I’ve just come back from a wonderful trip to Michigan where I got to play a recital and do some teaching in a few different settings. It was very exciting and wonderful and I learned a lot. I’d also like to thank everyone who made it so wonderful and gave me such awesome opportunities.
In the course of all this teaching, I was really struck by the questions the high schoolers and the 5th graders asked me. I wanted to share their thoughtfulness and insight, and my answers, in case you’re considering music for college, or wondering what happens after you get your degrees.
A little about me, I’m a freelance musician in New York City. I prefer to play new and contemporary music, though I just love to play and will happily play my flute for almost anything. (As long as it’s a paying gig. As a professional, I’m pretty much past doing gigs “just for the experience”)
Question 1: What is your job?
Right now I work a few jobs. In no particular order: I have a small flute studio of private students; I teach for a small music school in Queens (this includes private flute and saxophone lessons, and a class of preschool music); I freelance as a flutist playing a mix of new music gigs and things like small musicals and weddings; I operate as a solo artist, doing some guest teaching and concerts outside the city (this sort of falls under freelancing, but I help organize this, a little different from being hired for a gig); I work at a Brooklyn coffee shop; and occasionally I babysit small children. I also do some volunteering, organizing a chamber music concert series in my neighborhood with the local arts organization.
Question 2: Would you do anything differently?
I think I would have done more studying while in school. I went to all my classes and did the work, but I didn’t focus on the more academic aspects of music very much, opting instead to do more performance-based classes, and now I wish I had a more thorough knowledge of music history and theory. (Though I work on this by reading, there’s a huge body of published works on just about everything). I also wish I had some sort of pedagogy training. Teaching is a big part of my career and it took me a little while to feel out what works and learn how to teach effectively.
Question 3: Did you work in school and do you have loans?
I did work in school, about 10 or so hours a week during the semester (during my undergrad) and more in the summers, and I do have some school loans. As a performance major, I feel like we had a lot more demands on our time that had to be scheduled around (rehearsals, concerts, practicing as well as studying). I don’t know if we were in general busier than the average liberal arts major, but was a little difficult to work a job that wasn’t flexible scheduling wise. About student loans, it’s nearly impossible to avoid them (except by lots of scholarships, apply to them all), even if you’re working a lot and full time in the summers. With the cost of college steadily rising and wages staying the same, it’s not really possible to work your way through school the way our parents may have.
Question 4: How busy are you?
This depends on how you define busy. If I’m only considering work (any thing listed above) that I get paid for, I’m working roughly 4 full-time days a week, with some other things scattered around. If I include all the practicing, organizing, and prep work, (unpaid aspects of being a musician), those other 3 days get filled up pretty quick. On an average week, I’m probably working 45-50 hours including all the paid and unpaid work. This of course varies by what I have going on, some weeks are more, some less, some weeks I’m out of my apartment all day, everyday, some weeks I’m working from home more. It’s a very fluid schedule.
Question 5: Do you get a lot of gigs?
I get enough gigs. I’m not that super busy musician who runs from gig to gig all day long, but I get enough to feel like I’m doing things, and not so much that I start to hate the jobs I’m doing.
Question 6: What is the ratio of new music gigs (stuff I enjoy) to other stuff?
I tend to have more new music gigs than other stuff, mostly because I know more people in the new music world than any other circle. I do get other gigs that are fun and interesting, just not as often.
Question 7: Are you happy with the way your career is going and do you have a specific goal in mind?
I am very happy with the way my career is developing. I don’t have specific goals, though I do have things I like to do; playing chamber music, playing new music, teaching flute, community outreach and education, bringing new music to places where it doesn’t have a presence, etc. There are lots of ways my life can include these activities, so I’ll keep working on these projects and hope it all works out :)