4 Keys to Creating a Career You Love

Today’s post is written by Mark Rabideau. We met Mark through our involvement on the College Music Society’s Committee for Careers Outside the Academy. During our first conversation with Mark, we were inspired by his energy, enthusiasm, positivity, and encouragement for our work. Since then, we’ve developed a close friendship and we continue to admire the amazing work he does as the Director of the 21st-Century Musician Initiative at DePauw University. As someone who has thrived in a variety of creative careers, we thought he would be the perfect person to discuss the keys to creating a career you love.

When I first met Jennifer and Julia, the tour d’force behind iCadenza, we shared a vision for launching The Entrepreneurial Artists Guide with the hope of inspiring emerging artists to create their own most promising careers.

Afterward, Julia asked me to provide a brief overview of my own career path.

This is what I wrote:

At a Crossroads

When I was completing my undergraduate studies in music performance I found myself at a crossroads: should I consider applying for high-school band director positions or continue pursuing my aspirations to become a professional orchestral musician (with a “fallback” plan of becoming a college professor)?

For me this meant, “Should I take the safe path or the one less traveled?”

What happened next is impossible to describe in brief, but it goes something like this.

I wanted to play in the Chicago Symphony. So I went to graduate school, studied with Frank Crisafuli (trombonist with the CSO for 50 years!) and practiced (a lot).

When Frank retired, I auditioned for his chair. I did not win. Some young guy with an Australian accent did. He is likely to play with the CSO for the next 50 years. I needed a new plan.

So I went on my version of a “professional autopilot.” I graduated with my Masters. Took a sabbatical replacement. Taught trombone, jazz, marching band, pop music, and more. I got a doctorate and won a professorship and earned tenure. Life is good, right? Then things got interesting and a little more creative.

I accepted a two-year post-doc in a “Center for Creativity,” started a not-for-profit arts organization, hosted a live jazz radio show from NYC and produced a ballet. Most radical of all, I started asking questions.

What if, in the real-life game of musical chairs, there is a seat for everyone? @mark_rabideau Click To Tweet

4 Keys to Creating a Career You Love

What I have discovered since leaving school is that a map does not guide life’s adventure. Instead, something vastly more exciting and promising does.

Life is more like a scavenger hunt; each person’s path and prizes are different from the next.

So the question becomes, what will guide you on your personal “scavenger hunt” to create your perfect career?

Curiosity is what led you to the arts in the first place. Artists by definition see the world from a unique perspective and help audiences understand something about the world around us. Be curious about all the possibilities that the future holds.

Creativity is what the artist, inventor, and entrepreneur share. You will invent your own future, whether you know it or not. And like the entrepreneur who sees needs, gaps, and opportunities, and creates innovative solutions for financial gain, arts entrepreneurs build rich cultural entities and diverse, thriving careers.

Collaboration is how you will accomplish your goals. Who is more prepared to work collaboratively than a musician?

Tenacity is learned. All musicians are inevitably faced with failure while pursuing their desire to usher beauty into the world. David Taylor calls this “Embracing the Joy of the Struggle.” It is learned in the practice room.

Your grit is among the greatest attributes acquired through an education in the arts. @mark_rabideau Click To Tweet

What you have learned and will continue to learn through your studies is more than music performance. You have sparked curiosity, fostered creativity, harnessed collaboration, and endured in the face of adversity. These skills will serve you well, as you invent your own future career as a professional musician.

How Many Opportunities Do You See?

I recently spoke with David Cutler, a friend and truly one of the most coherent thinkers about creating opportunity within our profession.

David, in speaking about the need to explore career paths innovatively and strategically said this, “There are people who see one or two opportunities, or zero. And then there are people who see 1,000 opportunities. I have never met someone who sees five opportunities.” (Listen to the full-length interview with David Cutler here.)

So our shared challenge is to foster divergent thinking about the infinite number of unique possibilities to usher new models of connecting artists and audiences, amidst the sea of sameness currently flooding our profession.

Our challenge is to develop convergent thinking to hone in on the ideas that will best advance our life’s work. Inspiration is everywhere.

Embrace the Revolution

I recently wrote about what artists and entrepreneurs share in their ability to address complexity and thrive while playing in the messy, fertile space of uncertainty, ambiguity and promise. Entrepreneurship and the Artist Revolutionary tells the stories of a few people who have gone down this path.

I want to share a brief excerpt about an artist revolution, unfolding as we speak.

So why not an artist revolution? Artists want more than a life chained to the same chair. Music is embraced throughout every culture without boundaries. An increasingly connected world provides influence and inspiration for opening our imagination to a world of music waiting to be created. Technology provides viral access to a global audience. And the entrepreneurial mindset being explored throughout the profession has unleashed the curious, creative, and collaborative energy of the artist-entrepreneur.

Some will say leave art for art’s sake. I say, let the revolution begin.

Mark Rabideau
Director, 21st-Century Musician Initiative, DePauw University
Publisher, 21CM.org

Mark-RabideauMark Rabideau is a cultural entrepreneur, busy re-imagining how we must prepare musicians to thrive within the shifting marketplace and cultural landscape of the contemporary moment. Mark’s own entrepreneurial spirit has generated projects ranging from producing and hosting Live from Smoke (a radio show from NYC’s
upper-westside), founding and serving as Executive and Artistic Director for Artists Now (a not-for-profit arts organization), producing Worlds End (an original work with the American Repertory Ballet), and founding Art in Unlikely Places (a project fueled by the belief that art’s transformative powers must be made accessible to the underserved). Mark has a job. He is the Director of the 21st-Century Musician Initiative. Mark has only one hobby. He collects curious, creative people in his life. Mark has a wife he adores and three beautifully talented children. You can read Mark’s articles on 21CM here.

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