Navigating Life after Music School: Put Chance on your Side with Laurie Blanchet
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
A big thank you to Laurie Blanchet for sharing her musical journey for this week's blog. I met Laurie through Sistema Ravinia and though we didn't often work together I always enjoyed our conversations. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Laurie and the path she has taken. As you'll read, Laurie is the creator of a YouTube channel that helps clarinetists work on orchestral excerpts. This is a great resource that I highly recommend! Check it out here https://www.youtube.com/c/lauriesclarinetexcerpts and also linked at the end of this post.
ER: Tell us about your musical background and what you currently do. LB: I am originally from Québec, Canada, and I am currently a regular member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. I am a substitute with different orchestras in the United States and Canada, such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, New World Symphony and Orchestre symphonique de Québec. During Covid, I feel fortunate to be able to work online with Civic Orchestra. Also, the pandemic gave me more time to work on my Youtube Channel: Clarinet Excerpts Youtube Channel. I have a project going on called ¨Play the missing part¨ videos, where you can play along with orchestral excerpts. My goal is to help clarinetists stay motivated during these difficult times and it also keeps me motivated to practice at the same time!
ER: What did you do during music school that helped prepare you for life after school? LB: During school, I did as many playing opportunities as I could (paid or not). I tried to get excused from school as much as possible to take auditions or gigs. It made my schedule sometimes crazy busy, but it was worth it. Being able to start freelancing and teaching during school was the most helpful thing to survive after school.
ER: What was your biggest challenge after graduating from music school? LB: I would say that for me the transition into the ¨after school world¨ was pretty smooth because I started to freelance during school. That being said, being a freelancer is not an easy lifestyle. The biggest challenges for me are the financial instability, the constantly changing schedule, the travelling (living in hotels, driving a lot) and audition preparation thrown in the mix.
ER: Have you ever had a big disappointment relating to music? What did you do to get back up? LB: A disappointment I’m facing regularly is with orchestral auditions. When I started to take auditions and I was being cut, it felt like a failure or a step back. I know now that after every audition, I need to take a moment to reflect on it and I need to flip the situation in a more positive way. For me, having an Audition Journal is helpful. I write down all excerpts I have played, how it went, how I felt and all the things I need to work on for the next audition. From there, I try to keep moving forward.
ER: What were your career goals in school? Have they changed? LB: To be honest, during Undergrad I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I liked teaching and performing so I started a double bachelor's degree in performance and in elementary/middle school music teaching. I also joined a Canadian Army Reserve Band, and it was an awesome part-time playing related job. Through this job, I became more confident in my playing and built amazing friendships. Basic training and being in the military for 7 ½ years made me more disciplined in my life in general. After completing my bachelor's in interpretation, I realized that I really love performing and that I prefer being a private teacher instead of an elementary/middle school music teacher. I then decided to not finish the remaining 2 years of my teaching degree and to start a master's degree in performance. At that point, and even today, my goals are to push myself as far as I can on the clarinet; to go all in by committing myself 100% to it, and see where it takes me.
ER: What actions did you take during the first year or two after graduation that were successful? LB: I like looking regularly on audition websites and on orchestra’s websites to learn about different clarinetists. It’s through this process that I have found some substitute list auditions! (Those auditions are unfortunately not always advertised on audition websites.) I have taken a few substitute list auditions in the last three years and have been fortunate to have won some of them, including Philadelphia Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Columbus Symphony Orchestra. The opportunities I got from winning those auditions are huge for me and I can only be grateful that I found out about the auditions!
ER: Looking back, what do you consider to be the most important step that you took for your music career? LB: The most important step I’ve taken for my music career so far was to move to the United States to study at DePaul University in Chicago (Post-master’s Certificate) with the Principal Clarinetist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Stephen Williamson. The year prior to that, I attended Pierre Monteux School Summer Festival in Maine (That's where I met my boyfriend Brian, also a guest on Emmy's Blog), and it was a wake-up call for me. I realized that I wanted to be an orchestral player and that I had no idea what I was doing with orchestral excerpts and auditions! The following school year, I visited Chicago to see my boyfriend and to take lessons with Stephen Williamson and John Yeh. I heard Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts and I was totally blown away by the playing level! I never thought an orchestra could sound that good! It motivated me to work hard on my Civic Orchestra of Chicago application tape and I was fortunate to get on the Associate List. Chicago felt like the place I needed to be in order to move forward and I’m so glad I made the move.
ER: What advice would you give someone in music school or recently graduated from music school? LB: Getting out of Music School only feels scary if you are not prepared for it. Put all chances on your side by going out of your way to meet new musicians, make new connections and do everything you can to start freelancing and teaching during School.
ER: How can people find you? YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/lauriesclarinetexcerpts
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/ClarinetExcerpts