Makers versus masters: pathways to new creative domains for developing artists

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Classical music careers research suggests that developing artists need much more than performance or composition skills in order to establish and maintain sustainable professional careers. A continued emphasis on the mastery of a host of other transferable skills, in addition to high-level performance abilities, is frequently presented as a solution. Many of these skills, however, do not directly address the unique characteristics and opportunities of independent artistic culture (which will be the workspace for many graduates) as opposed to the institutional culture in which most musicians train. Drawing upon key principles of career construction theory proposed by Super (1951) and Savickas (2005), this paper proposes a new perspective on viewing and understanding the place that lessons learned at the tertiary and post-graduate level eventually take in professional creative practice.
This collective case study investigated the beliefs, values, work and learning of eight artists who had all received classical music training, with the aim of increasing understanding of the nature of their independent, professional creative practices. The three-phase, focused life history interview process revealed distinctive and highly personal applications of both traditional and non-traditional (informal) approaches to learning and work. Key themes which emerged from the data included a broad listening culture and early encouragement to develop specific artistic interests in independent ways. An ongoing commitment to making one’s own work was central to each participant’s strong sense of artistic vision and identity.
Initial findings suggest that a deeper understanding of approaches to professional level independent practice may provide insight into how young musicians might successfully combine their ongoing artistic development with important career construction tasks. Informal learning environments and communities of practice emerged as necessary spaces for growth and development through critical times of creative growth and transition. The distinction between the skills required to maintain a professional practice, as opposed to a purely commercial practice raises questions about the types of skills the developing artist most needs. Implications for education include addressing the ways in which students might acquire the skills needed to build relationships and embed themselves in less formal learning contexts beyond graduation. Maintaining and developing a strong sense of artistic identity based upon core independent beliefs and values challenges assumptions about the perceived need for business skills at the undergraduate level: as one participant expressed it, “the whole point is that you are the artist.”
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventThe Reflective Conservatoire Conference 2015: Creativity and Changing cultures - The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Feb 20151 Mar 2015


ConferenceThe Reflective Conservatoire Conference 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
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