Go And Get A Proper Job!
These are words that many self-employed and freelance artists hear.
I gave up what some would consider a ‘proper job’ to do what I do now. As a Head of Expressive Arts in a secondary school I would leave the house at 7.15am to get to work for 8am. I would teach during the day, run groups and activities in my lunch time, complete paperwork and admin when able, attend meetings after school and head home around 5.30pm to get home for 6.15pm and start work again on everything I hadn’t completed during the day – lesson prep, emails, planning, data analysis etc. Don’t get me wrong, I know that a lot of people have really tiring, hard jobs but I decided in 2008 that I didn’t want to do this job anymore. I was at a great school with fantastic staff, a wonderful expressive arts team and I was well paid for what I did, but I had no life outside of school and as a musician this was difficult to accept. I was losing myself, losing the things that made me, me. I was doing very little playing, composition had come to a stop and I felt I had lost my way. I knew that I either had to stay in the same level of job for another 30 years, head into senior management which was something I had never been interested in, or leave the classroom behind and head into the unknown.
I am very fortunate. I have an incredibly supportive husband who was behind my decision 100%. He is a freelance artist, designer & prop builder. He encouraged me to become a self-employed musician – a decision I have never regretted, although my bank balance may not totally agree with that statement.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that my move out of education means that I work less. Honestly, I probably work harder now than before, but I am doing something I love. I still teach in schools, but instrumentally. The students I teach are wonderful and on the whole very enthusiastic. I spend my evenings working as an MD for a variety of theatrical groups and I have met some amazing people through this work. I am musical director of two choirs singing very different material from each other. In the next three months I am musically directing a brand-new musical, ‘Silas Marner’, with Sudden Impulse Theatre Group (Premiering at the Abbey Theatre in Nuneaton in November). I am playing in the pit for ‘The Sound of Music’ for two weeks at Rugby Theatre in December. I am MDing and conducting two choir concerts and I am piano accompanist for the vocal group ‘Expressivo’ for our annual Cancer Research UK fund raising concert in Warwick. I have some solo gigs coming up and I am also in rehearsal for the pantomime ‘Aladdin’ (with Sudden Impulse Theatre Company) as Musical Director, which is being performed in January 2020. In amongst all of this my own theatre group, Sparkle Theatre, is preparing for pantomime in December 2019 (we are performing ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’) and I am prepping for our big forthcoming show in the summer of 2020. AND as church organist at St Peter’s Church Galley Common I have a large number of special services coming up over the next few months.
Composition has come to a standstill at the moment due to rehearsals, but I have so many ideas currently I am having to make notes, so I don’t lose any of the lyrics, melodies and harmonies buzzing around in my head. I take inspiration from what is around me, and that’s what channels my music – something I rediscovered when I left the classroom.
Being a musician is not the glamorous job you may see on TV when you see the superstars on stage. It is hard work, practice, rehearsal, dedication, passion and love for your craft. Many creatives are poorly paid – imagine having two creatives in one house! There are times when you can only just make the bills, you pray that your old car is fixable because you can’t afford to buy a new one, you make do with your old mobile phone, you save every penny just in case, because you know there will be a ‘just in case’. In my first year of self-employment I earned less than a quarter of what I would have earned in the classroom, but I still wouldn’t change a thing, because money isn’t everything.
I have a wonderful, amazing, creative husband who is incredibly talented and a child who loves music and theatre as much as I do. I am doing a job I love. We can’t afford the latest gadgets, a huge TV, expensive foreign holidays or a big detached house and I’m not going to say that life can’t be stressful, but the stress doesn’t come from the music. It is generally caused by outside forces.
If all we creatives were doing ‘proper jobs’ society would lose so much. There would be no art, literature, music, drama, sculptures, comedy, film, TV, theatre ……. I could go on. I will never be rich or incredibly famous and I don’t mind that. That isn’t why I do what I do. If that’s why you do it you are missing the point. As long as I have enough to get by, a roof over our heads, food on the table, the love of my family and the support and respect of the people I have met along the way, I am content.
What better job could I ask for?