I was just thinking it could be valuable to give some anonymous specifics from my own experience to demonstrate why i think these issues are important.
I did survive university grad programs in music through the doctorate. It was an emotionally fierce environment, which my major professor described to me as survival of the fittest. Fortunately i am intuitive enough, an INFJ w/ some life experience, that i was able to read people w/ some accuracy. I survived by keeping quiet, showing up, doing my best. I used personal time for crying, and had chronic, severe migraines that caused vomiting from the pain. One year i had 70 out of 365 days which involved excrusiating pain. It was common to see an adult student in tears after a professor raked them over the coals for something. I have a flutist friend finishing her doctorate who confided in me that she cannot walk through the front doors of the school w/o wanting to burst into tears. This is not emotional indulgence, it is a deep scar from her experiences there.
I haven’t done a great deal of performing w/ orchestras, but my first
experience is worth addressing here. I had my DMA, and was starting a
MM in harp. The conductor at a small college where i taught beginning
harp approached me to play in his community orchestra. The pay scale
for someone in their MM was $40 per session on other instruments, It
was $20 for amateurs. I realized they were on a tight budget and (for
better or worse) was willing to accomodate that. One of his first
questions was if i belonged to the union… no. We played the Moeran
Cello concerto from a manuscript. I worked w/ Liz Cifani to iron out
the impossible passages. I bought the CD and made a cassette of three
reps of each entrance. I borrowed the full score and wrote in every
interaction w/ other instruments. When it came time for the performance
i nailed every entrance – and could play it from memory. Throughout the experience he would make
annoyed and ugly faces at me when passing me, would deliberately turn
his back when i tried to ask him questions, etc. My paycheck for four
rehearsals and a performance? A grand total of $45 dollars. When i told him it cost me $25 to transport my harp (i had to borrow vehicles and would fill the tank as a thankyou) He got angry at me and wanted to know EXACTLY WHO was charging me $25. (Caps in reference to his emails to me) He had paid
me $15 per service – below the bottom of his payscale (he also paid for
half services if i wasn’t needed there the entire time). I resigned,
even though i was the only professional harpist in the area.
During my DMA program I didn’t understand how my theory professor arrived at my grade, so i talked to him during office hours. I had never approached a teacher before about a grading question – and haven’t since. He was so offended that i would question him that he railed into me about how my undergrad college was crap, etc. I started crying and was completely mortified to show him vulnerability. I asked for a few moments because i didn’t want to be seen leaving his office in that condition. I gave him a good teacher evaluation overall, with some reference to a question about grading. Overall i was highly respected for my shut up, show up, go home and throw up approach to the stress. Now that i know i can succeed at the top of such an environment, but am no longer fettered by it, there are important things to be said.