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Music as your career - by Mark Stefani
I know that many of you might scoff at the notion of considering a career in music, but I have some strong opinions on the subject (what else is new?). Before we take on any details regarding this issue, I'd like to dispel one of the most common myths about careers in the music field.

As you might imagine, I interview prospective students on a routine basis. One line that I hear over and over again is "I really don't have any professional music aspirations. I'm just doing it for my own pleasure." Well, guess what, folks? Doing it for your own pleasure is the only path available, and we'd be hard-pressed indeed to cite even one example of a well-known artist who actually achieved notability and financial success by any other means. Fame and money aside, you simply have to love your craft with "no strings attached" (pardon the pun) to eventually be in a position to consider it as a career. And even the love by itself is not enough if that infatuation is not accompanied by an obsessive drive to study hard and steadily improve your ability.

Now that we're clear on "where" the motivation should logically come from, let's take a moment to look at just how realistic a career in music might be.

In the first place, is making a living in music realistic at all? I believe that the answer to that question lies in two areas of personal viewpoint. One is the magnitude of importance that you place on doing something in your life that you love doing, despite the social gamble of leading an "alternative" lifestyle that doesn't necessarily guarantee financial security. The second lies in your imagination, and how broad you can envision careers in the music field to be. These two viewpoints are definitely related, because if your imagination allows you to creatively see a number of possibilities to explore, the decision doesn'tseem as much of a gamble after all. Make sense?

As long as I can remember, people in general seem glued to a very limited concept of a musician's way of life. I find that it's usually in extremes. On the one hand, you have the tiny minority of musical "super-stars" (most often vocalists), who are instantly recognized by both their music and their appearances on television and concert stages the world over. Now we pan to the other extreme, that of the "club" performer who continually faces the dilemma of being underpaid to work in some very sleazy situations, often in front of people too drunk or disinterested to know a guitar from a tuba. Like I said, these are extreme examples. Is there something else in between? Other alternatives? Of course.

The music world is truly enormous when you really think about it, but to find a niche for yourself involves some creative vision, both in achieving the broader perception of possibilities that I mentioned above, and in arming yourself with the musical tools to take advantage of your opportunities. For me, one of the biggest factors has been in being versatile, which has put me in a position where I can present my ability in a variety of different scenarios. While it's not necessary for me to list all of my specific accomplishments, the bottom line is that I arrived at a career in music by simply following my heart. You know, "for my own pleasure?"

Mark Stefani is a guitarist, teacher, writer, and founder of Vision Music, an educational website offering over 600 pages of FREE learning resources, including guitar lessons by top professionals, jam tracks, articles, songs, sheet music, and more. Visit: http://www.visionmusic.com

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