Career Choices in Music Beyond the Pandemic: Musical and Psychological Perspectives

Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions we make in our lifetime. Career choice is more than just working to earn a living but also an important window into how we feel about ourselves. In this groundbreaking and provocative book, musician and psychologist Julie Jaffee Nagel explores how musicians’ work beyond the COVID-19 pandemic casts a light upon the necessity of rethinking, rebuilding, and possibly redesigning our concept of careers and music education in the arts.

 The pandemic was an unwelcome and sudden shock in the lives and careers of countless musicians, with many experiencing crises. Importantly, Nagel emphasizes that this trauma also has the potential to energize and expand horizons for rewarding, creative work. Musicians’ gifts include resilience and discipline, and their art has important social value. Music has the power to be an aural antidote and a “heard immunity” for psychological and social healing.  It is vitally important to express and share the musician’s healing role and the value of music in teaching studios, on stage, and through off-stage interactions with others as cultural ambassadors.

Variations on a Theme by Beethoven, Op. 35 (St. Saens)

Julie and Louis Nagel (2 pianos), Live Performance

Praise for Career Choices in Music Beyond the Pandemic

“This is a definitive study that is a must-read for musicians young and old as well as general readers interested in the music profession. Dr. Nagel’s carefully researched work combines the perceptions of a musician and psychologist dealing with post-pandemic challenges involving musicians’ contributions to our society.”

Joseph W. Polisi

President Emeritus, The Juilliard School

“I do not wish to rob glory from a student’s hopefulness, but rather, I want them to know that the very hard work will somehow pay off. Each individual will have their own brave story to tell. This much-needed book by Julie Jaffee Nagel provides important and continual support.”

Ruth Slenczynska

concert pianist

“This book offers deep psychological insights and a wealth of information on everything from early childhood experience, stage fright, concert fees, and so much more. It’s a veritable handbook of advice guiding musicians at every level into the new and ever-changing world of music.”

Arnold Steinhardt

first violin, Guarneri String Quartet

“Julie Jaffee Nagel, uniquely qualified to combine psychoanalysis and music, offers a design for a meaningful life as a musician. Mining the wealth of her personal and professional experience, she addresses both the economic demands and the many rewards of commitment to music.”

Sandra G. Hershberg, MD.

Baltimore Washington Institute for Psychoanalysis and Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

“Julie Nagel knows the field as a trained musical performer and a practicing clinician who is an international authority on work inhibition and performance block. There is none better!”

Peter Loewenberg

history and political psychology, professor emeritus, University of California Los Angeles

“Julie Nagel addresses the issues that face every musician in their careers. She explores them from personal and research-oriented perspectives while challenging students to examine their reasons for pursuing a career in music. With her background in music and psychology, there is no one more qualified than Nagel to examine these issues.”

Gayle Kowalchyk

piano faculty, California State University Northridge

“For years, music students (and their parents) have questioned the financial viability of pursuing music as a career. The pandemic only added to concerns. Nagel discusses these issues from psychological development and emotional health to practical issues of making money as a musician in today’s world. This is a must-read for every music student and professors who work with them.”

E. L. Lancaster

piano faculty, California State University Northridge

“This is an essential guide for musicians and music teachers, really for every teacher in every discipline. She helps with the difficult, conflicting career choices we must make throughout our lifetimes, preparing all students and teachers for the dangerous temptations that arise.”

Stanley J. Coen

clinical professor of psychiatry, Columbia University; training and supervising analyst, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research

“A must-read for any musician engaged in or considering a career in music. Nagel provides valuable insight into essential but rarely discussed subjects that impact the lives of every professional musician.”

John Viscardi

opera singer, Co-Founder of ArtSmart

“This book is especially appropriate and perfectly timed given the tremendous challenges artists have been handling for the past few years. Nagel promotes a thoughtful and holistic approach to helping the reader make wise and appropriate decisions for the future. Her book will encourage constructive personal introspection.”

Gail Berenson

Professor Emerita of Piano, Ohio University, past-president, MTNA

“Nagel’s psychological insights make this book a must-read. Her chapters on the “Pursuit of Perfection” and “The Golden Allure of Celebrity” should be read by anyone contemplating a rabbinic career.”

Rabbi Bruce Warshal

pulpit Rabbi, lawyer; economics instructor, Miami University of Ohio

“This is a unique and important book. Nagel deftly uses psychology to identify the basis of our career choices and their impact on identity and self-esteem. With vivid case examples, she highlights the musician’s emotional struggle for success. Above all the book reminds us that music and musicians inspire and sustain us.”

Stefan A. Pasternack

faculty, Florida Psychoanalytic Center; affiliate professor, Florida Atlantic University

“As a practicing musician and psychoanalyst, Julie Nagel is well-suited and uniquely qualified to help us understand and process the traumatic effects of the global pandemic on career choices faced by musicians. This timely reflection, with its optimistic outlook, weaves a compelling narrative using real-life examples, many of them her own, along with psychological concepts to provide a framework upon which to build or rebuild a successful music career. It should be required reading for everyone who is contemplating or is currently engaged in the music profession.”

Gary Ingle

Executive Director and CEO, Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)