Cliff Colnot IWCMF

Cliff Colnot

I think this may have been my favorite guest lecture.  His perspective and approach to being a career musician was very real and very practical.  After I'm done transcribing my notes, I will go back and draw some conclusions with commentary from all the lectures comprehensively.  Suffice it to say, Dr. Colnot's comments resounded with me because of what I have experienced, read about, and observed.  I recall that this was not one of the better attended events and it only lasted an hour.  So for those who missed it, enjoy my notes!

  • bassoonist, teacher, conductor, composer, arranger
  • at 30 years old, he quit his faculty job at Northwestern (because it was making him cynical) to take an unpaid internship for a commercial music company
    • this led to a paid job and then to the creation of his own company
  • the reality is, there is ageism in our industry
    • be versatile in different genres
    • don't get into a situation/"job" that will make you cynical, move on regardless of your age
  • don't find yourself in a "concentrated position"
    • i.e. having one job with one employer with one salary
      • orchestra job
      • university faculty
    • there is no "right" or "wrong" for your career
    • don't let one thing/experience make or break you
    • be adept and involved in many things
      • orchestral work
      • teaching
      • creating your own ensemble
      • arranging/composing
  • [Question asked] How important is talent?
    • "You need an adequate level of talent."  
    • Enough talent to be competitive
      • He stopped playing bassoon because he lacked adequate talent to make adequate reeds
    • more important though are the extra-musical skills
      • ability to focus
      • don't be defensive
      • be social
      • be on time
      • "Let me try that!"
      • have genuine curiosity
      • make NO excuses (too tired, dog died etc.)
  • [Question I asked]  What are your thoughts on the current orchestral industry?  Do you think they will ever value extra-musical skills as part of the audition process?
    • Not a good outlook for U.S. contract orchestras.
    • educational outreach for most U.S. orchestras is "disgenuine" and used to secure grants
    • this will never change and these organization will fail because of it
  • [Question asked] How do you stay relevant?
    • program very carefully
      • concerts should be 60-90 min at most
      • free tickets
      • increase demographic appeal and accessibility
  • [Question asked]  How do you identify a "worthwhile" endeavor?
    • When something becomes sloppy - STOP!


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