5 Suggestions for Today’s Aspiring Symphony Players

Are you (or your offspring) an aspiring symphony player? Then you must be confused and concerned by what you’ve been reading in the media about the plight of symphony orchestras in cities all over the U.S. and abroad. And rightly so.

The good news is that in an effort to keep classical music alive and well, the creative juices are flowing. Musicians, conductors, and arts administrators are all coming up with intriguing and innovative ways to entice and engage audiences with mashups, unusual venues, outreach into the community, and much more. An increasing number of music majors are gaining skills to prepare them to face the brave new world of classical music, which is unlike what they grew up in or anticipated.

Here are 5 suggestions for today’s aspiring symphony players to help keep you on track:

1. Check out Greg Sandow’s blog on ArtsJournal. He’s a Juilliard grad instructor with a background as a vocalist and music critic. These days, he writes and speaks about the future of classical music. Sandow gets symphony players as well as music majors to imagine the future of classical music and helps them consider how to get there. While you’re at it, also check out ArtsJournal.

2. Take time to experience performers like the classically-trained Time for Three, to see why their concerts with symphonies bring in diverse audiences. They’ve been gaining international attention for their masterful mashups (imagine Grieg + Coldplay). And their ability to engage with the audience is an education in itself.

3. Visit Gerald Klickstein’s “The Musician’s Way Blog.” He covers a host of issues and topics important to any classical performer. Klickstein directs Peabody Conservatory’s Music Entrepreneurship and Career Center, and is a guitarist, educator, and career coach.

4. Read Playing Your Best: College Music Auditions

5. Prepare your “Plan B.” No matter how skilled a performer you are or how renown your music school is, it is no longer enough to study theory, history, and your instrument. You also need the skills and mindset to confront the vastly changed and continuously changing world of live classical music. Jennie Dorris, percussionist, writer and educator, encourages students to find music schools “where there is some type of career/entrepreneurship program to weave in some other skills in case you are biding your time before you win the [orchestra] job” –– or in the event you don’t get it.


  1. Ryan Shaffer

    I am just starting to work towards my B.Mus., Composition option, at Penn State University, and I definitely intend to write for symphony orchestra. I had attended a Time For Three concert, playing with our local orchestra, and I actually got to talk to them and got autographs at the end. They are completely awe-inspiring; although this can be discerned from the lowest-quality of YouTube videos, there is nothing like a live show.

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