Reed Making
      Ministry to 

     Double Reed
Awesome Things
Life & Health
About Us


Angela Myles Beeching, Beyond Talent (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 344 pages, available in hardback (list $65) or paperback  (list $18.95).

Daniel J. Wakin's article "The Julliard Effect: 10 year's later," published in the New York Times, December 12, 2004 documents the career dramas played out year after year by music students enrolling in and graduating from schools of music in America.  Starry-eyed freshmen believe that everything is possible and glamorous careers as performing artists are waiting for them.  Upon graduation, however, the harsh realities of the highly competitive job market dash many career dreams.  Wakin's article notes that of the 44 Julliard graduates in 1994 at least 12 and perhaps as many as 20 have left music performance careers.  Others among the remaining students struggle to find enough performance opportunities to pay daily expenses and tuition debt.  True enough there were many successes among the graduates but it appears that over half of the graduates did not realize their career goals 10 years after graduation.

Dr. Beeching's Beyond Talent is much needed medicine for the fevered aspirations of many music students entering our colleges and conservatories today.  The presentation is positive but realistic, which is the ideal balance for its subject matter.  She draws upon her experiences as director of the Career Services Center at New England Conservatory of Music, as a performing cellist who completed her doctorate, and as a tenured university professor.  She has advised hundreds of musicians: students, alumni, and faculty.  Collected in this book are anecdotal examples and stories of many of her New England Conservatory of Music colleagues and others which help to personalize this book's advice.  Music careers are full of unexpected changes and Beeching’s move to a career in counseling gives her sympathy for the vacillations and unexpected opportunities in musical employment.

In several places the book makes the point that musicians need to assess their strengths in order to better prepare for a career in music.  Included in the book are an “Entrepreneurial Checklist” and “Questions for Young Performers” among other guides that will help to identify a person’s interests and strengths.   She persuasively talks about the motivation and passion that is needed for a successful career in music.   Also she addresses self improvement topics for musicians such as performing at your best; managing gigs, time, money, and taxes; and performance health.

Beyond Talent is a comprehensive manual on creating a career in music.  In many ways this is a “self-help” or “how to” book since Dr. Beeching makes a strong case that musicians best serve their career by developing skills as their own career counselor, publicist, and marketing agent.  Contained in its pages is guidance on creating promotional materials (biographies, photos, and promotional kits), producing demos and CDs, promotion on the Internet, booking performances, raising money for music projects, networking, and connecting with audiences. 

The young musician with little understanding of artistic managers, booking conferences, teaching opportunities, or employment in the music industry will find the explanatory material in the book very helpful.  Beeching provides information that is understandable and accessible to serious high school and college students.  The resources section at the end of the book is valuable for everyone including professionals with full-time music careers.

I see Chapter 5 "Online Promotion: Using the Internet to Advance Your Career" as the least effective portion of the book.  Although it does present many current technologies such as web pages, e-letters, e-mailing lists, etc., it fails to articulate the impact of these and other technologies on our new digital democracy.  We are entering an age where GarageBand software turns a Macintosh computer into a recording studio, where XM Satellite Radio features recordings of performers who have never been released on CD, and where Internet radio is taking away listeners from commercial radio.  Just as the influence of the big three televisions stations--ABC, NBC, CBS--is supplanted by cable and satellite stations or Internet sites, so is the dominance of major recording labels and classical radio stations being challenged by new recording and distribution technologies.  More and more we will see that anyone can share their performances in the Internet public market.  The book falls short in this chapter by failing to mention the widespread availability of MP3 players and recorders and the burgeoning market surrounding this technology.  This medium will provide classical musicians with many opportunities now and in the future.  It is worthy of note that the International Double Reed Society provides an example for career promotion in this medium through the many MP3 and video files on our website.

Despite the drawback noted in Chapter 5 Beyond Talent is a wonderful book that will be an important resource for musicians for years to come.  This is a book that musicians in all fazes of their career will find helpful.  I highly recommend you purchase the book.  The list price of the paperback is a steal!

Review by Terry B. Ewell

Copyright © 2006 by Terry B. Ewell. All rights reserved.