Taking Responsibility for your Musical Development with Juli Buxbaum
One of the things I've always admired about Juli Buxbaum is her ability to decide on a goal and then really do what is necessary to make it happen! This is a great quality to have no matter what you do, but I feel it is especially important in the music field. Juli and I were roommates when we were grad students at Arizona State University. Along with our other roommate, we had a lot of good times decorating for Halloween and Christmas, watching movies, and just chatting. I'm really happy to have the opportunity to interview Juli for this blog post and I know you will enjoy her perspective and insights.
ER: Tell us about your musical background and what you currently do. JB: My musical background started with a Bachelor's degree in Music Education from Oklahoma State University. I really thought I wanted to be a band director at first but realized my interests were more aligned with becoming a studio teacher and performer. Both of my graduate degrees (MM and DMA) are in Horn Performance and are from Arizona State University. I have just finished my third year as the Assistant Professor of Horn at Arkansas State University.
ER: What did you do during music school that helped prepare you for life after school?
JB: During school I made a promise to myself that I would add one substantial "resume line" per semester in both teaching and performing. This meant that every semester I was actively seeking out opportunities outside of school that would give me experience in BOTH of those areas. Sometimes people focus too much in one direction or the other and I think balancing them was a really big help in getting my current job right after graduation.
ER: What was your biggest challenge after graduating from music school? JB: For me it was actually re-learning how to practice once the weekly lessons and university ensemble rehearsals were gone. I had intermittent gigs to still practice for, but outside of those it was a new experience to sit down and figure out what repertoire I wanted to explore and how I wanted to continue to develop my playing on my own.
ER: Have you ever had a big disappointment relating to music? What did you do to get back up? JB: For me it wasn't one specific moment, but rather a long accumulation of not-so-good performances that started to weigh on me really heavily. I have always struggled with performance anxiety and at some point I started to get trapped in a cycle of not delivering the kind of product in performance that I knew I was capable of producing in the practice room. Concerts, recitals, auditions, competitions... None of them were representative of what I knew I was capable of and I started to believe that maybe I was just not cut out for performance. I still loved practicing but I started to dread going on stage. Finally, I got desperate and tried beta blockers. It was for a large solo competition and I still remember that performance. I just remember playing on stage in the first round and... enjoying it. Like really enjoying it. As soon as I was done playing I walked off-stage, went into the bathroom, and cried at the realization that I had not truly enjoyed performing in a long time. Later that day I found out that I placed in the semi-finals, which was a nice confidence boost, but nothing will compare to the value of that reminder of what made me love performing on stage in the first place. By the way, that was actually the first and last time I've ever used beta blockers. They have some side effects that I'm not too keen on long term, but I don't think anything else could have given me that reminder of what it felt like to have a positive performance experience. It renewed my hope in myself and gave me something to strive for when I had become lost.
ER: What were your career goals in school? Have they changed? JB: When I started undergrad I desperately wanted to be a band director. I just really like teaching! The thing is... I hate conducting. It wasn't until my Junior year that I really started to change my trajectory and the studio teacher career path started to make more and more sense to me. Now that I have started working at a university, it has affirmed that this is the right job for me.
ER: What actions did you take during the first year or two after graduation that were successful? JB: So I was really (incredibly) fortunate to secure my teaching job right after I graduated with my DMA. I think I graduated in May and applied for this job shortly after, getting the offer near the end of June. Again, this goes back to that promise I made myself to secure one "resume line" for both teaching and performing every single semester while I was in school. I believe that was a successful tactic for me. Once I got the job, which, by the way, was only a temporary two-year contract, I devoted myself completely to running the A-State Horn Studio. It was maybe only going to be for two years, but it was such a great place to start and teaching was my dream so I wanted it to be as good an experience as possible. That ended up in me getting offered the opportunity to stay and now I am happily at A-State long-term as an Assistant Professor in a tenure-track role.
ER: I understand you have a passion for teaching music in rural areas. What led to this being a particular interest? How do you feel you've been able to positively impact rural communities? JB: Yes! I love teaching music in rural areas. This is purely selfish since I grew up in a rural area myself. I was raised on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma and my high school had maybe 65 kids in my graduating class so it was pretty small. Growing up I was encouraged to play in band and even more fortunate to get the opportunity to take lessons with Lanette Lopez-Compton, the horn professor at OSU. We couldn't afford regular lessons every week, but I took them whenever we could and I loved them. I think that experience has inspired in me a love of reaching students from those same kinds of communities. It doesn't really matter where someone is from, if you love music then you can do it as a career. It's ok if before college you did not receive lessons, or take music theory, or you might have been the only horn player in your band like I was. I think anyone is capable of going where they want to go if they are willing to put in the work to get there. And I really hope that my students take their success and knowledge back into rural communities and continue to make the world a better place through the music and the arts.
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 Horn at Arkansas State University? JB: I've thought about this a lot. It felt surreal that after all the folks that must have applied for my position, I'm the one who ultimately got the offer. My perspective is this: I didn't just want a job. I wanted THIS job. I researched the university, the town, the students, faculty, everything. I think I read the entire A-State website. Of all the jobs that were open the year I graduated, this was the one I wanted. First, my credentials checked all the boxes. I had the right level of education, the teaching experience, performing experience, etc. You have to cover those bases to get your foot in the door. Then, what it comes down to is that, while of course we all want to land a full time college teaching position, the search committee just wants to know that you are invested in their particular position as a potential new member of their team. My advice to those applying for jobs is this: A generic application that screams "I can teach anywhere" just won't stand out even if it's the truth. Take the time to consider living your life with each job you apply for and tailor each application to the needs of the team you are wanting to join. I promise that will get you closer to where you want to go.
ER: What advice would you give someone in music school or recently graduated from music school? JB: My advice is always take responsibility of your own personal education and professional development. Accept everything and expect nothing. Don't just wait around for someone to tell you what to do, dig in and do the work. That being said, along the way it always helps to have a sense of humor and a good laugh now and again. Life is weird.
ER: How can people find you? Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juli.buxbaum
A-State Horns on Facebook: @astatehorns
A-State faculty website: https://www.astate.edu/college/liberal-arts/departments/music/faculty-staff/people