Dear Alma, I’m a white, male, 30ish conductor. What hope?

Dear Alma, I’m a white, male, 30ish conductor. What hope?

Dear Alma,

I am a male conductor in my mid-30’s. My career seems to have stalled. I started with several high-level assistant posts, then moving to a regional orchestra as director and some prestigious guest engagements. But over the past 3 years, those calls dried up. I was thinking my regional orchestra was a stepping stone, but my applications for better orchestras are rejected. Should I just find a way to be happy in what I have. It’s not enough for a living, that’s for certain. I am not unhappy. Just a little confused when I see younger (mostly female) conductors getting the positions I am applying to.

Passed Over

Dear Passed Over,

Reading your query, the biggest take-away is that you may have found happiness. That is a rare and powerful thing, and possibly the most important thing a human can achieve. Let’s hold onto that while we look at your situation.

A couple of questions come to mind, which can help you decide you next steps.

Are you satisfied in your current position, and do you know if the musicians, management, and audience are happy?
Is your contract secure, and does it give you a reasonable number of years at your current position?
Are you appropriately challenged in your work?
Do you like where you live, do you have a social network?
Do you yearn for a higher position, more travel and prestige?
If you stay where you are, what are the options to augment your financial situation (teaching position, adding another conducting position at a non-competing orchestra)?

If you find your answers to be quite satisfied, look into finding a way to expand your role in your community or try to add another similar-level orchestra within a reasonable distance.

If you find your answers to be unsatisfied, search for feedback about your rejected applications, your current work environment, and then take action to make yourself more attractive to both, perhaps adding a consortium commission, creating invigorating and press-worth projects, starting a conducting seminar, or simply furthering your own education (which can be done in many ways).

Passed Over, I urge you to block out any outside forces which can affect your own happiness, and find your true feelings. It is a rare thing that career and happiness align – we often choose one or the other. In you case, perhaps you have found both.

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