Southwest: How to Prepare for Interviews and Auditions

Greetings, friends! As part of the Southwest Region’s ongoing theme of professional development, I wanted to post today about an issue that many may consider an awkward topic: how to know when it’s time to leave.

This is a bit of a difficult topic for some of us and it’s one that we often don’t even consider until we’re starting to wonder why we haven’t left yet. My goal is to get you thinking *now* about these things so that, if/when the day comes, you’ll be ready.

A few weeks ago, I was looking through Facebook and noticed a post by an older gentleman asking for opinions on how one should know when it is time to “hang up your shoes.” There were several great responses in the comments that followed, but I was concerned at the lack (at least so far) of a certain question I believe is one of the most important – Is it still fulfilling? I believe that it is safe to say that very few (if any) of us have gone into the music industry to make money, nor have we any misconceptions about the often-accurate stereotype of the ‘struggling artist’ and how, at least for a substantial amount of time, we will likely fit into that stereotype all too neatly. Eliminate a desire for great wealth and the next most logical reason most of us could give to one who is questioning why we are musicians is something along the lines of, simply, “I enjoy it.”

Think of your own position. Why are you a musician? Not only does it not fit the tropes in other fields of studies being ‘encouraged’ by parents/mentors in order to land a steady job in the future, but it actually is often quite the opposite. How many of us chose academic paths centering on or revolving around music, *despite* the many extra challenges and obstacles that placed in front of us? At some point, (hopefully this is still very true for all of us now) we have enjoyed making music and being a musician has been fulfilling to us.

Now for the harder question: what happens when that is no longer the case? What happens when you discover that you no longer derive satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy out of being a musician? It can happen at any age – not just when it is close to time to retire. In a world like the one today, a world packed full of distractions and “greener grass” mirages, it is absolutely critical that you CONSTANTLY evaluate yourself and your job to determine if it is still bringing you joy and contentment.

That’s not to say that a job can’t have its difficulties. Most, if not all of us have experienced difficulties, hazards, and obstacles, whether that was relationships with fellow staff members, with congregants, with colleagues, or even just general stresses of a busy job. We have to be able to look *beyond* all of that to be able to answer that important question above.

There are obviously many other important factors when it comes to determining when it’s time to leave. Many of these fall under the headline of “important, but not something I really want to ask myself because I’m slightly afraid of what the answer will be.” These questions can include (though are not limited to) ones such as…

  • Is this position appropriate for this point in my career?
  • Does this position fit into my final career goals or can it at least contribute a reasonable amount of experience and character/musical development to fit?
  • Is my work valued? (It is important here to be as objective as possible and include questions about your own work and ways you can improve to be absolutely sure that it deserves greater value)

One final question that many of us often forget to include is, “Have I gotten too comfortable?” While comfort, contentment, and peace are crucial in any position, there is a fine line past which comfort can begin to translate into laziness. Have you been doing the exact same thing for the past ___ years? Have things started to become stale (keep in mind that successful programs can still be stale and vice versa)? Especially as young organists, it is important that we consider that the position we currently hold likely will not be (nor should it be) the job we still have when we retire. Evaluating [critically and objectively] the stagnancy of a position we’ve held for a long time is vital in determining if it is time to move on or if something else can be done to reinvigorate things.

I am not an expert on this subject. With the exception of my newest job change, most of my changes have been due to moving away, and my latest was simply a large step up in my career and, in that way, became just as necessary as changes due to moving away. However, I believe that this is a not-oft-discussed topic that can easily become a source of pain and angst at any age and at any point in our musical careers. Please feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments. While I ask that you generalize names/places, feel free to share your own experiences. Remember that all of this is to help out your fellow young organists!

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