I know it seems like an obvious question, but I’m genuinely curious what others think: why do so many people quit music? I’ve got career-changers on my left, day jobs on my right, and a whole slew of disenchanted, confused peers straight ahead.
A few months back, I ran into a pianist friend about seven or eight years older than me. He said he had watched many of his friends ditch their careers in music when they reached their late twenties and early thirties. He made it sound inevitable, like getting a cold, or finding your first gray hair. “They just get sick of the struggle — and I can’t blame them,” he said. He acted like it was going to happen to me and my friends, too! The nerve.
Except I’m afraid he’s right. Sometimes I feel like this penguin:
Okay. So picture this: you’re about to quit music. Is it because:
a. You’re sick of not having enough money to achieve your financial goals. While your friends make down payments on houses and take nice vacations, you’re scrounging to afford rent on your tiny studio while paying off your cello loan.
b. The reality of being a professional musician s*cks compared to being a professional music student. While you were spending glamorous and stimulating summers in Lucerne, Aspen and Santa Barbara, no one told you your career would involve so many long drives to play wedding gigs in beige hotel ballrooms.
c. The pressure and competitiveness of the field is discouraging. Emotionally punishing auditions, high-pressure performances, the struggle to build an audience … your nerves are shot and the payoff doesn’t seem worth it anymore.
d. There are too few quality opportunities and too many bad conductors — you’re not artistically fulfilled by the work you’re getting.
e. You’ve spent your whole life doing this, and you’re pretty curious how you’d feel if you did something else.
f. all of the above
I’ve long suspected that our field doesn’t lend itself to the most balanced and emotionally healthy lives, but I’m curious what you think.
And — since so many of us are staying in music (yay!), next week I’d love to discuss the reasons we’re making that choice.