The Sydney Conservatorium plays a vital role in the fostering and development of classical music talent in Australia. But what does it do for its students who may wish to consider a career outside of performance or composition? We got in touch to see what they do for their students.

Sydney Conservatorium of Music © John Gollings, University of Sydney
Sydney Conservatorium of Music
© John Gollings, University of Sydney

1. What percentage of your graduates secure steady employment within the music industry as performers? 

This is a very difficult question to answer – typical of the sector is a ‘portfolio’ career where musicians have several jobs – such as teaching, recording, performing, administration, creation etc. Many musicians also supplement their work by doing non-musical work as well. Interestingly, the skills that they acquire through musical training set them up very well for a wide range of alternate jobs as their precise thinking, focus, communication, creativity etc are really fantastic. In a small study of graduates last year 47% were in permanent musical employment one year after graduation. This percentage changes in years following graduation, and also with the life-stage that the musicians are at.

2. How do you prepare your students for a self employed career in music? 

As part of the course-work at the SCM, students can undertake Business Skills courses, experience work in the sector through our internship programs, and are prepared to promote their work using digital media. Outside the classroom, our students are constantly involved in musical activities (composing, conducting, singing, playing etc) and these activities ensure that they have a strong network that will support their future careers. During their study time, many students are already playing in professional organisations. The overall package of formal and informal experiences all contribute to their work  readiness. 

3. What skills do you give your students that might help them if looking for a career outside the music industry? 

We work seriously on the development of students “graduate attributes” as the university calls them. Every unit of study specifically focusses on these skills so that by the time they graduate they have a collection of extra-musical skills that are transferable. These include research and inquiry, information literacy, personal and intellectual autonomy, communication, ethical-social-professional understanding, cultural competence, leadership and strong negotiation skills.

Sydney Conservatorium of Music © John Gollings, University of Sydney
Sydney Conservatorium of Music
© John Gollings, University of Sydney

4. To what extent do you advise your students about other roles within the arts sector, such as classical music PR, artist management, publishing, advertising or writing about the arts? 

Through our internship program and also the “events” that happen on campus, students gain a clear understanding of associated fields of work. We often have visitors from industry come to speak with groups of students about different work opportunities. At our open days, student orientation days and in our curriculum guides we show how their music skills can be employed as writers, publicists, management etc.

5. Teaching ability is almost inevitably an essential skill for self employed musicians - what emphasis is this given in their academic course?

All of our students are required to undertake units of study on teaching – we see this as a core activity. Additionally, many of our students undertake a Music Education strand where they are able to become qualified teachers. All the units that can be taken for the Education degree can also be undertaken by students in the performance strands. Music Education Technology is very popular, as is the course about working as teachers in community settings. Many of our students also teach in our “Open Academy” where they are mentored by our senior teachers whilst developing their own skill as teachers.

 

If you studied music at university or a conservatoire then we want to hear from you! Click here to answer our questionnaire about what music degrees do to prepare students for the professional world.

You can also see what the Juilliard School in New York, the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and the Royal Academy of Music had to say.