How often as a fledgling musician, when you were, say… Not too good yet? Or had a night of debauchery at the local pub and heard a sub-par version of Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” during karaoke after Patricia’s bad break up with Mark? You often hear murmurs of snickers from the crowd along with: “Wow, Patricia, don’t quit your day job.” Largely due in part to the fact that Patricia’s liquid courage removed her fear of ridicule due to her unrefined singing abilities, and everyone else’s influence of alcohol made them a bit kinder… Wait, no, that is not correct, it certainly made them quite a bit more unkind – which is why someone is telling Patricia to not quit her day job.
However, I would tell anyone who is a fledgling musician or a musician who is infused with passion for the art to never, ever, ever quit their day job – which, is a means of supporting themselves. Even if you’ve just premiered your best aria in Carnegie Hall, even if you just won the Cliburn as a pianist – don’t quit your day job. But also, don’t quit being a musician and pursuing your art as a hobby, as a career or as a personal journey to a higher version of yourself.
Because you need to eat. You need to live in a home. You are not a robot. You, unfortunately, are a human subject to biological processes. Musicians are not computer processors. And many who study even as a hobby find themselves forgetting to make time to care for their biological systems. (Any wonder, considering we are often making our lives so intertwined with technology?)
I’m pretty okay as a musician; I play pipe organ for two churches and also accompany with piano for various occasions and I maintain a private studio. Not huge, but I have a few students enough to say I have a studio.These are some of my music related ways of making my way in the world, but primarily, my main work is that of being an ESL teacher. I’m extremely thankful for the company I work with, Alo7, for rewarding great tutors for their excellent teaching efforts! If you are a musician like me, I would definitely recommend interviewing with Alo7 right now (if you have a bachelors degree and an ESL teaching certificate). By the way, we’re hiring right now!
The ESL crossover from my opera training is actually very practical. I spent a few minutes in class today working with Chinese students preparing for high level exams, and my knowledge of IPA from opera studies was able to get into those tricky vowels we often run into as native English speakers. Try saying “mine” and “horizon” sometime and take a special listen to the “i” sounds… Diphthongs are a crazy thing!
I’m in the company of some great musicians and composers by having a seemingly non-musical day job. Check out the list of musicians and composers who would also recommend not quitting your day job:
- Philip Glass
- He is probably the most famous and inspiring composers, who kept up a prolific composing life while maintaining a job as a plumber. According to an interview by Christina Patterson for the Independent, Glass was 42 when he began making more money through this music. Until then, he was driving cab and doing plumbing work to support himself.
- Jon Nakamatsu was a German teacher who went on to win the Cliburn. His “day job” was a German language teacher at a high school.
Having stable day jobs did not preclude the aforementioned artists from building their craft and nurturing the gift within them. I’m not sure about you, personally, if you are a musician, but I feel sometimes the artistic community suffers from impostor syndrome if we don’t spend all of our time making music and building our craft.
If you stink at music, don’t quit your day job. If you’re awesome at music, don’t quit your day job. Because living must be supported by food and shelter, because we are biological creatures, we need this before we make any music. If music can eventually be your all encompassing day job, that is amazing! If it isn’t your all encompassing day job, that’s amazing too – because you’re still bringing something beautiful into the world while also being a responsible member of society. Stay whatever path you’re on to take care of yourself.
Long story short, do what you need to do and keep up your hustle: Keep your day job (or night job), my friends. Cheers!