Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor: What You Won't Learn at Most Music Schools

2nd Edition Just Released!

✓ Updated statistics to many topics such as health care, taxes, credit cards, and royalties
✓ New sections on social media, websites, email marketing, crowdfunding, interviewing, documenting your work, professional writing, publishing your work, a profile on Brooklyn Duo, and more!

The professional music world...it's tough out there! Yet musicians manage to survive and even thrive in this competitive environment. Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor encourages the reader to take his or her skills, talents and interests and put them into a package - You, Inc. A musician is like a small store where clients come to buy your musical services. It can be a corner store where selections may be generic, or it can be a specialty boutique. We want boutiques. The authors' mission is to help young musicians who are at point A in life, figure out where they want to be (point B), and to discover their path to get there. It's realistic but positive, because the truth really is that one can craft a successful, meaningful, personalized career based on interests and talents, and that is one of the fantastic things about being a musician. Among the many practical skills you'll learn are:

  • ✓ developing an entrepreneurial mindset
  • ✓ understanding your musical marketplace
  • ✓ separating yourself from the pack
  • ✓ navigating professional relationships
  • ✓ maintaining your artistic integrity whilestriving for financial success

Perfect for music students just entering the professional world or for anyone considering a career in music—and a helpful read for non-musicians and old pros, too!


Award-Winning Finalist in the Business: Entrepreneurship and Small Business category of The USA “Best Books 2011″ Awards, sponsored by USA Book News. (There was no music category.)

“Hello Professor Ricker — I am currently a sophomore trumpet performance major at Eastman… The other day I was perusing the shelves of the Eastman Bookstore and… I decided that your book seemed like a good read. I read it in a day! It has lessons in it that I’m sure I’ll be going back to weekly. I appreciate a book like this more than almost any other in the music business, and if were up to me I’d have every incoming student at Eastman pick up a copy. Thanks for writing!”
Andrew Psarris
Sophomore trumpet major, Eastman School of Music

“Love your book! I saw the press release recently in the U of R alumni newsletter, I think. It really is incredibly thorough. While I was reading it, I felt like you were talking to me. For a non-fiction career book, it really has a personal feel. Anyhow, I enjoyed it and learned a lot. I have been telling people about it. I hope you sell thousands!! ”
Brian Scanlon
Saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, educator, Los Angeles, CA

“Ramon’s new book, Lessons From a Street-Wise Professor is fantastic. A jazz book without one II – V – I. Heresy! Hey! – all you Giant Steps drones – pick up on some info that will give you ammunition to get a gig and run the changes and not have to play for the door. The sub-title tells it all – What You Won’t Learn At Most Music Schools,’and should know! It contains valuable info on everything from a musician’s Business Challenges to Negotiations and Contractors. A must read for anyone serious about playing music. So learn the tunes, leave the Real Book home and read this one.”
Phil Woods
Saxophonist and jazz icon

“Dear Ray– I got the Kindle version on Amazon (where I do most of my reading anymore and also being into instant gratification!). I’ve only just started reading but glancing at the table of contents, it looks like you have compiled years and years of accumulated knowledge and practical experience into this single volume. I remember many years ago (actually during the original run of Sweeney Todd), for fun and something to do during downtime (and there was a LOT of downtime on that show for us), one of my section-mates (Jack Gale) and I compiled a list things which could keep a person from either getting a gig or from getting called back by an employer. We were surprised that, while there were a number of music related entries, the lion’s share dealt with social skills and common-sense business acumen. From reading the outline of the “96 Things” chapter, it looks like you nailed all we hit on and more!!!! I’m looking forward to the rest of the book.”
Jim Pugh
Trombone soloist (Woody Herman, Chick Corea, Steely Dan, NY freelance), composer and currently Distinguished Professor of Jazz Trombone, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

“It’s easy to look at your musical life and career in the rear view mirror and see how all of the disparate pieces fell into place. Ray’s Lessons has more wisdom per pound than I’ve ever read in a book about the business of music. In fact, Lessons is much more—an essential guide book for success on artistic and entrepreneurial terms that leverages that crucial aspect of any artist’s life journey—a passion to create, and to share that creativity with the world. I hope it will become required reading by all young students of music.”
Jeff Beal
Emmy award winning composer

“I’m just delighted with this book, which is full of wisdom and practical advice. And on top of that, it’s a terrific read. If you’re picturing the path your career on your instrument might take, put this book at the top of the picture, with “START HERE” written all over it. ”
Greg Sandow
American music critic and composer

“Ray Ricker has written a valuable and comprehensive book on the aspiring musician’s journey. Ray’s vast experience in the music scene, as an educator, performer, composer, contractor, and instigator is the point of reference for the suggestions he offers. They come from the real world of the creative working musician. I wish I had access to this information when I was starting out! This book is a must for anyone having anything to do with the music scene, or for that matter, any kind of creative endeavor in the arts.”
Bob Mintzer
Grammy winning saxophonist, bass clarinetist, composer, arranger, big band leader, educator and member of the Yellowjackets

“His (Ramon Ricker’s) new book, Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor, What You Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools is a straightforward, expansive, and detailed treatise on how to succeed as a musician… with savvy advice and sound solutions… If you are a performer or teacher of music, you will want to read this informative and inspiring book.”
Jeremy Brown
Canadian Winds, fall 2011, vol. 10:1, p. 39

“Ramon Ricker is perfectly positioned to see the “larger truth” in terms of career development, maintenance and longevity (of musicians). In addition to his own personal experiences, he has helped more than three decades of Eastman classical and jazz alumni work to build their own lives in performance and education… (his) newest publication has the same hands-on feel as his many musical publications, and will provide a deep source of assistance and inspiration. An additional note: in the spirit of practicing what he preaches, Ricker self-published this book.”
David Demsey
Saxophone Journal July/August 2011, Volume 35, No. 6

“The book is essentially a 101 guide on the business of being a professional instrumentalist, covering everything from the basics of mechanical vs. print vs. performance rights to tips on avoiding being shafted on a recording or distribution contract.”
Matt Danemann
Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY Nov. 20, 2011

“Through experiences from his own career as a professor, performer, and author, Ricker has found that success stems from more than just a strong knowledge of music and first-class performance ability. Passionate mu¬sic students must also develop a business acu¬men that will allow them to navigate the real world after they complete their training in the “ivory tower.” … “Music is a high art form,” said Ricker. “But if you can make some money and support yourself, that’s not a bad thing. You need to be¬lieve in You, Inc.”
Natalie Antal
University of Rochester “Innovations,” Volume 4, Issue 1, Fall 2011

“It’s so easy, depending on your teachers, not to be prepared for a life in music,” Ricker says. “You can know an awful lot, but you’ll need to figure out how to survive. And many of the things I talk about in the book, and that we teach at Eastman, are things professional musicians would learn in the first five to ten years of their careers. We’re trying to smooth out the (career) road and get rid of those speed bumps.”
Kathleen McGarvey
Rochester Review, May–June 2011, Vol. 73, No. 5

“Written in a conversational style and filled with practical case studies, Dr. Ricker’s pragmatic book is a must read for any aspiring music student about to embark on a professional career. Ray tells an honest story, without discouraging students, about the challenges a life in music presents and how they can position themselves to take advantage of, and create opportunities in an increasingly competitive field. The book is the result of Ray’s experiences crafting the Eastman School of Music’s forward thinking music leadership program.”
Richard Lawn
Dean of the College of Performing Arts at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia

“Thanks so much for sending the new book. I felt like I could hear your voice inside my head reading it to me! Your new book is extremely important for aspiring professional musicians. . .it offers straightforward methods in avoiding the many career pitfalls that you’ve observed young players unknowingly fall into.”
Mike Titlebaum
Director of jazz studies at Ithaca College

“As I read Lesson’s From a Street-Wise Professor I realized that Ray was most likely the very first truly entrepreneurial musician I’d met. I was 18, had just arrived at Eastman and here was this sax prof who had his hands in EVERYTHING and did them all well! . . . Reading Ray’s book is like sitting down and talking with him for a week and asking him 1000 questions and getting 10,000 answers. I highly recommend this new book to any student considering ANY kind of career in music as well as people teaching music. I found several things enlightening with plenty of “oh yeah I forgot about that” moments!”
Kim Scharnberg
Producer, arranger, composer and conductor

“A must read for anyone entering the music business as it gives you a holistic approach to keep your art and business alive. It is all the little things the give you what you need and Ramon lays it out in easy to read and understandable language.”
Jerry Bergonzi
Tenor saxophonist, jazz performer, composer, author and educator

“The strength of Ramon Ricker’s both upbeat and realistic book derives from his own experiences over 40 years as a performer, composer and educator. In addition to providing important practical information and advice, he effectively breaks down the considerable challenge of building a successful career into achievable steps that any young aspiring musician would be wise to consider.”
Edna Landau
Director of Career Development at the Colburn School and former Managing Director of IMG Artists.

“No one is more qualified to write THE book about “the biz” than Ray Ricker, who has 40+ years as a superb performing artist/teacher/administrator. . . He holds back no secrets about the best methods of making a living as a performer, recording artist, composer, and teacher. Ray is even kind to the lawyers and how they can work for YOU! . . . But it’s for experienced music people, too. As an old-timer who occasionally has bouts of ‘hardening of the artistries,’ I was reaffirmed by Ray’s illuminations about why we chose music all those years ago. There’s a holistic approach here that will feed the musical soul.”
Patrick Dorian
Distinguished Professor of Music East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania

“I just finished your book. I really enjoyed it. I have to say that even though I had heard many of those stories and words of wisdom from you back in the day, I found it inspiring to hear it all again. It reminds me of why I went into music to begin with. As you point out in the book, it’s not always easy to keep sight of that.

The stuff about contractors is right on. I have dealt with those guys in NYC a lot and everything you say is not just right but right on the money. I’m glad I heard that stuff from you in the 80s before I came to the city. You’d be surprised how many guys come down here and do some incredibly stupid stuff. Great players sometimes don’t work for all the wrong reasons, talking too much, not calling guys back in time etc.

I think that the most important stuff is the stuff about how one’s career can take some twists and turns and that those turns can be a positive not a negative. Nancy and I both started ESM with one narrow focus and have done a lot of other stuff over the years. I think that is probably hard to hear when you are in your twenties but boy is it obviously true in your 40’s! The whole idea of You, Inc is a great one since in the end that is really all we have to offer that is unique.”
Tom Christensen
Freelance saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist NYC

“Lessons From A Street-Wise Professor is full of straight-forward, essential and practical tips for the young musician seeking a successful career in the music business. If you want to be a successful working musician, you need this book.”
Jeff Tyzik
Conductor, Composer, Arranger, Trumpeter

“Lessons From A Streetwise Professor is a much-needed book of practical, pragmatic advice from a musician who has enjoyed tremendous success in every facet of the music business. Ramon Ricker’s nuts and bolts information is engagingly delivered with thoughtfulness and humor. I hope this book will become a standard text for music students and professionals everywhere.”
Mark Kellogg
Associate Professor of Trombone, Euphonium, and Chamber Music, Eastman School of Music Principal Trombone, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra

“Ray Ricker’s book is a must for any college student to own. It provides a truly multi-faceted plan that will enable the student to function effectively and forge a solid career in the professional music world.”
Rich DeRosa
Associate Professor of Jazz Composition/Arranging University of North Texas

“Kudos to Dr. Ramon Ricker on a most original, insightful and extremely informative book for college music students, music educators and professionals alike. This is an essential compendium of important and useful advice that every aspiring musician should absorb and put into practice. I know that this will be required reading for all of my students!”
Chris Vadala
University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Director of Jazz Studies/Professor of Saxophone

“Great book—It reads like you talk! I wish I had read this when I was about to get out of the army.”
Hubert “Tex” Arnold
pianist, conductor, New York

“Great book! It’s a straightforward and well-catalogued examination of just about every aspect of the arts/music business and it reads like advice from a friend. The information is so well presented. . . financial, taxes, how to conduct oneself in the workplace, etc. . . without losing sight of the fact that we are in the music business because we have a passion for it. This book should be required reading by all high school/college students who are preparing for a career in music. Thanks for putting so much of your wisdom into print.”
Charles Pillow
Freelance saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist NYC

“One of the most important lessons a student should learn in music school is that there exists a wealth of information to learn about music and the music business beyond graduation. Experience may be the best teacher, but how much richer the experience will be with a little foresight and guidance. Ray Ricker’s remarkable career embodies the multi-faceted musician: performer, composer, arranger, author, contractor, and most importantly, educator. In Lessons from a Street-wise Professor, Ray has refined a lifetime of wisdom learned through experience, to share it with others who may just be getting started in their musical journeys. Here is an enlightening, informative, and enjoyable ‘how to’ handbook for creating rewarding careers as professional musicians.”
Jamal Rossi
Executive Associate Dean, Eastman School of Music

“Great advice from a true musical renaissance man: orchestral musician, jazz player, composer, author, pedagogue, administrator—Ray has done it all! I am proud to count Ray among my most important mentors and friends. If you read this book, he will be your mentor, too.”
Greg Yasinitsky
Regents Professor of Music, Washington State University

“What an important, informative and wonderful book: Lessons From a Street-Wise Professor. I am recommending it to all my students as an important summer read! . . . and a must read for all graduating music students too!!!”
Justin DiCioccio
Assistant Dean and Chair of the Jazz Department
Manhattan School of Music

“Just finished your book on Kindle, and what a great read! The content is so very thoughtful, very complete, and very understanding of the reader and any and all of their apprehensions. You have presented picture perfect scenarios and processes, ways of thinking that can be applied to any endeavor. Not just the career of a professional musician.
My work in orchestra marketing tends to run in a parallel line, very close to musicians, so I found your lessons insightful to their perspectives, and how their perspectives complement my own. We all have our box of Legos, don’t we?
A spectacular piece of work. A book I will be carrying with me and returning to for a long, long time. Thank you for writing it.
Christopher Stager, CEO
CRStager marketing & audience development; and orchestra marketing consultant
New York, NY

“Start early and read often: A must must read handbook for every music student aspiring to a music career starting in the freshmen year!”
F. Joseph Docksey,
Professor and Director
Lamont School of Music, University of Denver

“This (book) is absolutely relevant to every music student and music professional and should be required reading for everyone. I will definitely make this my textbook at Penfield, and am anxious for it to be published to get copies for my own sons!”
Jim Doser
Music Department Chair, Penfield, NY, Central School District