Music majors glean tips from a professional
January 28, 2009
Karen Vincent, a professional violist/violinist for Salem and Portland orchestras, addressed a dozen music performance and general music majors at their regular lunch-hour meeting. Accepting the invitation of Dr. Virginia Cross of the Music Department, Vincent relayed helpful pointers about working as a professional musician and answered questions practically.
While expressing, “it is hard to make a living in music,” Vincent encouraged students that if they put in the effort, they can indeed do what they love as a career.
Her professional experience in Oregon surpasses 35 years. During her career, Vincent raised three children and, following her young husband’s death, solely supported them. Currently she contracts with Portland Baroque Orchestra, Linfield Chamber Orchestra, Salem Chamber Orchestra, and Willamette Master Chorus/St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, under Conductor Paul Klemme. She also freelances, some months playing up to 40 services.
Welcoming each person, Vincent had the Corban musicians introduce themselves before launching into entertaining anecdotes and tried-and-true methods for self promotion in the field.
A professional musician who meets with success will demonstrate tremendous commitment, both to keeping one’s craft in top shape and to a reliable reputation, said Vincent. “It doesn’t matter if you are super-super talented; it does matter if you’re super-super committed.”
She also urged versatility: Add accompanying to piano performance or sell or repair instruments. Vincent’s BA and graduate-level work from the University of Washington’s School of Music, combined with Washington and Oregon teaching certifications, gave her both teaching and performance options.
Creativity for increased marketability as a musician continues beyond broadening skills. To buy the best equipment, find a sponsor. Play casual jobs like weddings while working through school. Vincent’s daughter checked her school’s office weekly to see if any student had left the program. If the answer was yes, she asked, “Did they have a scholarship? Can I have it?”
Corban violinist Elisa Baggenstos appreciated Vincent’s presentation, especially the input for making money after graduation. “As a junior, this is heavy on my mind!”
In heeding Vincent’s advice, Baggenstos is considering teaching sectionals and lessons, and she has already lined up a gig. She will charge more, based on information she gathered at the meeting.