Become Versatile, Stay in Demand

By Cobus du Toit, Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Cobus du Toit, Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Cobus du Toit

Jack of all trades, Master of none. This proverb is taught to us from a very young age. We are brought up to believe that it is better focusing all of your attention on one skill rather than spreading your attention on various things. Every occupation has a specialty field. If you are a lawyer you can specialize in divorce, property or criminal law. Doctors have the opportunity to specialize in different types of surgery. Naturally, it would make sense for a musician to specialize in one particular instrument and become a master of their trade. Unless, you are one of the lucky few in the entertainment industry; I have found this to be the complete opposite.

When you are a saxophone major in college, you are required to take clarinet and flute lessons. Why if you are a violinist do they not require you take viola lessons? Or a cellist double bass lessons? I have heard numerous times that a string quartet is in desperate need of a violist for a background music function or that a musical at the local community center needs a player who can play saxophone, clarinet and flute. Why not expand on your current skill set and become the musician that is in popular demand?  Piano players are also in high demand in most areas. There is always a pianist somewhere who got sick on a Sunday morning before a church service. Needless to say, good sight reading plays a big part in this so it is important to keep up on this skill too.

I did both my undergraduate and Master’s Degree in flute performance, but I have always kept up my piano skills. I also saw that my friends who were Saxophone majors got much more freelance work than I did, so I took up the Saxophone and Clarinet. If you think about it, why would someone pay three people if one person can do the job?

We all dream about playing a concerto with the New York Philharmonic someday but, until that happens, we as musicians need to make money somehow. My advice to you is to start as many instruments as early as possible. Do a little bit of research in your area and find out which instruments are in high demand.

At the end of the day, we choose music as a career because we love music first, and then the instrument.

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