I graduated with my masters' degree in May 2013. It's been over 2 years since then and I can happily say that I've mostly enjoyed figuring out how to be a "real person" after being a student almost my entire life. This post is meant to share my experiences in hopes that it will help other young professionals transition into their new lives.
After graduating in May, getting married in June, and moving in July, I was so relieved to settle down and start figuring out how the "real world" worked. It felt incredibly strange to have so much free time - I didn't have to plan out every minute of my day or scrap around for practice time. Gradually I became more comfortable with this abundance of time and learned out to use it. It's taken about 2 years, but I can say now that I feel like I know what having a balanced life feels like. Of course, not every day is a walk in the park either. :)
There are a lot of wonderful things about being fresh out of school and having minimal work. For one - you can practice! As much as you like. Or not - it's up to you. There are no lessons or recitals to prepare for. Any practicing you do now is for the real thing - making a living doing what you love. It's an awesome, totally liberating feeling. There is time to decompress all the knowledge you collected while at school. Or if you need a little break from all that - go ahead and take one. After I moved to Nashville I didn't touch my clarinet for months (instead, it was all bassoon for awhile!). I had been going 100% full-throttle with clarinet for many years and we needed a time-out from each other. Ultimately this benefited me in a couple ways: it gave me a chance to reconnect with the reason I chose to play the clarinet, enabled me to clear my head and re-configure the sound I wanted, and made playing joyful (mostly) again. Getting back in shape chop-wise took a couple weeks but I'm glad I did it. Taking a step back is sometimes the best step forward you can take.
I should also mention that there were several factors that enabled me to have this free time. One is that I'm married. Having a combined income helps a lot, especially when you're first starting out in a new city. Secondly, we had a low overhead and were just married (wedding gifts can be awesome!).
Here are some other tips I'd like to share:
-Start a group where you get to play with other talented musicians from the area. I started a wind quintet and my husband started the Nashville version of his big band
-Go out and see stuff! Attend as many free concerts as you can. See if you know any of the musicians and ask if they have a comp ticket for you. Go to jam sessions. If you can't find one, start one on your own. Most university concerts are free.
-Find a local mentor or two. This is a little trickier - at school there is literally a list of possible mentors available to you. In the real world, you have to go out and find them. This mentor could be a non-musician. In some ways, having a non-musician mentor can be very beneficial for your overall sanity. I find that taking a break from all the music talk helps me feel more grounded and keep things in perspective.
-Contact people who are currently doing what you want to do. Connect with them, ask how the scene is, play for them (duets or jam sessions are great excuses to do this without it being like an awkward impromptu audition). Don't ask what their favorite mouthpiece is (gaahhhh!! drives me nuts!) - instead, be a friendly normal person and just ask how things are going, comment on their nice record collection, etc. Small talk.
-Having a day gig is okay. No, it doesn't mean you've failed as a musician - absolutely not. I worked as a tree specialist for Warner Parks and it was great. Having a day gig can give you more perspective on where your music career sits, give you friends who are not musicians (gasp!), and most importantly give you money.
Having free time after first graduating college really enabled me to start figuring out who I am, what my political opinions are, how to work from home, what hobbies I enjoy, and many other things. When I was in school I didn't have time to do any of those things and when I did I felt very guilty if I did anything other than practice. Getting over that guilty feeling and realizing that it's okay to explore non-music things has been such a joy for me these past two years.
Now stop reading this and go practice! Or not. :)
I've always been a hands-on, practical person. I like to know how things work - how all the pieces fit together. This blog is a collection of advice, experiences, and questions intended to be a practical guide for aspiring freelance musicians.