You Were Sold a Bag of Goods. What it Really Means to Have a Career in the Arts.
An Excerpt from HOW TO HAVE A LIFE IN MUSIC by Dana Fonteneau, LMFT
Myth Buster: There is no such thing as a “career” in the arts.
It looks like that on social media or in a bio or job application, but there is no such thing as a static arrival or solid destination.
Devoting your professional life to the arts is a series of choices, decisions, projects and performances again and again. It is a journey of outcomes based on what you say yes to and what you say no to. It is a confirmation of relationships, ideas, collaborations.
In some ways, it is the constant seeking of those transcendent experiences: those moments that “shake you to your core-the expression of the breadth of human experience in a single. moment, through sound, color, resonance and silence……. PRESENCE.
Those indescribably magical moments that you’ve devoted your life to.
This thing called “career” is really a personal evolution- a messy path of learning who you are, why you’re here, what you want to contribute and WHY this all matters.
Along the way you have to figure out how to be an empowered human being because YOU are the conduit that brings through what only YOU can express that the world needs to hear!
The more you seek being a great artist, you become like that extraordinary Sequoia Tree, as you seek the light to ever greater heights, you’ll have to dig ever deep roots. The certainty of your inspiration gets balanced out by those dark nights of the soul where you’ll question everything, loose your way and try to walk away only to find yourself back at it, again and again.
You will get challenged, judged, rejected and attacked. You will experience pain, anguish, confusion, doubt. You’ll be tested to the very core of who you are.
You’ll also be supported and encouraged and championed.
Both will be there in every moment and it is up to you to be conscious of it.
Perhaps THIS is why mentors say things like, “if you can see yourself doing anything else besides music, do it”.
But that statement is inaccurate.
It’s not about music or not music-it’s about whether you are willing to walk the path of self-actualization, that spiritual journey of finding your WHY and being willing to devote your life to THAT purpose.
Are you willing to be brought to your knees, humbled, vulnerable and raw, in service of the music that must come through you?
Are you willing to do the work to serve others who MUST experience what YOU have to bring through?
Are you willing to try again and again in pursuit of mastery-both personal and artistic?
Not everyone wants to answer that call. Their success is paper thin-it is hollow external accolades that are transient with no deeper sense of meaning and purpose. It’s a mirage chased for validation.
NO ONE will ever be able to make you feel enough.
It is up to you-to find your own inner certainty about who you are and what you’re here to do.
THEN a career gets built around that step by step.
Relationships get deepened, collaborations get created. Ideas get materialized. Teams are built. Finances are cultivated. Audiences are served.
There are indeed important tools, strategies, vision and masterplanning that are all essential to build a sustainable professional life. But ironically, that’s the easy part.
There are limitless resources out there-books, courses, webinars-many FOR FREE.
You can pick up those entrepreneurial skills as you go or hire and delegate as soon as possible.
(We’ll get to that later in the book.)*
So here’s the truth.
Whatever you were told about a career in the arts was a lie.
“If you’re good enough, you’ll have a career.”
There may be elements of truth here and there which are worth paying attention to, but when it comes to creating a career, the only one who can design it, build it and sustain it is YOU.
NO ONE has the power to predict or fortune tell what your life in the arts will look like.
You can be the greatest musician in the world, and if you don’t know how to get your work out there, build a team around you who has your best interests at heart, and if you don’t take care of your mental health and well-being, then a career at best will become what the world determines for you.
Instead of chasing an undefined goal based on a vague external definition of “success” such as “making it” or “arriving” or “being a star”… I recommend you learn to build a life in music.
What I’m speak to here is NOT UNIQUE TO MUSIC.
I don’t know a human being who at some point in life faces this choice: staying comfortable and secure or seeking meaning and purpose.
A life in music teaches empathy, self-awareness, clarity of purpose, human behavior, communication skills, time management, delegation, emotional intelligence, project management, focus, discipline, stamina, courage, vulnerability, self-actualization and self-governance and much more.
It does not promise financial security, job stability, emotional safety or certainty.
But I don’t know any profession or job that does.
Certainty, financial security, stability and safety are perceptions that must come from within.
So now that this is clear, let’s talk about how to create the life in music you’d love.
*This article is an excerpt of an upcoming book titled “How to Have a Life in Music” by Dana Fonteneau. ©2022, all rights reserved.
Dana Fonteneau is a former concert cellist, psychotherapist and career consultant, assisting individuals and organizations fulfill their potential and have resilient, inspiring and fulfilling lives of achievement and impact. Www.danafonteneau.com