Musicians: Preventing Burnout

Whether you are a rock star, an opera diva or a musical theater performer, your professional schedule is often out of sync with those who hold 9 to 5 jobs. Add travel into the mix and burnout becomes a reality. Here are a few tips to manage your stress and to prevent career-ending burnout:

*Look at the big picture. When you are first getting started, you probably accepted every performance opportunity that came your way. But that can be exhausting when you perform for any length of time. Try to plan your performances in large chunks of time, say 6 months to a year out. You will have an idea as to what’s coming and can plan ahead for life events.

*Build in breaks. Schedule family time, vacations and holidays into your performing calendar. If you are working with a management team, let them know you are serious about these breaks and do not give them up. If you plan breaks far ahead, there should be no problem.

*Make time for special projects and giving back. Whether it is connecting with fans, doing a master class or performing for a charity, special projects remind you how fortunate you are to be in a career you love and give you an opportunity to share your talent. You love music, right?

*Learn to Skype. Phone calls, emails and letters are all very nice. However, they cannot take the place of face-to-face interactions with family and friends. Skype is easy to use and is usually free.

*Bring your loved ones with you. Maybe your family can’t be with you on the road all of the time, but a vacation or visit planned around a performance can make all the difference and bring you closer.

*Manage stress. Take a workshop, read a book, practice yoga or do a hobby, anything that helps you reduce stress. You will feel better and perform better.

*Take care of chronic problems such as illnesses or addictions that can cause your career to come to a crashing halt. Develop relationships with your doctor and counselor who are willing to be available and make referrals, especially when you are working on the road.

*Plan for the future. How will you know when it is time to stop performing? Will you be able to retire? Find a financial planner whom you can trust.

*Build your network. Your performing schedule may be out of sync with the 9 to 5ers, but there are many others out there — musicians, actors — who are on the same schedule as you. Form friendships and supportive relationships with these people to make your career easier.

*Use resources. There are tons of resources out there for musicians. The 411 Guide lists many of them. The Emergency Musicians Fund helps classical musicians. The Actors Fund also helps musicians and others in entertainment. also lists resources for those music and sound specialists in the film and TV industries. There. Now you have four resources to get you started. Just one resource on the internet will lead you to more, so start looking.

A Career Well-Played

Grammy award-winning jazz pianist Marian McPartland has died. Ms McPartland came of age in an era when women who were talented at the keyboard often stayed home instead of pursuing a music career. Even when female musicians did manage to tour for awhile, it was still expected that they give up their careers when they married and had children. I met one pianist who settled in Ithaca, NY after graduating from Julliard and touring all over the world. As she explained to me, “It just wasn’t done back then. Once you had kids, your career was over.”

Yet Ms. McPartland went on to create a career that included performances, album releases and hosting of a long-running NPR show called “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz.” My parents took me to see her in Rochester, NY. As a young girl, in love with piano and sitting only a few feet away from Ms McPartland as she played, I was enthralled. She must have been about 70 at the time, but her sound was so refined and her keyboard technique so supple.

She was often criticized for her careful playing, her “white woman sound.” However, she must have been respected by musicians, both male and female, as she hosted so many great pianists and jazz instrumentalists over the 40-year span of her radio show. I feel honored to have had the chance to see and listen to her in person. She will be greatly missed.

#ReJOYCE is Coming! #ReJOYCE is Coming!

Crowdsourced cover for Joyce's new album.

Album cover photo by Xenia Varelas

Joyce DiDonato’s summer project #JoyceAndMe will culminate in a new album debuting in the US Sept 3rd. Joyce has asked her fans to get the word out about her Best of album. And while I know some of Joyce’s fans will take to video to help out this fun, fun diva, this Kodak brat, hailing from Renee Fleming’s hometown of Rochester, NY will not. I’m eschewing the formats of video and film to do what I do best. That is, bring you career info on my blog that is fun and informative.

And yes, #ReJOYCE is definitely a fun project. Fans got to suggest and vote on the album’s title and send in pics and stories for the CD booklet. More importantly, they even partook in choosing which arias and pieces got disctime on this project. I greatly admire Joyce for reaching out to her fans via social media not only to keep in touch, but to find out what they are thinking. #ReJOYCE is absolutely a joint venture and labor of love between Joyce and her fans. And when you as a fan get to participate, you realize firsthand all of the hard work that goes into producing not just a Best of album, but a whole opera career.

Sweet Honey in the Rock founder, Bernice Reagon Johnson, summed it up best for all musicians when she explained during a master class and chorale rehearsal in Ithaca, NY that every time your music goes to disc, every time you have a successful performance, that is a time to celebrate, to rejoice. It is tremendous to have that kind of musical talent and the dedication to work hard and make it to the top. And Joyce DiDonato will prove it with her latest work. Congratulations, Joyce, and thanks for letting us fans participate in this very important project!

I cannot wait for #ReJoyce to be released. But in the meantime, if you love fashion and architecture, check out pics of Joyce on my Pinterest board:  Fashion/Architecture Meet in a Night at the Opera. It is a fun project exploring opera diva fashion and matching it up with opera house architecture.

Interested in an opera career of your own, singing in your community or taking opera to the stratosphere for all the world to hear? Then stay tuned for my guest blog at Opera 21 on Tumblr. Its latest title, “Casting the Diva: Creating an Opera Career” will come out sometime later in August or early September and give you some good tips on getting your opera career started. Thanks to Joyce for the heads up on Opera 21!

Update Dec.1, 2013: Sorry for the delay. The link to “Casting the Diva: Creating an Opera Career” can be found here. Enjoy!

Creating Your Design Career

It seems that design careers are often the hardest hit in a bad economy. The funding for projects and jobs dries up, and creatives are left scrambling to meet financial obligations. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Proper planning ahead can help you survive a weak economy. Here’s how.

During School:

*Get to know the Career Services staff and programs. Most schools have their Career Services participate in student orientation activities. Attend career services events as soon as you can to develop a relationship with the staff.

*Get an internship. The best, paid internships are often the most competitive. Pay attention to portfolio submission deadlines and do your research on design firms. Consider a for-credit internship if you cannot find a paid one. Many students work an evening job while interning to help defray expenses. Think about pursuing your own internship if you cannot find one through Career Services.

*Collaborate. You can increase your design network by developing your own opportunities to collaborate with faculty and other students either at your own school or other local schools. Consider doing a pro bono project for a local non-profit.

*Find a mentor. School alumni can be great mentors. Participate in a formal mentor program or contact the alumni office at your school to identify alumni willing to mentor students.

*Participate in on-campus recruiting. Meet recruiting deadlines and pay attention to portfolio submission guidelines and deadlines. Show up for every interview slot you claimed. If the recruiter tells you that your portfolio is not a good fit for his firm, ask for design firm referrals where your skills can be put to good use.

Post Graduation:

*Network. Stay in touch with the people you met during your school career to find job leads.

*Collaborate. Be willing to work on cross-design projects. For example, if you are a product designer, work with photographers and graphic designers in your network to bring your product idea to market.

*Branch out. Understand that design skills can be cross functional. For example, your automotive design skills can be put to good use on environmental and shoe design projects as well. Architectural firms may also look for landscape and environmental designers to enhance their real estate projects.

*Consider a portfolio career. You can do a number of art and design jobs that together will pay the bills. For example, freelance as a graphic designer while teaching design and managing an art gallery on the weekends.

*Be willing to mentor. You will meet many people in the design field if you are willing to mentor a promising design student. Time with a student may bring you into contact with new faculty, new student affairs people, as well as new people in a particular design field.

Why You Should Write Your Own Resume

I have worked with many creative types, musicians, artists, designers and others who have a lot of confidence in their professional skills. However, they do not always have as much confidence in their writing abilities. I still tell them to at least attempt to write their own resumes anyways. It is always valuable to prospective employers to read about applicants’ skills in their own words. There is a plethora of resume guides on the Internet and in print to get you started. The Dummies and Knock “Em Dead series are both good places to start. A resume in your own words helps you in a number of ways:

*You are the person who knows your skills best. You also know the “Buzz words” or significant terms for your field. A resume writer may use significantly different terms than what you would use. There are also regional differences in terminology in many career fields that a resume writer may not know.

*You are more likely to speak intelligently about the skills and experience on your resume if you have written it yourself. Many people who have others write their resumes for them often do not even read it thoroughly before submitting it for a position. It can be very embarrassing in an interview when a hiring manager asks you about a career summary point or skills and experiences you did not even notice that were on your resume.

*Your experience is unique to you. You are more likely to spot information that is missing from your resume than someone who wrote it for you. That missing information can be the one factor that causes your resume to be ruled out by hiring managers.

*Each resume you send out should be tailored for a specific position. A resume writer could charge upwards of $400 to write your resume. It can get expensive to hire someone else to write your resume, especially when you have many positions for which you are applying and need a number of different resumes.

You should have someone else proofread your resume before you send it out. Even spellcheckers and grammar assists in word processing programs are not infallible. Resume writers can critique the resumes you write and help you best present your information especially when you have had gaps in your work history or need a creative way to present recitals, shows, exhibits, etc.

Still not convinced you should write your own resume? OK, if you do decide to hire a resume writer, make sure this person understands your career field and experience. The resume writer should also have some type of education credential having to do with career development or certification in resume writing. One such place to look for these types of professional folks is at the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.  Lastly, your resume writer should take the time to go over your new resume with you to ensure that it is correct and that you have a good understanding of its contents.