Robert Estrin - piano expert
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Starting a Career in Classical Music

Some useful tips to find your way in the classical music world

Released on July 24, 2013

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Welcome. I am Robert Estrin here at and with a question. How do you get a career in classical music? This is a great question. I hear it from people all the time. And it is a very great challenge, so I am happy to bring you some ideas.

On a personal note, several years ago, I was playing recitals and such and noticing that the audiences around me were aging. That's when I came with Living Piano, Journey Through Time, Historic Concert Experience, which I still perform. That's why I own some historical instruments; harpsichords and fortepianos, keyboards that predate the modern piano. I bring them out. And dressed in period costumes, we present the history of the piano. I've got some young prodigies who join me coming out as young Mozart in list [SP], and audiences really get a kick out of that. It's one way that I've been able to be noticed in the classical world because it's very difficult.

Think about this. Every year, conservatories all over the world churn out highly skilled concert pianist, violinist, flautist, clarinetist, all different instruments. They enter competitions. And you've got major international competitions, and many of them are every year or every three or four years. And once again, you have a gold medal winner and a silver and a bronze. And believe me, the people who were in the quarterfinals are incredible musicians just to be able to enter one of the major international competitions like the Cliburn or the Tchaikovsky.

The amount of repertoire you have to have under your belt is just awe-inspiring that these people can do that. It's is a very, very, tough thing. So how do you get noticed in this world? Why mention one thing that I do? But there are many ways. And I think the really important thing is to realize that number one, no one is going to discover you. That's why the business of music is business, and you have to treat it as such. Because if you are waiting for somebody else to just come and manage you, it will never happen. In fact, if you have management, you've got to manage them. They're not going to manage you.

Nobody will do that for you in this world, not just in the music business. But the music business is tough. It is very competitive. There's a lot of highly skilled people and a very, very limited number of positions. Naturally, teaching is a great option on the university level, public school or privately. Anybody who has an inclination to teach can do so, and you can augment your teaching with performances. If you're in a university, perhaps you can put together a chamber group or play solo recitals if you prefer.

So there are many options there. There are several people out there who have broken barriers like Christopher O'Reilly, Radiohead meets Shostakovich. What a spectacular concept. You just have to go to it just to find out what is going on. And he is a sensational pianist, so he pulls it off. Yugu Wang, for example, has made a big splash coming out with these lavish outfits, a beautiful young Asian pianist, and she is a great pianist. Now, if she wasn't, she'd really have a hard time, because the way she comes out has raised so much attention that people have really paid attention and noticed her. Fortunately, her playing lives up to her via the presentation.

So these are different ways. Lang Lang, for example. A lot of people noticed Lang Lang and talk about him because of his demonstrative way that he looks and his facial expressions and all the rest. But he is also formidable pianist, you can't deny that. So you've got to find something that you feel genuine about and bring that to the performance. After all, to make a difference to the average listener, there is only maybe 2% or 3% of people who are so sophisticated that they would really understand the differences between one Pathetique Sonata or Kreutzer Sonata compared to another.

Now, on an emotional level, hopefully, a vast number of people can appreciate what you have to offer personally. But you've got to even get the gig in the first place. You've got to somehow reach the people who put on the concerts. So I suggest, promote and find something that you feel deeply about and bring something unique in your expression; not just how you play the music but how you present the whole program. And if you can do that, you have great opportunities and be able to bring music to audiences.

Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin here at and
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