What is it Like to be a Musician?
Being a musician is quite the interesting job because we are never just one thing. We take on multiple tasks such as being a teacher, performer, tutor, composer, audio technician, etc. There are so many routes to take as musician as it is for other fields. For example, mathematicians can be more than a teacher or tutor. Sometimes people go into mathematics to become an engineer, architect, or wherever mathematics can take them, but when they decide on what to do, they typically stay with it. Musicians however almost don’t have a choice. They have to play multiple roles at once. There are very few cases in which a musician can actually stick to one role, but for the majority of musicians, we take on many.
I myself am a teacher, tutor, composer, arranger, pianist, flutist, performer, and flute technician. I play for churches, teach at a music school, teach privately in my own home, tutor college students, arrange music for different entities, repair flutes, and so much more. If I did not do all of these things, I most likely will not be making the living that I am making now. Is it hard doing all of these things? Not at all!
Why do we do this though? Answer: for survival. Our job isn't like most others. We are all individual entrepreneurs because very few musicians make a living doing only one thing. In fact, I personally don’t know anyone who only does one thing except for maybe music teachers at a public school. Even then, they may still search out another job or play music with another group.
Is this because these jobs pay us very little? Well, yes and no. Most of the jobs only require us to show up or work a small portion of the day once a week. However, it may pay a lot. Which is why some of us have to search out multiple places to fill the time slots or gaps in our schedule we have in our weekly schedule.
I know for my schedule, I’m a very busy person as many other. Is it because I’m struggling financially? Not at all! As musicians, we can make a living for ourselves, but why is it that most of us are so busy? We do the things we do simply because we love it. We intentionally pack our schedule up with our work because of our love for it. That’s why we chose this field. I’m just like any other person in any other field. We’re all busy in some way or another.
Just like anyone else, we make room in our schedule for those we want to see or hang out with. All my friends that are musicians always seem to find a time to hang out with one another. Yes, they’re busy and may not always be able to make room, but aren’t all other jobs the same? We’re busy people. We all work regardless if you’re in music or not.
Like every job, there is something we all dislike about it. What I dislike about being a musician is the amount of driving I have to do. As musicians, we travel a lot. Some of us will travel over 100 miles just to get to one performance. Is it worth it? Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes the pay will cover flights, hotels, etc. and still have much money leftover from the event(s). Sometimes we take on the job because of how much it boosts our resume. We all have our own reasons to take on gigs.
The majority of us are not going to be rich. The majority of us won’t have mansions and live luxurious lives. But it’s ok, because even if you aren’t a musician, your life will most likely be the same as other people. It’s possible to be a scientist, an engineer, a dentist, etc. and still not have your own mansion. We musicians aren’t that different. It’s simply a different profession and payroll. We can get our own homes. We can have our own families. We can even pay off our own debts. Of course, like any other field, you have to work hard for it and learn the system. An engineering major who finishes college and sits home obviously won’t be able to pay off their debt. Likewise for music majors. We aren’t that different. The only differences that I can possibly see are the amount of income that is made and what is done in each profession.
Another thing about being a musician is, we’re constantly meeting people. I don’t think there will ever be an end to meeting new musicians and upcoming talent. Sometimes I find it hard to keep track of who is who because of all of the people I’m meeting. I’ll even admit that when looking into my Facebook newsfeed, I see someone’s post that I don’t remember. I check their profile and see all the musician friends we have in common and hopefully remember who they are. Sometimes I won’t remember though! Sometimes the people I remember don’t even remember me! Nonetheless, that’s just a part of being a musician. I know it sounds silly, but I’m sure it’s like that in other fields too. There are so many people to meet and work with that it’s hard to keep track of who is who. We play in many different orchestras, wind ensembles, chamber groups, teach at different schools, and so much more. Pretty much like a schoolteacher who encounters hundreds and hundreds of students and forget about them after so many years.
In the end, we love what we do. I hear many stories of people who wake up wishing they didn’t have to go to work. There is negativity that comes out of them wishing they could do something else. We musicians who went into this field aren’t like that though. We chose this field knowing we aren’t going to be rich. We simply chose it because we love it. We look forward to the next day and the joy that it will bring us. Yes, like anywhere else, there will be challenges, but we know our job is what keeps us going.