7 Tips to Jumpstart Your Career While in School
Jeiran Hasan, DMA student at University of Iowa
In today's musical landscape, transitioning from a student to a professional real world musician can be a challenge. But it doesn't have to be! I had the opportunity to sit down with 26 year old Jeiran Hasan, who is completing the last year of her DMA at the University of Iowa, and chat with her about her 7 tips to jumpstart your career while in school. Having a varied skill set and always building on it is key for success while both in and out of school. Here are Jeiran's tips:
Competitions are a great way to keep playing in front of a jury and also to work on recording and listening to yourself both in recorded and live rounds. Do as many as possible, and don't get discouraged if you don't pass. Playing for a varied group of jurors and peers is important, because you never know what connections can come from it in the future. It is also important for networking with the guest jurors and other flutists at the competition, and especially getting valuable feedback from the jurors. Plus, the more competitions you do, the more repertoire you have learned, and then you have a wider variety you can program on a recital or concert. Jeiran organizes all the competitions in a detailed Excel list, so she knows the deadlines, application fees, and repertoire list. Be as organized as possible, always!
Teaching is not only a great source of income (hello, competition application fees!), but it also builds experience working with a wide variety of ages and levels, as Jeiran does. She teaches at a local senior center, a high school (where she conducts sectionals), and also privately. The senior center was originally a temporary position through the university, but she really enjoyed it and kept it up because of her passion for teaching, and then some of the students wanted private lessons, so she is constantly building her studio through these outlets. Of course, her love of teaching helps a lot!
Similar to teaching, Jeiran enjoys giving as many masterclasses as possible. Starting regionally and reaching out to local teachers and colleagues at universities is a good way to start. Her first real masterclass was at last year's NFA masterclass competition, where she was given 15 minutes with a student in front the public and a panel of professional flutists. Of course, it was a valuable experience (and also ties into doing as many varied competitions as possible), and a good start to get confident giving masterclasses. Jeiran recently was in her native countries of Azerbaijan and Russia, where she conducted masterclasses in their respective languages (WOW!), which forced herself to think differently in her teaching style. It is important to keep as active as possible and get as much experience as you can. And always keep updating your CV.
As a DMA student, a research and dissertation project is required, and Jeiran's project is quite interesting, as she incorporates her roots and family from Azerbaijan and Russia, and the music and composers of Azerbaijan, which are relatively unknown. (Amirov's "6 Songs" is the most well-known flute piece). She won many grants because it is a unique project, $10,000 total, and was also a part of a state department program which sent her to Azerbaijan for free for 2 years (Critical Language Scholarship Program). Finding a research project which incorporates cultural identity and composers/music who often are not heard is always a good idea, as the funding can open up more easily. Of course, learning how to write a grant is essential.
5. Grant Writing
Grant writing can be a job in itself, as many of us know. She applied for the prestigious Fulbright grant (where she was first alternate), and credits her time and dedication (almost a year and a half) for that application as the reason she has been successful on writing and winning so many grants. If you're still a student, your university has a variety of resources on what grants are available. There are different grants depending on what year you are in school, or if you're an undergrad or grad student, or even as an alumni. You can also find various grants online, for either local or national research. Look for different community organizations where you live; they usually have arts grants as well. Friends of Flutes is also a great resource for getting grants for your projects. And for us procrastinators, grant writing cannot be done last minute, so time it properly. There is more money out there than you think there is.
To prepare for job interviews to be a university professor, one thing to have on your resume are presentations. Presentations are good because they represent yourself not necessarily as just a performer, but as a lecturer and teacher. Most flute festivals give a call for proposals for lectures, lecture-recitals, and a variety of presentation topics, and as in all the topics mentioned above, apply for as many as possible. There are not many university professorships available, so it is important to have a lot of presentations on your CV.
7. Health and Wellness
This is my personal favorite, and a very important one: feeling whole as a person and not just as a flutist/musician. As many college age musicians are struggling with anxiety and/or depression due to the unknowns after graduation, it is so important to also be working on mental and physical health. Jeiran credits having a strong support system from both her family and flute professor, Nicole Esposito. She has recently made some lifestyle changes which have helped her stress level, such as going to a chiropractor and maintaining an active fitness routine. She has also changed her diet to mostly vegan, and learned that having a healthier diet is also helpful for increased energy levels and more efficiency through the day. Of course, walking in nature and getting fresh air, and getting off your phone and out of the practice room is important, too, so after reading this article, go outside.
Thank you, Jeiran, for your tips!