22 Things to Do While You’re Waiting for Your Big Break

Are you waiting for your big break?

Let’s review: Godot never arrives, and your big break may not appear in the timely fashion you believe it should happen.

It rarely gets handed to you.

Here’s what do to while you’re waiting for your big break.

1. Play more concerts: churches, synagogues, community centers, hospital waiting rooms and treatment centers, assisted living facilities, active senior residences, cafes, bars or bistros, Wholefoods…

Agents and managers won’t sign artists, much less return emails and phone calls, if the artist doesn’t have a performance track record. Concerts at churches, synagogues or galleries are three places to start. (Start your own Chamber Music Series.)

2. Look for new venues where you can perform, especially the nontraditional setting: cellist Zuill Bailey and guitarist Tony Morris are two examples of artists of finding new places to play.

3. Write your own cadenzas to the concertos you play.

4. Update your website: delete or archive any dated materials, concerts, videos and other no longer relevant events or accomplishments. Concerts and other accomplishments in 2016 can probably be deleted or archived.

5. Edit and create stronger website content – your bio, your pictures and videos. Delete anything that is of average visual and audio quality: blurry photos, oddly posed photos, non-stellar audio-video (bad sound, bad lighting). Delete any audio-video material that you put up just because you had it. (See No. 7, 8, 9 and 13.)

When was the last time you gave your website a detailed review?

6. Start writing. Anything. Like it or not, we are judged for how we write. One day you may write your own program notes or other descriptive materials. Notes you send to presenters, venues and prospective managers and agents – those notes must be short and compelling.  Exercise your writing muscle daily, even if it’s just one sentence.

7. Start videotaping yourself: your practice sessions, your performances and some kind of event in the moment that is substantial, entertaining and interesting – post the video or video excerpts that show people who you are.

8. Start a Vlog – look at what violinist Hilary Hahn and composer Jenni Brandon are doing on Facebook.  It’s now easy and affordable to make videos using your own phone and inexpensive portable phone-camera stands.

9. Up your social media presence with substantial content: your thoughts and opinions; ideas, questions. Invite people to weigh in.

10. Be a mentor.  Students and others who are serious about establishing themselves are hungry for the skills and experience you can pass on to them. (This will simultaneously strengthen, or make you thoughtfully question, your own artistic insights and warmly reward you personally.)

11. Find new people to collaborate with. You can read and sight read together. Work with composers – help them understand your instrument. Composers: work with performers – help them understand the composer-composition process.

Maybe a recital partner or new composition will come from the relationship.

12. Wind and Brass Players: work on the other instruments in your instrument’s family. This keeps you from having to relearn or restart when an opportunity to double comes up.

Violinists – play viola.

Violists – insert joke here.

13. Start your own Video Master Class series – short videos focusing on one subject. Post to YouTube and your Website – promote it heavily on social media.

14. Play more Kiddie Concerts: your toughest audience.  Ask the Canadian Brass. They credit their development as artists, the creation of their stage persona and their overall success to playing live in front of children. “They’ll tell you immediately what they think.”

15. Did you hear about the ensemble who gained multiple fans, sponsors, donors and friends by playing during the heavily trafficked lunch hour in front of the Merrill Lynch offices in the Business District in Anytown USA?

16. You may not know Jimmy Fallon (4 million followers), but you do have friends in high places. Your community hosts celebrity chefs, gardeners, restauranteurs, wine experts, authors, artists and gallery owners.  They each have followers; some probably have mailing lists, newsletters, blogs, websites and also put on special events. How could you collaborate with them directly? Whether they have you perform at their location or special event, or come to one of your performances where you hand delivered tickets to them, think about all the nice things they will say about you to their followers (with a link to your website).

17. Play at your local Public Radio station; play at the Public Radio stations in the cities where you appear on tour.

18. Do you have a relationship with the local youth orchestra? You can help them, and they can help you.  If they’re musically up to it, you could play a concerto with them. (Video)

19. Reduce your binge-watching time allowance. Same thing with social media and the other rabbit holes you fall in to regularly.

With this new free time, check out historic and not so historic performances on YouTube. Yuja Wang, Alessio Bax, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

20. Write a 3 – 4 sentence Artist Statement detailing who you are, what you do, what you stand for and what you love. It will be your effective guide for how to spend your time fulfilling your career objectives. It also guides you in the situations when you must say “No.”

21. Play Bach, transcribed or otherwise, every day.

22. Write a thank you letter to your first music teacher, your last music teacher — or both.

One or more of these ideas will prepare you for the day your big break arrives, because you will be a better performer, composer, conductor, teacher and human being.

When your big break does arrive, keep doing some or all of the things listed above. That is how you will sustain your career long after your big break shows up.

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Jennifer Rosenfeld, Milana Strezeva and Sarah Whitney write about this subject and others in wise, and enlightening ways. Please seek them out on Facebook.

Jennifer Rosenfeld and Milana Strezeva write about this subject in wise and enlightening ways. Seek them out on Facebook.

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