Life in the Real World: How to Make Music Graduates Employable

Dawn Bennett, Editor
Books, Music Business
Champaign, Illinois: Common Ground Publishing LLC, 2012. 284pp.
ISBN 978 1 61229 078 2
Reviewed by , March 2nd, 2014

This book is a collection of papers from an international team of music educators exploring themes specific to the development of music-related careers for music students, including transitions into work for musicians, entrepreneurship and networking for musicians. There are also themes of a more generic nature including lifelong learning and identify formation. A book of this type is long overdue. All of the authors make a strong case for the inclusion of career preparation and training in all music courses. Not only that, they also present a range of pedagogical approaches for the implementation of career-based education.

Key chapters in part I include Perkin’s chapter which asks the reader to reconsider our definition of ‘career’ for musicians. Beeching discusses new opportunities for students and details characteristics and skills needed by today’s graduates. Bennett explores ‘portfolio careers’ in which music professionals undertake a multitude of roles concurrently and Hannan reflects on his own career to demonstrate formal and informal learning processes and the development of skills that have allowed for his own career progression.

Part II offers a large collection of resources that reinforce the concepts put forward in the first half of the book. There are activities that can be undertaken by students: encouraging self-reflection and developing self-awareness with the aim of assisting students to develop their music careers. The activities can be used in a number of ways including panel discussions, critical reflection journals, group work and debate topics just to name a few. These activities are for the most part clearly linked back to a corresponding theory chapter in part 1 of the book. Some are more useful than others but the volume offered means that there is something of value here for every student and every course. The inclusion of the activities makes it easy for educators to implement the theoretical ideas explored in part I.

The authors make a convincing case for music business, career development and entrepreneurial skills to be included in all models of music education. This inclusion is long overdue; there have been calls from Hannan and others since the early 1990s for more serious consideration of music entrepreneurship skills in tertiary music education courses. Life in the real world is, for the most part, set in the traditional conservatory model of music education. For me, what is missing in this book is the contributions to the field made via TAFEs and other vocational education providers. By their very nature, vocational providers have included career development as part of their course offerings. That said, this book makes a very valuable contribution to a growing number of voices suggesting the inclusion of career development for musicians. That coupled with the resources that this book includes, make it a compelling volume that should be considered by every tertiary music teacher.

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