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  • Writer's pictureEvan Clifton

Making Moves... Literally.

Hi Friends,

This time of year (late summer) can usually be a tricky one for musicians, whether you’re a student, teacher, or performer, this is a time of new beginnings. Getting ready to begin a new school year as a student or teacher, lining up orchestra seasons on the calendar, and finalizing dates for any number of engagements throughout the year; And with some of these new beginnings, it will mean moving to a new city. This is the situation I found myself in about two weeks ago…

I had just finished my masters degree last May and felt like I needed a change of scenery with new opportunities and challenges, so I moved about an hour west to Grand Rapids, MI. This was particularly nerve-wracking and stressful because I wasn’t moving to go to school or for a full time job, I was moving to be closer to the two regional orchestras I play with and pursue new goals of building a private teaching studio and growing my performing career. This is not something that brings any level of security right away, BUT by relying on my self-awareness and making the right moves ahead of time, things are already starting to fall into place.

Let’s unpack this a bit… Self-awareness is a constantly changing quality, but for me it starts with keeping a certain level of openness to people, events, and my surroundings. From there, it’s much easier to be totally honest with myself and pursue projects that I’m really excited about but might be risky. I love what Gary Vaynerchuk ( preaches on social media and one thing he talks about a lot is knowing yourself, sticking to your strengths, and executing based on those strengths.

“You can’t be authentic if you pander to anything other than yourself.”

In the music world it’s sooooo easy to just follow the path of go to school, get 1, 2, or 3 degrees, then apply for jobs and take auditions until you get one. And I was totally on this track for a long time, but with this move, I saw an opportunity to re-invent myself and really trust my gut about what I want to do in my career. For me, this means doing more teaching to share what I’ve learned through my journey with Focal Dystonia over the last couple years, and playing and commissioning lots of new music. There’s way too much great music being written to not play music that lights your ass on fire. But I digress…that’s a whole other post.

Part two of this moving process was taking the right steps months beforehand so that I was ready to hit the ground running right away. Once I identified what I wanted to focus on (primarily teaching middle school and high school students) this is the process I followed to get the ball rolling:

  1. Build a spreadsheet of all band directors within a driveable distance. Include director(s) name, district, school, school address, email and any other applicable info.

  2. Send an initial email introducing yourself and offering a free masterclass, sectional, etc…

  3. Follow up with a paper mailing including a cover letter, 1-2 posters advertising lessons, and business cards.

  4. Book masterclasses/sectionals at schools.

  5. Do masterclasses/sectionals.

  6. Follow up.

  7. Follow up again in late July/early August a few weeks before school starts.

This is the general process I followed prior to moving based on my own goals (and what will allow me to pay my bills because I’d like to live indoors and eat food). These steps combined with leveraging my personal connections has resulted in lots of great possibilities for the future. Everyone will have their own process to follow when making this kind of transition but the point is to actually take effective steps BEFORE moving, not just talking about what you want to do in your career or what you’ll do when you get to a new city. Thankfully, things seem to be working out well and this year will be packed with projects that I’m super excited about!

Since this post is all about new things, I recently came across this recording that I hadn't heard before on YouTube and it blew my mind! I’ve always been a huge fan of Common but hearing him with Robert Glasper and the rest of this group is insane. You need to hear this.

MUSIC. It’s good for ya.

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