Building Ensemble Careers

Building Ensemble Careers

Techniques the Amherst Saxophone Quartet used to build and maintain a career that may help your group

A doctor trains for years to become proficient in medical procedures to save lives. Yet in order to treat her patients, she still needs to employ professional business practices. Attracting patients, billing, dealing with insurance companies and personnel issues that are not competently dealt with would spell ruin for a medical practice.

We as musicians are trained for an equally long time to be communicative in our art. However, it used to be that performers sometimes believed that it was enough to perform beautifully, and only ‘inferior’ players had to work at the business end of things; that somehow tending to the non-music side was cheating.

Obviously, if you are not a great player with something unique to ‘say’ (or working to get there), a high-level career is not in the offing. Likewise, without working equally hard at building your ‘business’, it is doubtful that you will be able to afford to live and maintain an ensemble.

I believe that success requires doing many things well, and the links on the right take you to articles detailing some to the 'tools' the Amherst Sax Quartet has used over the years. We hope you find them helpful.

As an ensemble, you will need many tools to succeed, as listed here. While some groups may have the independent financial resources to hire experts, there is great value in learning these techniques as members of an ensemble. You will save money in the short term, and gain practical skills and control over your career. In the long term, you may achieve professional level results, and will have learned enough to make the most of working with professionals when it is financially possible.

[I've divided the topics into four categories: Performing, Personnel issues, Business support, and Fundraising. The Table of Contents is displayed in the right-hand portion of these pages.]

Survey your ensemble members to see what skills, talents, and interests each person has, and try to match people to each task. You work as a team to make music — now work as a team to make your career strong.

Great care should be taken in pairing people to tasks to ensure maximum benefit to the group.

If the work is divided evenly, great. If some members do more of the business work than others, they should be fairly compensated for their time.

Please feel free to add your comments and experiences by using the "Add Your Comments" box below.

— Steve Rosenthal