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  • Writer's pictureLydia Metzger

9 Moving Tips for Classical Musicians

Updated: Feb 6, 2019

It can be difficult and isolating to try to find your niche as a classical musician in a new city or country. There may be different customs from what you've known. The classical community in any city is usually small-ish, select, and full of people who have worked in it for a long time- maybe even grew up in it. So when you're the new musician in town, it is incredibly important to meet with as many of those people as you can.

I had the good fortune of taking my Suzuki book 1 violin training just a week after arriving in St. Albert. I say good fortune, because it wouldn't have been possible without Pete staying at home to meet the movers, and begin unpacking all our boxes... This training, at the local university, gave me access to many musicians who I know I will be running into in the coming years. It gave me insight into different music schools and organizations with which I could possibly get involved.

So, my first tip to establishing yourself in a new city-

1. Try to find a class or group you can join.

Through that Suzuki class, I found the local orchestra I've joined for the year, and have met and had coffee with different instructors from the course. It gave me the chance to get a 'lay of the land', musically.

2. Join the musician's union

This one seems obvious for any classical musician trying to make a living. This one is still a work in progress for me. When you move to a new country, depending on your circumstances, you may run into immigration issues. We haven't had any issues, and Pete and I are on track for becoming permanent residences of Canada, but it may still take a year. Until I become a permanent resident, I can't be a part of the union.

So in the meantime-

3. Join a local orchestra/chamber group, even if it's not a professional one.

I've auditioned for and joined an orchestra in Edmonton that is one of the best amateur groups in the city. While continuing to expand my orchestral repertoire experience, I'm connecting with musicians and asking loads of questions.

Which leads to-

4. Ask all the questions.

Moving to a new place and not knowing anyone, means that wherever you go, it's on you to introduce yourself, make a good impression, and ask all the questions. It can be intimidating to have to explain yourself in almost any situation, BUT it's also kind of refreshing to have an easy excuse for not having all the answers. It gives you full license to ask anyone anything. So, don't be afraid to ask the question that it seems like every other person in the room knows the answer to. You're new! You have full rights to not knowing anything.

5. Volunteer as much as you can.

If you're like me, and the move you recently made was for a spouse or family reason, and a specific job didn't bring you to the city, you probably have some free time on your hands. Nothing frees up your social calendar like moving to a new country! So look at that free time as an opportunity to look into the non-profits in the area to see how you can help. Again, doing this helps you meet even more people. I've been volunteering at the local downtown art gallery and have already gotten a couple gigs through the people I've met there.

6. Go to concerts.

Go to the symphony. Go to choir concerts. Go to chamber music concerts. Just go, even if you have to go by yourself! This is both professionally and personally fulfilling, especially if like me, you've just gotten out of music school, where there are concerts and recitals a plenty to attend. Outside of university, you have to seek out those concerts for yourself and get yourself there. Do it. You'll be happy you did!

7. Search for and interview for music jobs in the area.

Again, depending on your immigration status, this can be tricky. I was very fortunate in quickly receiving a work visa which enabled me to look for jobs right away. I found a job in August at a music school where I'm teaching piano and violin group and private lessons five days a week. Not to sound like a broken record, but you meet so many more people (so important!) when you're out of the house and working. It's a huge bonus that teaching music lessons is deeply enjoyable and fulfilling for me.

8. Find a teacher for yourself in the area.

This might be a good tip for both moving to a new country and being a recent music school grad. When you've spent the large majority of your life having weekly music lessons, with constant feedback from those around you, suddenly having to be your own feedback can leave you feeling a bit lost and discouraged. I've recently signed up for lessons with a violinist from the local symphony, and am looking forward to getting semi-regular feedback from outside myself again.

9. Look at the transition as opportunity to establish or enforce good musical habits.

Like I said before, nothing clears your social schedule like moving to a new country. You're most likely going to have more free time than you know what to do with for a while, so use it to PRACTICE. Personally, I looked to set up my ideal practice time in the morning, and haven't regretted it. I can get more into what my day as a musician looks like in a later post, but establishing a set time in your day to practice, is super helpful when you're in transition. It's a constant, and honestly, being in a new place physically and emotionally can really help give you new perspectives on how you approach both your instrument and your time with it.

Probably the most important thing to remember when you're a musician in a new city is that establishing yourself TAKES TIME. It takes SO MUCH TIME, so be patient. Be aggressive in your networking, and in your practice time, and don't be discouraged if you haven't felt like you've arrived, professionally, for at least a year or two. Eventually, you'll feel like you have a real sense of where you fit in your new situation. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. (:

With the new year approaching, I'm hoping to share some of my music goals for 2019 soon. Until then, leave comments or thoughts or suggestions below. We'll talk soon!


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