There are more people than ever with DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) degrees now. The degree was designed for teaching as a professor in a post-secondary institution. However, there are fewer full-time jobs in academia these days, as many schools are getting by with part-time teachers. Many people with advanced degrees are taking these part-time, adjunct positions, trying to piece together voice teaching gigs to make a living, most with the hope of eventually landing a tenure-track job. Meanwhile the tenure-track arts professorship is disappearing.
Other formulas for building a career in classical music are also harder than they used to be. Getting a performance degree or three, completing a young artist program, going to Germany for an opera audition tour, or winning competitions to impress management, are still constantly talked about in online forums as if they are viable. For most people, they are not. However, the internet has allowed a lot more people to pretend to be in the game, working these old systems, even while those opportunities are dying away or becoming ever more competitive.
Most of the smart young people know these things. The people who are not so young, but have already invested years of labor, dollars, and lost income in order to go through the education and training mills, may or may not allow themselves to see that the old goals may be irrelevant now. Having moved on from the academic model to a private enterprise/ entrepreneurial/ hybrid model for making a professional life, I watch the pain and wonder how to help. That means I keep my mouth shut most of the time; speak when spoken to; answer when they are ready to ask. And then my answer is some form of “I don’t know” anyway.
A life in music is a wonderful, beautiful, satisfying thing. But trying to make something impossible happen is obviously not a great plan. How can we help our musical friends to open to other possibilities? There is talent and money going to waste when people chase dead dreams. How do we teach or retrain people to look for and create opportunities and careers?