Careers in music: concert pianist

Piano keys - careers as a classical musician
Rossella Rubini discusses her life as a concert pianist, accompanist, piano teacher, examiner and PhD student. Find out how she combines these roles and her tips for a starting a career in music.

Rossella’s career as a classical musician combines performing as a pianist with teaching, accompanying and examining. She also fits in studying for a PhD – a high level university qualification that focuses on original academic research, and which is taken by those who already have a degree. She is mainly self-employed but also works as a visiting music teacher in a school.

How did you get into a career in music?

I studied in a conservatoire (a college offering intensive practical performing arts training courses, including degrees) and then developed my performing skills through further courses, masterclasses and practice. This is the typical path and is the best way to achieve complete music skills, in my opinion.

What are your top tips for someone wanting to become a musician?

Getting into a career as a musician requires practising a lot and doing less exciting activities, such as drills, finger technique exercises and scales, as they are essential to play at a professional level!

What skills do you need to be a successful musician?

Musicians need self-control, passion, great commitment and motivation, time, and patience.

How do you balance your time between your different music jobs?

The time I dedicate to my different jobs depends on where I am in the academic year: during the exam periods I intensify the accompaniment or/and examining work, for instance, whereas for the rest of the year I try to spend more time on my university study or piano practice. However, if I am booked for a concert, this would have the priority over everything else with no exceptions.

During the half term holidays, I try to focus more on activities other than teaching, if possible. For instance, my piano partner (for performing four-hands piano music) lives in Germany and she also works to an academic term structure. When our holidays coincide we normally meet for our ‘rehearsing week’, during which we only practise and rehearse. If I am not with her, I try to dedicate most of my time to my university studies and my piano practice.

I finally dedicate time to myself and prioritise my own holidays during the summer break.

What made you decide to study for a PhD as well as working as a musician?

The aim behind my PhD studies is to improve my CV in order to achieve an academic job, if possible. This would be a great opportunity for developing myself professionally and personally.

What do you enjoy most about your career as musician, and what are the downsides?

I enjoy the creativity and passion for what I do. The possible drawbacks are the lack of stability and the impossibility of predicting accurately what your yearly income will be. This brings other possible issues, such as difficulties in having a mortgage or children.

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