Five Things I Learned After School

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Stephanie Hollander is an active freelancer in the NY Metro-Area. She recently collaborated with indie-pop singer Giselle Bellas on her new album “Not Ready to Grow Up” where she can be heard on the single “Canary”.  She has performed with many distinguished groups such as; Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Rocktopia, Patriot Brass, The South Florida Symphony Orchestra, Miami Symphony, Bard Conducting Institute, Washing Heights Chamber Orchestra, Bach Festival Orchestra, Vermont Mozart Festival, Albany Symphony, Newburgh Symphony and numerous others. In 2017 she was principal horn for the North East tour of the distinguished pop Italian group, Il Volo.

 Ms. Hollander holds a B.M from the University of Cincinnati, CCM, and a M.M from the Eastman School of Music where she was awarded a graduate teaching assistantship. She also holds an Artist Performers Certificate from Bard College Conservatory and a Professional Studies Certificate from the Manhattan School of Music as a recipient of the 2016-2017 Richard E. Adams Scholarship. Her teachers have included; Barbara Currie, Javier Gandara, Randy Gardner, Peter Kurau, Jeffrey Lang and Julia Pilant.

 Currently, Ms. Hollander is on faculty at the Dutchess Community College Community School and Hartwick University and has been a guest speaker for the SUNY Purchase horn studio, on the topic of, “Graduation, now what”.

In Ms. Hollander’s spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband, she is fluent in Spanish, loves salsa dancing, biking and snuggling with her three beautiful cats. 

  1. Defining success

Being in music school you are taught all of the tools needed to successfully become a musician.

We receive amazing master classes, one on one instruction with our professors, great guest lecturers and much more. All of these amazing opportunities give us the tools we need to succeed in the field, whether you become a performer, teacher, administrator or even entrepreneur. When I completed my music studies by receiving a bachelor, masters and two performers certificates, I felt more then ready to enter the field, take auditions, network, free lance, teach and be the go getter I needed to be. My first year after my masters, I was officially #adulting, aka, financially solo. I picked up a part time job waitressing to make money, but I got so obsessed with having money so I wouldn’t stress with finances that I turned down last minute gigs or turned away auditions that were far away because I didn’t want to take off of work at the last minute and risk losing a somewhat flexible job that I had because trust me it is rare to find for a musician. A year into the job, I was starting to feel angry because my soul was not satisfied. I was practicing less, and feeling really grouchy about it and on top of it I was feeling like a loser because every where I turned, all of my fellow classmates were winning jobs and I had the few gigs and students but mainly was a waitress. Well fast forward a few years and I am now making a big chunk of my income from teaching and performing and no longer waitressing! To me, that is a level of success, because I am not relying on waitressing to pay my bills. I can officially call myself a free lance musician. So then why is it when I returned to one of my alma matters and was discussing with a professor about my recent achievements that they said, just wait and your time will come. In my head, I was thinking, my time will come? How is this not successful? So it is only success when we can say we are a title with a name? Well let me tell you, I jumped through hurdles to get to this personal level of success, and I feel so good about it! So please, if anyone tries to tell you other wise, stick to what is an achievement for yourself and just like with any goal, once you reach it, you never stop, you keep reaching and that is what I am doing. I hit a level of success of not needing to waitress and now my next level is to win a job and then after that become a full time horn professor. If you are making money playing your instrument, you have succeeded.


        2. Practicing less is more

My first year out of school I faced two challenges. The first challenge was finding the time to practice and the second challenge was finding a place to practice. I lived in an apartment and I would practice there until someone complained and I had to stop. I really do not like playing with a silent mute all the time so I would crash the practice rooms of a local music school. But it was taking a risk, because sometimes I would find a room and other times they would be full during the ninety minutes that I had to practice. I also kept getting tired of lugging all of my stuff back and forth so I decided to post on a local moms face book group asking for private studio space to rent and I got lucky because I found a woman that rented me this amazing space in the woods and instead of paying her, I got to do social media for her private furniture company. So the challenge of finding a space was solved, but what about time? Mama mia, where is there time? In my undergrad every guest speaker would say the same thing, “Practice now while you are in school because you will not have the time when you leave”, and in my head I would say “yeah right, I will never have that issue because I am so diligent with my time management and squeezing in two to three hours of practicing.” Well dang, I hate admitting it but they were right. Between gigs, teaching, part time job, and making sure I sleep, the day slips by and the time I used to have to practice no longer exists, unless I make it work. I try my best to wake up early before work to get a warm up in, and on days that are crazy, I try to find an hour to practice to make the most out of that precious time. This has led to becoming  more efficient and focused in my practicing.  I actually have improved more in the first year out of school then I did when I actually was in school. When I am driving to work, I play the excerpts that I am learning for an audition or listen back to recordings of my practice sessions. While I am at work, I sing rhythms and excerpts to repertoire I am learning, so that when I enter the practice room, my mental training is done and all I need to do is apply it to the horn. No matter how tired I am or how much is going on I try to at least schedule an hour a day to the horn so that I feel accomplished and more confident that I am not slacking.


  1. Having another job is okay

I’m now experienced with many jobs. I have waitressed, catered, sold wine, did arts administration, babysitting, web sales, shipping and inventory, youth group leader, pretty much if it was money and fit into my schedule I would do it. Thus the feeling of shame crept in as I was having to do another job that was not music.  Come to find out, after discussing this topic with colleagues, I learned that I was not alone and had nothing to be ashamed of. I then thought that this would make a great poll question for my social media network. I, therefore, reached out to all of my friends on Facebook and to my surprise, people who hold famously delicious playing jobs, whom I never thought of responding, did! The jobs they mentioned having were; office services representative, arts administrator, amazon warehouse associate, substitute teacher, bartender, server, tutoring, dog walking, personal trainer, babysitting, real estate, customer service, coffee barista, box office, among many others. Like I said, when people were writing in, people whom I know of that play Broadway shows, have a full time free lance scene or a full time playing job, were surprising me with other day jobs that they also have. This is the reality that is not taught to us in school. There is no reason to feel ashamed that you are collecting money from another source and if anything I used the extra jobs that I did as another form of networking. I would always carry my business card with me because you never know who you would meet. One night when I was waitressing, I met a couple that was the director of the culinary institute, and he got me a gig there as background music for a French champagne event. I got paid, fed and was served expensive French champagne, life was good!  I would view my “other job” as another form of networking and thinking of it as an investment of meeting different people that I would never meet to open my horizons to different opportunities for performing.  Now that I am freelancing for a good majority of the time, whenever there is a slow month I call back my old jobs asking if they need an extra hand so that I can make a few extra bucks during the slow times.


        4. Age is nothing but a number  

I started to have a career in freelancing at the age of 24. I thought I was old for my age in the field because everyone I went to school with was winning a job. Though as I started to talk around to the fellow musicians in the groups I was playing with, I was practically the baby! While studying with Javier Gandara, we talked about this exact topic. He told me that for the the majority, people don’t win their big job until their late thirties, early forties.  And sure enough everyone I was gigging with were in their thirties or older. He told me that it was not until his late twenties that he really understood how to play the horn and I feel like I can relate to that. I feel like my mental maturity has allowed me to understand concepts of my playing that were lacking, to finally improve them! There is not a lot to say on this exact topic other than to not compare yourself to others. We are constantly hearing about these successful young players winning big jobs and it can make us feel like that is the big picture, but the reality is that it is not. It reminds me to keep my mind on my goal and focus on my growth.  Whether you make it at twenty or forty, there is no difference because you are making it!


  1. You are not alone

The more I speak about this with other collegues the more I feel that these topics are important. It is important to know that you are not alone. Do not allow the level of success of everyone around you effect you to becoming the best you can. Whether you continue in performance, or move on to another field, never think that you have failed. Just the other day I asked my friends on Facebook another poll question and it was “if you primarily are financial on freelancing, how long did it take you to get to that point”. Their response? For the most part, it has taken people anywhere from one to six years to get started nationally and internationally. Each individual explained that there is never a moment that passes by of not feeling financially secure but just keep doing what you can, going day by day and take pride in the moments that are strong and find the strength inside you to get through the moments of weakness. As people always say they wish their high schools had prepped them for life skills such as filing taxes, I wish the conservatories I attended had discussed the real balance between succeeding in the field while balancing life.  Always support your friends, your colleagues and most importantly support yourself!

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