Becoming a Portfolio Musician

Jeff Conner

Being a portfolio musician is a concept that every music student should dive into. When graduation day arrives, it is your responsibility, and not just your school’s or your teachers’ job, to make sure that your portfolio of skills is overflowing with every imaginable music and business element possible.

Every year more than 20,000 students graduate with some kind of music degree. Young musicians need to ask themselves, “What’s going to give me the edge for the job, gig, audition, or internship over other graduates?”

If you ask this question only at the end of your studies, that will likely be too late.

In Your Hands

Years ago, I had the privilege of being director of bands at The Fenn School in Concord, Massachusetts. The school’s motto is: “Sua Sponte,” which means, “in your hands.” Following that philosophy, each student must “set his own course and shape his own destiny.”

As a young person studying music, you must decide what goes into your own portfolio. Unfortunately, many students have no idea what to do or don’t understand that music is a business.

Music Management

To be a successful musician, you must have an understanding of non-musical elements that include contracts, accounting, budgets and finances, unions, networking, taxes, copyright law, business incorporation, recording, handling debt, and social media, just to list a few.

Fortunately, most music schools and conservatories now offer courses and/or degrees in music management and the music industry. Every student must make these elements part of his or her music education. If your school doesn’t provide these skills, you need to acquire them elsewhere. But take heart, doing so is not as difficult as it sounds. Perhaps seek out a mentor, an internship, or a networking group.

As many of you are beginning your musical journey, stay curious about all aspects of your education, including these non-musical elements.

About the author

Jeff Conner

Jeff Conner is the only original member of Boston Brass. He has more than 30 years of experience building and branding the Boston Brass name in the world of chamber music. As a Yamaha Performing Group, Boston Brass has performed in 49 states and 30 countries, is a featured participant in conferences and conventions, and leads master classes and artist residencies around the world.