Reimagining Career Clarity in Music Professions, Defining Success in Boundaryless Music Performance Careers


Conceptualizations of both career and success are socially constructed and involve people’s subjective interpretations of success based on their lived experiences and the experiences of those around them. Over recent decades, traditional definitions of the word career have grown to include a person's work experiences over time and across multiple jobs, organizations, and occupations instead of simply describing a single job within a particular professional field. 

Why is the discussion of career success often dismissed from being a component of curricular conversations around preparation? The rift between traditional career paths and boundaryless careers is only getting larger. Career paths, especially paths in the arts, are often not bounded within specific organizations but grow through project-based competency development across different organizations or venues, commonly referred to as portfolio careers. This shift puts more emphasis on subjective measures of success that typically include types of satisfaction, and makes employees more concerned with the self-actualization of their own needs rather than organizational goals or predetermined objectives.

As a field seeking to best prepare our workforce, our next steps of identifying and sharing applicable objective and subjective qualifiers needs to be done with the understanding of stigmatization that often arises during conversations about success and/or monetary compensation. Additionally, we need to consider that the power to decide the significance of any particular metric for one’s own success is a power best left in the hands of each and every person.


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Last modified on Thursday, 02/04/2020

Drew X Coles

Drew X Coles (EdD, Columbia University) is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, producer, serial entrepreneur, and educator. He is a member of the faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University where he directs a hybrid graduate degree program in Music and Music Education and teaches courses in pedagogy, entrepreneurship, and production. He is a co-founder of Pro Arts Management and Consulting and serves as the Musical Director of the Metropolitan Players.

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