Recently a colleague of mine commented that although she had been working full-time in music, she decided to take a day job at a finance company where she has been for several years now, simply because it was "the adult thing to do."

Excuse me?

I was thoroughly insulted, as I had just decided it was no longer acceptable for me to pretend that anything other than singing was OK and what other jobs I have to support myself will be jobs that bring me further in my performance career. (And I've been an adult for quite some time now.) Thus the scope of my life is slimmer and more concentrated, yet just as interesting and challenging. All my work entails freelancing, which also means I shoulder a lot of responsibility. This freelancing was, however, not always the case. Here are just a few of the interesting things I've done to keep afloat whilst also working as a freelance musician:

  • Teach voice for kids, teenagers, and adults
  • Teach piano for beginners, kids & adults
  • Teach and tutor English as a Foreign Language (EFL) for children, teens and adults
  • Teach the American accent
  • Office Manager (part-time)

Teaching voice and piano for 5 years was incredibly enriching and loads of fun. I taught at music schools and I had private studio. Indeed, what is more fun than a 7-year-old improvising a spooky ghost piece on the piano and being so excited about it he practices it every day for three weeks! And the single mom who came in to practice her Brahms choir pieces who gave it her all every week and made outstanding progress. It was so incredibly rewarding. To a certain degree it was very much the alpha and omega for my own practicing, as the lessons were a constant reminder for me to keep up healthy breathing habits and to release my jaw, release my jaw, release my jaw...

Teaching EFL gave me excellent teaching skills and put me in touch with some very interesting souls, the corporate course I taught in particular. For 40 weeks I taught 5 groups of adults (1 group per day) Business, Conversational, and Technical English. Their company manufactures large-diameter ball bearings used for spacecraft, oil platforms, and wind turbines. I guess there aren't too many singer-actors out there who can boast about knowing the ins and outs of the manufacturing process of said bearings! Because I had a tough time teaching the course at the beginning I took a CELTA course and earned a CELTA certificate in teaching English as a Foreign Language. Without that course, I definitely would not have been as successful a voice teacher, nor would I have been as qualified to teach the American accent, which was a thrilling combination of American English diction and EFL. Since I'm a self-professed diction geek, it was right up my alley.

Being an Office Manager for 6 months helped me realize once again that my work is with people, not paper. ‘Nuff said.

Unfortunately, I have the feeling that my colleague and others aren't really that happy with their decisions. More than a few of my colleagues drink their bliss from a bottle instead of living it out loud; a few of the wives pretend that their husbands' successes make them deep-down happy, too. Many seem to be caught in between, having never really found their true north or believing somehow that it doesn't exist, that "having a career" is for someone else, but not for them.

Sounds harsh, but somehow it's just not. The happiest, most successful performers (instrumentalists, vocalists, conductors, actors, etc.) that I know use their day jobs as a means to an end, to fill in the holes that their performing careers don't quite fill. Or their situations are such that being a full-time performer is simply not feasible. Yet they are first and foremost performers who also have a day job that supports them and also brings them joy. They've found their unique path.

So what's the difference? What's the big deal? Maybe this is just a social construct, that to be a ‘successful' musician, one can only do music. Why is it that musicians are seen as ‘less musician' and ‘more adult' when they have a day job? I propose that we full-time performers AND performers with day jobs/second jobs are even more capable, since we 1) juggle a day job in addition to an entrepreneurship or 2) juggle several jobs, or 3) any combination thereof. We pretty much do it all and sometimes much more effectively and quite possibly on less sleep than the rest of the general population. Any wonder why so many of us are addicted to caffeine?

Why is the often deadening cycle of working 8 am - 5 pm seen in a more positive light than working all day every day? Tell me, what other career paths require such mental engagement 7 days a week? (No, those of you in offices for 16 hours a day don't count-you only have one job. Not 1 day job plus 3 ongoing gigs or 6 different jobs that make up a week.)

Let's list a few of the qualities of so many of us who are really doing it, whether full-time or in addition to a second job, and a couple of ideas about what's behind it:

* Responsibility

No responsibility means no work.

* Time Management

Scheduling work, lessons, gigs, rehearsals, travel time allotment, and making sure it all comes together.

* Networking

Finding out where the next gig is coming from at rehearsals, seminars, workshops, concerts, after-concert parties, coffee/tea/lunch/dinner dates with colleagues

* Ongoing professional development

Continued lessons, seminars, workshops, concert visits, possibly learning new languages/diction, new styles, new repertoire, etc.

* Career planning

(Sometimes years in advance) planning rehearsals and performances, planning gigs, scheduling projects, writing grants, hiring collaborators, writing texts, etc.

* Mentoring

Working with one's own mentors as well as mentoring others, teaching, instructing, collaborating

* Collaboration

Playing well with others.

* Communication & Marketing

Via phone, internet, email, Facebook, MySpace, having one's own website and/or blog, business cards, resumes, headshots, maintaining short and long biographies, etc.

* Travel planning

Living here and working there.

Then there is the actual performing to be considered! Instrument maintenance! Physical fitness! Practicing!

Maybe I'll ask my colleague what is so ‘un-adult' about being a successful entrepreneur.