Finding a Career

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
Hi, I am a 15 year old who isn't extremely advanced in piano (right now I am working on a toccata by Debussy, an etude by Mozkowski, and a Prelude by Chopin) but I REALLY enjoy the piano and love putting much expression into my pieces. Last summer I attended the Interlochen Arts Camp, I was accepted into the interlochen arts boarding high school, and this summer I have been accepted into the Eastman School of Music's high school Music Horizons program. I was wondering, how likely is it for me to be a concert pianist? Also, how much money does a concert pianist typically make?
 - Rachel

Dear Rachel,

To answer your first question, I have copied and pasted my response to a previous question:

Please peruse the "Piano as a career" archives. I've already responded to quite a few questions about the demands, difficulties, and joys of playing the piano as a career, and my responses are archived there. To summarize: it is extremely difficult to make a living as a "concert pianist," even for the best pianists. Many Juilliard graduates I know have quit their instruments and turned their attention to finding alternative means of income. I fully believe in the realization of dreams, but some dreams take a ridiculous amount of work (especially in this case); you have to want it so bad that you are willing to make enormous sacrifices in other areas of your life.... like your day job... like time spent with your friends... like sleep... The rewards can be awesome, but you have to decide if the cost is worth it to you.

However, and I'm repeating myself here, there are other ways to earn money as a pianist that don't involve performing on concert stages. None of them are easy, all of them are important, and all of them can be extremely rewarding. 

If you truly love playing the piano, if you enjoy creating music, if you are fascinated by the piano repertoire... you could always consider the greatest musical vocation of them all: you could be an amateur. By definition, amateurs "love" what they do. Amateurs keep music alive in homes around the world. More so than many professionals, amateurs are truly in touch with the joys of music, and their joy is contagious. Amateurs help to raise the musical literacy around the world. Amateurs deserve enormous respect, and America, in particular, is in need of many more amateur pianists.

To answer your second question: there is no typical income for a concert pianist. A pianist's annual salary entirely depends on the number of concerts he or she performs. It is a highly irregular, unpredictable, insecure, and wonderful job. :-)

- Greg