Musicians are supposed to have an affinity for mathematics. If this is so, how do we explain the huge imbalance between the few job opportunities in our symphony and opera orchestras and the thousands of music majors that graduate each year from more than 500 accredited schools of music?
Do the Math
In a typical year, there are only 250-350 vacancies in orchestras paying a living wage. In the same year, approximately 7,000 new music major graduates will be aspiring for these jobs. This outpouring has been going on for decades. Obviously, there are far more performers than there are opportunities to make music.
Compounding the problem created by this intense competition is the fact that these young musicians are very good. Technique has been projected to previously unheard of perfection. These young musicians play louder and faster, read music with greater fluency and play well in many styles. So when a vacancy occurs in our living-wage-paying orchestras, it is not unusual for 100-200 or more musicians to pay their own way to an audition site. The tragedy is that a huge percentage of those who audition are highly qualified for a position that only one can win.
Despite these discouraging numbers--numbers that are well known to the professional staffs of our music schools--large-scale recruiting efforts continue. After all, the university orchestra needs string players and double reed performers who are relatively scarce compared to the abundance of other wind and percussionists in the usual high school band. As music recruiters say, "If you want a circus, you've got to have animals."
Supply and Demand
Music schools need students (i.e. money) to survive, so some institutions lure students with hopes of jobs and careers that do not exist. Ideally, prospective music students should be told about the supply and demand situation in the music business very early in their college years. Then if they still want to persevere, every possible support should be given. This includes the possibility of continuing their training in a school with a top faculty, outstanding students and proximity to performance centers. It is important for our youth to know that a liberal arts major has many career options, but music training is very specific.
This problem of supply and demand is further compounded by the decrease in, and aging of, the present classical music audience. It has been estimated that only one in four students in our public schools even sings or plays a musical instrument. A full generation has now gone through our public education system with only a superficial introduction to live performing arts. Classical music is unfamiliar and unappreciated. There is no perceived need to incorporate it into students' lives and to spend a few dollars from the schools' entertainment and/or cultural budgets to attend live performances.
Wanted: More Audiences
This suggests an enhanced goal and a slightly different direction for many of …