other way you can make a living.  Kirke Mecham, on his life as a composer.

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