Thanksgiving thoughts

As the holiday season and winter break approach, we in the OECD want to invite you to spend some time thinking about two things that make our lives better: thankfulness and gratitude.

Thankfulness and gratitude do many things for us:

  • Help us deal with stress and adversity
  • Improve our physical health
  • Help us manage our time more effectively to be more productive
  • Literally induce relaxation

As both students and performers, you’ve been trained to and had the idea of continuing mastery instilled in you for much of your life. This certainly has helped you achieve many goals (not the least of which was being admitted to the Jacobs School of Music!), but when we lose sight of the people and things that support us our lives lose some of their most important aspects.

As we enter the final phase of this fall semester, we want to encourage you to keep your eyes on the prize of successfully completing your projects and classes for the semester as well as those things that help you achieve your goals.

We’ve included two charts below from this blog that help highlight just how important gratitude and thankfulness are in our lives!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving break, folks!

Your friends in the OECD (Alain, Meryl, and Joanie, and the Project Jumpstart team: Lovisa, Jackie, Matt, and Alyson)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving break, folks!

Your friends in the OECD (Alain, Meryl, and Joanie, and the Project Jumpstart team: Lovisa, Jackie, Matt, and Alyson)

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Innovation in Music!

As never before, the music industry is powerfully impacted by cultural, economic, and technological changes of the early 21st century. Consumption and production of music is being transformed and disrupted in just about all ways imaginable – from the emergence of digital platforms, through a dizzying array of social media apps, through the increasing cross-pollination of styles and genres, through the changes in how we educate and train artists and nurture audiences.

Entrepreneurship – the ability to imagine and identify opportunity, combined with the skills to creatively build something of sustaining value – is now a central and necessary part of any artist’s life, any organization’s development, any ensemble’s future.

Here are a few ensembles that inspire us all to think differently about what we do, how we follow our creative star and bring value to the world around us.


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Careers Abroad

As part of International Students Week, we focus on careers abroad with emphasis on living and working in Europe. We’ll continue next week with examples of Jacobs alums who are living extraordinary, innovative lives as performers outside the US.

So, you’re thinking about trying the life of a performer abroad? College itself can be a very challenging experience, particularly the need to develop a community network for support when your family and friends from childhood are no longer right around the corner! If you are an international student here at Jacobs, you’ve already discovered many of these challenges: living somewhere where the rules and norms are very different from what you’re used to, and even the language of your dreams and thoughts is different from most people around you. But you did it! This experience of gaining independence and making new connections prepared you well for taking your show on the international road.

We in the OECD want to encourage you to explore the possibilities of a career abroad, but to do it mindfully. Prepare with your eyes open, and your curiosity in full swing. You’ll find people are people everywhere – make an effort to reach out to them, learn their language, learn the ways things are done in their community, and you will find lots of support, guidance, and friendship along the way. If you are a US student, take the great opportunities IU and Jacobs give you to get to know someone from a country you want to live in – have dinner with them and ask questions about life, work, art, and music in their home country.

IU also provides assistance through the Global Gateway Network, serving Europe, China, and India. IU Gateway offices are a great source of support, resources, and connections as you plan and begin your career abroad.

To continue the conversation, we encourage you to come Thursday 11/9, 12:30-2pm in MU011 for a brown bag panel discussion with three of our wonderful Jacobs faculty – Jane Dutton, Tom Wieligman, and David Neely – and at least two fantastic alums – Sarah Kapustin and Chris Lysack – who will speak to launching their own careers, internationally. Come hear their stories and ask your questions about what has helped them make the transition from Jacobs students to international performing artists!

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Do You Have a Great Idea?

We see it. We know it. The manufacturing and service economies have given way to “The Creative Economy.” The engine of our progress is fueled by innovation: big, ground-breaking ideas. So, what does that mean for musicians? …and what makes an idea “great” anyway?

Young musicians are on the leading edge of new revolutions in music – revolutions driven by technology, globalism, communication, access, and consumer demand. As a classically trained musician, living in the rapid-evolving 21st century, you are uniquely positioned to see, and create, new opportunities. To bring big ground-breaking ideas to life.

Motivations and goals may differ: bring classical music to underserved populations; transform communities through music education; create an app to improve audience experience; manage venture capital funds to invest in music projects; facilitate the music projects venture capitalists invest in! The options are as limitless as the big ideas behind them!

Here are some great ideas, currently rocking our world:

  • SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE: Sparking radical cultural collaboration and passion-driven learning to build a more hopeful world
  • GROUPMUSE: Sharing great masterpieces of music with old and new friends in living rooms
  • PLAYING FOR CHANGE: A movement created to inspire and connect the world through music
  • CULTURES IN HARMONY: Bringing people together through music
  • MUSAID: Empowering musicians around the world through international educations exchanges
  • NEW VOICES OPERA: creating new opera through collaboration in an experiential learning environment
  • FRESH INC. FESTIVAL: redefining training in music through collaboration, entrepreneurship, and partnerships

What’s your great idea? Project Jumpstart is prepared to help you develop and launch it. Check out the Innovation Competition to learn more!


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Personal Finances 101

It’s normal for students – and all people! – to be a bit apprehensive about managing finances so we thought we’d help you unpack this concept and start to build your skills and confidence. This post will give you some basic guidance about what you need to know, and we have a workshop coming up to help you start developing your financial skills toolbox (more on that later*).

First of all, be clear about the challenges you face. Which of these keep you up at night?

  • Fear of not having enough money
  • Fear that you’d spend too much money if you had it
  • Worry about paying back student loans
  • Fear that you won’t earn enough money to support yourself
  • You’ve never learned how to budget
  • You don’t have enough information to understand taxes and how to fund projects
  • You don’t know what you don’t know

Most of us experience a combination of these concerns, but the biggest one seems to be lack of information and guidance about good financial management techniques…or knowing what you don’t know!

Becoming financially literate starts with getting more information! Blogs can be a great source of information, inspiration, practical advice, and tools. Here’s a list of top financial blogs for young adults.

There are also a number of online services and resource sites specifically for musicians. But watch for hidden fees or sketchy fine print. And never provide your social security number or bank account information online. Be scam-smart.

After finding out what you don’t know and gathering useful information and tools, it’s simply a matter of practicing new habits. And if musicians understand anything, it’s the value of practice!

*The OECD has teamed up with IU MoneySmarts to help you develop a basic financial management plan, as a student and beyond. Personal Finances 101 is an interactive session focusing on practical habits like budgeting, saving, borrowing and debt, establishing credit, identity theft, and student loan repayment. It will also include helpful tips in preparation for graduation, employment, and other major future financial decisions.

Personal Finances 101 | Friday, November 3 | 2-3:30PM 

IMU, Persimmon Room | Register in the Career Portal

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Professional Presence

As you develop your career as a musician or dancer, you should also be thinking about your professional presence – or those aspects of your communication skills that help you share who you are and what you do as a professional to colleagues, potential employers, and audience members. This includes the obvious, such as public speaking skills, and the less obvious – like how you carry yourself, the ways you dress in public, and the ways you communicate in less formal encounters.

In the performing world we often focus most on these skills when we’re actually on stage, but understanding their impact in other areas of our professional life can lead to MORE opportunities to be on stage. So here are five elements of professional presence that are worth your time and attention:

First impressions. These are virtual as much as physical.

Take a look at your email address – is it something that someone new to you would respond to positively? is perhaps not the best way to represent yourself as a professional singer, nor is

Check your outgoing message on your voicemail. Keep it short, to the point, and friendly.

What is your online identity on your SoundCloud/YouTube/Instagram channel? Does it communicate you as a professional? If not, consider changing it – this is how people will find you when (not if!) they Google you.

In the world of face-to-face encounters, remember that people evaluate each other in the first minute of meeting – intelligence, expertise, and credibility. This isn’t about being highly eloquent, but it is about being well-spoken.

Dress appropriately for professional encounters

Think about having clean, neat clothes and shoes (save the really trendy stuff for when you’re out with your friends). It can be well worth your time to go to a good, used clothing store if you don’t feel like you have something appropriate in your wardrobe. (for more guidance here, check out our Dressing for Success! post from August 29)

Be on time or early for meetings

This communicates a lot about who are and what it will be like to work with you. Be mindful that people from different cultures follow different kinds of rules here, but being is never a bad thing.

Be polite

This will also vary according to the culture of the person you’re meeting with, but the rule of thumb should always be to find out what that person expects from you, especially until they get to know you. Then you can relax a little! But save the jokes you use with your friends for when they know you, and play it safe with how you address them until they let you know informality is okay. Don’t start with “hey dude.”

Be authentic to your own values

There is a lot we could say about this topic, but in the short version know what you value, what things interest you, what you care about, and what you can contribute.

Have questions, or want a little coaching on Professional Presence? Check out the OECD and the School of Education’s upcoming workshop:

Brand You: Success Outside the Practice Room

Wednesday, October 25th from 7-8:30pm, IMU Persimmon Room. RSVP through the Career Portal for a seat at the table!

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Stephen Wyrczynski on Grad School and Audition Prep

In the final installment of our Getting Into Grad School series, the OECD sat down with Jacobs’ faculty member, and expert in orchestral audition repertoire, Stephen Wyrczynski to get his thoughts about graduate school and audition preparation.

OECD: What are the main considerations for undergraduate students as they contemplate graduate school?

WYRCZYNSKI: I believe the main consideration with which undergraduates should be concerned is their student debt load. One can choose the most accomplished teacher at the most prestigious music school but if after two years of graduate school your student loan debt balloons an additional $25,000-60,000, your freedom to make career choices post graduate school diminishes greatly because you will have to begin repaying those loans immediately after your graduation.

For undergraduates in their junior and senior year, I would consider a 5-10 year plan instead of just a 2 year post undergraduate plan.  This means that you should choose a location and a school where you can start your professional life WHILE you are in graduate school.

I also have strongly encouraged students to accept offers like a full assistantship with funding for graduate schools with less of a national or international profile so that they can begin their very valuable professional work experience during their graduate degree while not assuming new debt.

OECD: When auditioning prospective students, what are you looking, and listening, for?

WYRCZYNSKI: When listening to graduate program auditions, I am always drawn to students with musical personalities. One looks for indications in recommendations or essays which demonstrate the applicant is resilient, driven, and interested in the role of the artist in society at large.

My last recommendation is to play repertoire which makes you sound the best. Don’t get caught up in strategies or myths about “what they like” or other such nonsense. Present your best pre-professional self and show us your personality.

OECD: Do you have any audition pet peeves?

WYRCZYNSKI:  …when an applicant addresses the committee as ‘You Guys’ as in, ‘How are you guys doing?’ While I am rather informal with my own students, I am always a bit shocked at the presumptuousness of referring to senior professionals whom one is trying to impress in such a casual and informal way during an audition interview.

We agree, Prof Wyrczynski. We agree! Remember, OECD Career Advisors are available to help you in preparing your grad school application materials. Stop by or schedule an appointment through the career portal!
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Networking and applying to graduate schools

In our continuing Getting into Grad School series, this post explores and desmystifies the role of networking.

In your life as a student and performer, the term “networking” come up frequently as an important means of accessing career opportunities. The term carries a lot of baggage, but in reality isn’t nearly as complicated (or scary) as it sounds.

Simply put, networking is defined as (noun) “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest” ( Think about it – who is in your network? Friends, family, mentors, and people you work with in your ensembles, organizations, and the like. People you work with and trust.

Our negative stereotypes likely come from the verb-form definition of “network” – “to socialize for professional or personal gain” ( We get stuck on the “gain” component, without thinking about the “supportive system” aspect. Truth is, these two terms and definitions really go together.

Let’s focus on the “supportive system” definition, and consider how this affects you as a student, musician, and person.

Your network are the folks with whom you find support, encouragement, and resources to become the best at your specialty that you can be. The folks in your network are the ones you will be interacting with personally and professionally throughout your career. We all want to work with people who help us be the best at what we do.

For applying to grad school, developing a network at a school you want to attend is very important, both to help you choose a mentor who is right for you (remember the “supportive system”?) and to find a community that you can develop with. With this in mind, we in the OECD want to encourage you to talk with the important members of your current network – your teacher, your colleagues – both the ones at your own level and those who are a few years ahead of you – to help you decide who to add to your network.

Here’s a couple of things we recommend that you try:

  • Reach out. It feels scary, but teachers in conservatories and universities want to find promising students to develop to the next stage. Find a good contact email – but even better, if your teacher knows the individual, ask him/her to “break the ice” and introduce you to them via email or phone call/Skype/Facetime.
  • Talk to your colleagues for ideas about places that might suit you. Ask about their experiences at different institutions, and find out if you have other members of your network (see?) there that you could talk with.

Don’t let the idea of networking throw you. It’s a truism in the job hunting world that about 80% of jobs are actually filled through or because of networking, and it has an equally important role in progressing from undergraduate to graduate programs!

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Hart-to-Heart About Grad School & Audition Prep…

In our continuing Getting into Grad School series, we bring you a guest post by Jacobs’ own Mary Ann Hart

Did I follow all these suggestions? No! I was fairly clueless about what I wanted and how I would pay for it. I ended up my first year in grad school not with a GA or AI position, but as a dorm advisor. Not sexy, but it paid all my tuition, fees, as well as room & board! Other dorm advisors became my friends, and we managed to enjoy a wide spectrum of shenanigans. Perhaps it’s a good thing that there’s no social media documentation of all that. It was nice to have friends outside the music ghetto. They were studying toward careers in law, special education, business, even the FBI….

My comments will sometimes be geared toward singers, because that is my discipline, but I hope some of this will resonate with instrumentalists as well.

Choosing a teacher: Discuss this with your current teacher. He or she may have colleagues to recommend, or a former student who is now on the faculty of a good school.  Talk with friends who are now in grad school and happy with their teacher and progress.

Research recent competition winners – where did they study, and who are their teachers?  You may have met other accomplished students at summer programs or competitions who are happy with their teachers. Ask them who these teachers are. Be advised that often students will flock like lemmings to the teacher of the latest competition winner as if that teacher has the keys to the kingdom. My experience is that successful singers come from all kinds of likely AND sometimes very unlikely places.

Money matters: Consider schools where you can get a degree that does not leave you with a debt as big as the mortgage on a starter home. How much is out-of-state tuition per credit? Is it possible to establish state residency to lower your tuition? How long does this take? How many credits are required for the degree you want? How much are additional fees? What is the cost of living in the place you want to go? Do the math before and after you get a scholarship offer.

Visiting: Try to visit the schools where you are applying. Check their school calendar. If classes are not in session, faculty are not likely to come in to school for a random lesson.

Find a date or two when you can travel – then a couple of weeks ahead of your trip, write your top two teachers at that school and ask if you can schedule a consultation lesson on one of those days. They won’t know their schedule on some random day six weeks hence.

Ask if there is a fee. Do NOT ask for a lesson on the weekend.

You might have time to observe several teachers if you plan ahead. You can learn a lot by observing! Take the tour and chat up the tour guide. Go to a performance.

Audition rep: Each piece should be one that you love, and have performed successfully more than once. Each piece should show something different (tempo, color, drama, humor, etc)

Avoid pieces with knuckle-busting piano parts – you don’t know who will be playing. We don’t need to hear the most difficult piece you’ve ever played! 

Singers, do not try to show us how big/loud your voice is. Better that we should hear a dynamic range of piano to forte.

Practice saying the name of each piece and the composer’s name out loud. If you find yourself hesitating, look it up!!!

Prepare your music folder: Clearly mark tempi, ritards, breaths, cadenzas, etc.  Highlight repeats and cuts. Check to see that all notes are on the page, and that all pages are present and in order.

Don’t be afraid to set the tempo with the pianist. Sing your part softly to show the tempo –that’s much more reliable than conducting.

Warming up: Singers, warm up in the hotel using straws. This won’t disturb your neighbors, can warm you up thoroughly, and won’t allow you to over-sing before your audition.

Set two alarms. Get as much sleep as you can. Allow plenty of time to find the hall, then find a practice room.

Health and Wellness: Singers, if you are sick, investigate rescheduling – and if you can barely phonate, CANCEL! If you can’t reschedule, ask if you can submit a final recording. (This means that you need to have excellent recordings before the audition season starts.)

Wardrobe  – make a packing check list so that you don’t leave something important at home.

Men: Iron your shirt. Polish your shoes.

If you’ve put on a few pounds since the last time you bought an audition outfit, invest in a shirt, slacks and jacket that don’t pull and strain in unfortunate locations. Alterations are worth the money.

Women: Wear heels of a reasonable height that you can walk in confidently.

Invest in a solid color audition dress/outfit that flows over your body. Do not wear a dress that clings tight to the body. Every flaw will show, especially if the fabric is at all shiny or reflective.

If you are performing on a stage or platform, your dress will appear about six inches shorter that it actually is. Even the nicest knees are not the best look.

Even minimal shapewear can be your friend. We don’t want to see:

  • Your belly button or the outline of your navel ring (yep, we can see it)
  • The outline of your undergarments (yep, we see those too)
  • Distracting amounts of cleavage. Lock and load those girls. Minimizers may make your outfit drape more gracefully.

What do we need to hear and see?

Your expressivity and connection to the music – your joy in performing

Your confidence that you can be who you are and allow the music speak for            itself  through you

Efficient breathing and healthy technique

Clarity of tone; resonance; even vibrato; inner rhythm

Legato (look it up – it means more than ‘smooth’); clear text and accurate diction (singers)

Always know that we are eager to hear your sing/play your best. 

Everyone on the jury has had a bad performing day once in a while.

Everyone on the jury has a different aesthetic, so be yourself – don’t try to sing/play to your idea of who we are or what we want.

Coming soon…Stephen Wyrczynski’s thoughts on grad school and audition prep!
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Applying to Grad School {is not} for Dummies

It’s that magical time of the year for undergraduate students. The time when thoughts turn to graduate school applications and auditions! We’re here to help.

For the next four weeks, the OECD blog will be devoted to the topic of graduate school. We’ll bring you faculty guest posts, tips, and info to help you navigate the application and audition season.

Your CV [Curriculum Vitae] is an important element of your grad school application. To help you get started on [or refine and update] your CV, we’re offering two workshops. Check the Career Portal for dates/times, and to register. You can also schedule a one-on-one advising appointment, at any time, to discuss your CV and other application materials!

You’ll want to check out the “Getting into Grad School Boot Camp” [hosted by the IU Career Development Center] THIS Sunday, September 24, in the IMU Frangipani Room. Come to one, two, or all three panel discussions:

  • 3-4PM  Applying to Grad School: Research Programs and Timelines
  • 4-5PM  Financing Grad School: Competitive Awards, Fellowships and More
  • 5-6PM  Application Materials and Personal Statements

And, the campus-wide Grad School Fair will take place in Alumni Hall in the IMU, Tuesday, September 26, from 4-7PM. This is a great, no-pressure way to learn more about a variety of programs and opportunities.

Are you weighing the pros-and-cons of grad school, or are you confused by the application process? Here’s a planning tool that you might find useful

The Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development is here to help and support you, throughout the grad school process, from discernment [is this right/right time for me?] through application. Let us know what you need!

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