An Interview with Susan Hallam: Preparing for Musical Success

Sep 13, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1)  I understand that you and Helena Gaunt have just published a book entitled “Preparing for Success: A practical guide for young musicians” How did this endeavor come about?

Helena and I had both observed over a number of years the need for materials which would support music students in making decisions about their careers, particularly in developing a portfolio career. The book aims to provide students with information about possibilities, how to use their time to the best effect, assess their own strengths and weaknesses and fulfill their aspirations. The book has lots of exercises to undertake which facilitate self reflection and planning.

2)  Some individuals are keen on becoming a paid musician and doing gigs and appearing in stadiums. How would this book help them?

The book has sections which explore how to make contacts, network, promote yourself and develop a distinctive musical profile. It also has practical information about practicing, motivation, and preparing for performance.

3)  Who else could benefit or use this book?

The book will be useful to anyone who is thinking of developing a musical career. The reviewers have noted that the book leans towards those who are studying at conservatoires or universities but also acknowledge that it would be of use to those developing a ‘pop’ career.

4)  What are some of the challenges beginning musicians face?

The music profession is extremely competitive. There are very few permanent jobs in music and the situation is likely to deteriorate in the near future with the increasing cuts across public and private sectors in England. To survive in this climate musicians need to be versatile, ready to pursue a wide range of opportunities and learn new skills. TakeLessons tutoring can help with teaching new skills. They need to learn how to manage a portfolio of diverse activities which together can provide a rewarding and financially viable career. This takes time to develop and establish. The sooner young musicians begin to think about possibilities, explore them and create their portfolio the easier the transition will be from study to the profession.

5)  Does one have to settle for a day job AND a night job doing gigs or teaching instruments?

This is an interesting question. I can’t predict the future but for some this is already the case. Some musicians may prefer to have a ‘day’ job unrelated to music and maintain their musical ideals only playing the music that they value keeping this separate from their day job. Others may wish to extend their musical activities so that they combine performing music that they love with other musical activities which they find less rewarding.

6)  Are there fields that seem to have a high demand for musicians? (recording, performing, arranging, composing)

For every performing musician, particularly those at the top of their careers, there are teams of people who support their work, in the recording studio, managing tours, composing songs, and so on. There is a lot of music related work in the media generally and it takes many forms. The speed of change in technology means it is difficult to predict the direction of travel but those who are willing to embrace new ideas are more likely to not only find work but also find it rewarding.

7)  How much music theory and transposition does one need?

This depends on the nature of work to be undertaken. Some musicians play by ear and are perfectly content to do so but not being able to read music may limit career opportunities. The same applies to transposition. The greater the skill-base the more likelihood of finding rewarding work in the music profession.

8)  Do you have additional supplementary materials?

The book is comprehensive so there was no need for additional materials.

9)  What have I neglected to ask? Nothing

10) Where could interested teachers and others get this book?

Preparing for Success: A practical guide for young musicans by Susan Hallam and Helena Gaunt is available to order in North America from Stylus Publishing and can also be ordered from all online book retailers such as Amazon.

In the UK it can be purchased from online retailers such as Amazon and good bookshops, including John Smith’s Education Bookshop

This book is published by IOE Press

About the authors

Susan Hallam is Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. She pursued careers as both a professional musician and music educator before becoming an academic.

Helena Gaunt is Assistant Principal (Research and Academic Development) at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and a National Teaching Fellow. She is also a professional oboist.


A little bit about the Institute of Education, University of London

The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specializes in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the Institute’s research activity was judged to be internationally significant and over a third was judged to be “world leading”. The Institute was recognized by Ofsted in 2010 for its “high quality” initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students “to want to be outstanding teachers”. The IOE is a member of the 1994 Group, which brings together 19 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities.

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