Music professor lights path to artist success

Experience and contagious positivity shone through during a discussion of Jill Timmons’ new book April 2 in the Nicholson Library.

Timmons’ book, “The Musician’s Journey: Crafting Your Career Vision and Plan,” was released March 19 through Oxford University Press.

It is a product of Timmons’ life-long career performing and mentoring in the field of the fine arts. She hopes its contents will supply musicians with resources necessary to achieve the career of their dreams.

Timmons began crafting the book’s idea nearly 15 years ago, while teaching at Linfield. Timmons was a professor for more than 30 years, starting in 1981 and retiring in 2012. She is an emerita music professor, meaning that she retired from an active position but still holds the official title. She also remains in the Linfield community as a mentor for music students.

“I think she is one of the most inspirational teachers I have had,” said sophomore Ian Cox, who is majoring in music. “You can tell she has so much knowledge and passion in several areas.”

Timmons upholds an accomplished pianist career. Her talents guided her to performing throughout the world in Chile, Spain, France, Australia, Germany and Switzerland. She is frequently heard on NPR and records her own music.

Timmons has worked with numerous artists and music organizations, including non-profits, entrepreneurs and students.  Timmons said that those connections have shown her how to have a successful career.

“Some of this I bring from my own experience, but part of this is also an observation of other people and how creative and innovative they can be in pursing their dreams,” Timmons said.

During years of working with diverse individuals, she detected a theme present throughout such interactions. She said that all of the artists struggled with one of two things. Some had trouble defining who they were as artists in terms of passions, missions or reasoning for being artists. Or, others struggled to craft a plan to transform their artistic passions into careers.

Timmons said that each person is better at one of those areas than the other. Some people enjoy a nonlinear lifestyle full of contemplating creative and new opportunities. Others are skilled in managing time and being organized.

“You have to have these two things together,” Timmons said. “And they actually form a continuum. And that’s the foundation of my book.” Timmons calls it the vision plan continuum.

“This is, essentially, a new road map for musicians. If you can authentically describe and be in touch with what it is you want to do with great passion, what your calling is if you will, and you make a plan, you’re living as an entrepreneur. And if you’re like most musicians in this process, you will have a thriving career.”

Timmons’ book offers advice on crafting a vision. She directs readers to online worksheets to help grind out the complex process of doing so. She also advises artists on how to construct a plan that uses that vision to have success. She provides information on running a successful business, such as how to write a mission statement and what kind of staff to hire.

A portion of her book is dedicated to marketing. Timmons’ marketing starter kit can be found on her website. Timmons also wrote a section about grant writing.

“You can’t function unless you’re going out and finding money for your projects,” Timmons said.

Another section of the book is slightly unrelated to the other topics.

Timmons said that part of being a successful artist is being capable of shifting how the brain works.  Sometimes that means having to change an entire belief system.

Timmons said it is common for artists to feed themselves false information that is often negative or discouraging. She also said that performing in a temporal world induces anxiety because it is impossible for artists to foresee the quality of their future performances.

“All of this goes back to the brain and how it works. You have to create new neuropathways and create new habits,” she said.

Timmons provides extensive scientific research concerning such subjects within her book.

“I think it is central to being an artist,” she said. “If something is not working in life, you have to make changes.”

Timmons’ book discusses research developed in 2011. The National Endowment for the Arts and the Strategic National Arts Alliance Project (SNAP) from Indiana University conducted studies that excited Timmons. The studies gathered data about the lives and careers of arts graduates in the United States. It examined nearly 13,000 artists from more than 150 arts programs.

SNAP demonstrated that arts alumni generally have the same levels of enjoyment and satisfaction of their schooling and professions as undergraduates from other fields of study.

Data also illustrated artists’ employment projections for 2008 to 2018. The United States labor force is expected to increase by 10 percent. The profession’s category that includes artists is expected to increase by nearly 17 percent.

Timmons is confident that her plan works because she has lived it herself, and she has seen many other people carry it out.

“My opinion is, if I can do it, anyone can,” she said.

Carrie Skuzeski/Culture editor

Carrie Skuzeski can be reached at