Navigating Life After Music School: Adding Your Own Flair with Danielle VanTuinen
This week I am very pleased to interview the other half of the Moreau | VanTuinen Duo, Danielle VanTuinen. Danielle and I also met as fellow graduate students at Arizona State University. I first got to know her because we were both teaching brass methods for our respective instruments. The brass teachers got together for breakfast after SUPER early teaching sessions. I liked Danielle right away and even more as I got to know her better. The first time I heard her perform solo at an ASU Brass Area I was blown away by her sound, technique, and musicianship.
ER: Tell us about your musical background and what you currently do.
DV: I am currently the Tuba/Euphonium Professor at the University of Florida in addition to being a member of the Moreau | VanTuinen Duo. I get to work with some of the most hard working students and colleagues on a daily basis and perform new works created for the duo all over the world! As part of the Moreau | VanTuinen duo our goal is to promote and spread the awareness of new music out into the world. As part of our response to the pandemic, our most recent project has been a call of miniatures that resulted in a total of 78 new works created for the duo. The project included workshops with each one of the composers, a live-streamed performance, and semi-professional recordings/videos.
ER: What did you do during music school that helped prepare you for life after school?
DV: I personally think that my studio professor really set me up to succeed. She always pushed us to think out of the box and put a spin on traditional topics. This mindset really allowed me to grasp the unspoken needs of people that make up our audiences. Due to this thinking the Moreau | VanTuinen Duo evolved and grew while we were in school and began to take root. This ensemble has really allowed me as a performer and educator to reach a large and diverse audience.
ER: What was your biggest challenge after graduating from music school? DV: What wasn't...I think it all stems from the way we perceive situations on a mental level. Graduating from music school and diving into the "real world" is very difficult. You leave this environment of comfort, full of opportunities for you to fail without too many repercussions. Once you graduate, that shield goes away and one mistake could have tragic results. I was TERRIFIED to make a mistake. I think being willing to take on jobs that you never thought were in your story is key. Taking this transitional time to explore areas that are not your strengths really allows for you as a person to diversify your abilities.
ER: Have you ever had a big disappointment relating to music? What did you do to get back up? DV: I did, it happened during my DMA. I had prepared for an audition with the Air Force Ceremonial Brass for Weeks. I had performed and worked on these excerpts for countless hours, performed in front of many panels of various judges and felt awesome. I knew I was ready to kick butt! I had made it to the in-person round for this position and still felt great, I knew that I could play the snot out of anything that was in front of me...I proceed to enter my audition room, I knew the adjudicators were going to be behind a curtain, but I didn't have the slightest clue how much that was going to effect me. I am a performer and feed off of the visual cues I get from audience members, it's how I communicate. That access to humans was stripped from me (for good reason!). I didn't crash and burn and was allowed to perform every excerpt selected for this round but I knew that I hadn't progressed to the final round. Not being able to see the faces of those I was performing for really messed with me mentally. I got really depressed after that audition, because in my head that job was MINE and I had failed myself. I would be lying if I said that I hadn't gone into a dark place following the audition...I did end up coming around and I made it my goal to help others overcome their unknown fears. I put all of my energy into my teaching after that terrible audition.
ER: What were your career goals in school? Have they changed? DV: For the longest time all I ever wanted was a position in a premier military band. Throughout the past few years I have gradually shifted to being heavily focused on teaching and performing in my duo. I think my goals have changed drastically. I would love for my personal focus to be directed on my duo and taking this ensemble around the world.
ER: What actions did you take during the first year or two after graduation that were successful? DV: Haha...I think I was just shameless and asked everyone and their dog if they needed a tuba/euphonium teacher. I think that truly helped me to get where I am today. I learned that I am never too good for a position regardless of what it is!
ER: Looking back, what do you consider to be the most important step that you took for your music career? DV: I can truly say that the most important thing I did was to form the Moreau | VanTuinen Duo with my now wife. This ensemble sets us apart from so many musicians and provides composers with an outlet to express themselves in music in a way they may never have thought of.
ER: Many people struggle with landing a full time college teaching position. What do you believe set you apart and led to your being considered and ultimately hired for your current position as Assistant Professor of Tuba/Euphonium at the University of Florida? DV: I hate to repeat myself but definitely the Duo...In addition to spreading myself around the New England Area during the two years prior to my hire and working with students of all different areas and backgrounds. I really tried to make myself stand out and be as "different" as possible.
ER: What advice would you give someone in music school or recently graduated from music school? DV: No job is too small as long as you aren't losing out on money. Remember, everyone needs to eat so don't say NO! One of those connections that you make from something you said "yes" to could at some point come out to something!
ER: Anything else you want to add? DV: Be unapologetically yourself and always try to put your own flair on every situation!
ER: How can people find you? Website: daniellevantuinen.com
Duo Website: moreauvantuinenduo.com
YouTube: Moreau | VanTuinen Duo: https://www.youtube.com/channel
You can also search myself and the duo on Facebook or Instagram!