The Los Angeles Times recently ran an article on musicians who have double careers. Rather than focusing on struggling day-jobbers, the article features musicians who are equally successful in two areas.
The author, Blair Tindall, knows her subject well. She’s a former professional oboist turned reporter and author of the book Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music.
A Mind Racing with Ideas
[M]usicians … often excel equally in two discrete worlds, their pursuits complementing each other. For example, mathematics and proportion learned through musical form may plug directly into another field, such as architecture or computing. Other musicians find more abstract uses for their musical training, citing the competitive nature of performing, the discipline of practicing and flexibility learned from irregular scheduling as among their professional assets.
I can definitely identify with one of the musicians she quotes, violinist/photographer Barbra Porter, who states:
I think many musicians have multiple talents. A musician’s mind is often racing with ideas, yet you’re expected to just sit there without wiggling during a performance.
As a full-time public relations professional and part-time voice student, I often find myself thinking about singing while at the office. (As my coworkers can attest, I often hum quietly to myself while I work.) I am often distracted by daydreams of projects - like this blog - that combine my musical training and PR experience.
Taking the Pressure Off
For many musicians, having two careers allows them to earn a stable living while pursuing musical gigs they really want. TheLA Times article is full of stories about people who chose to pursue new career opportunities, while continuing to perform as full- or part-time musicians. Their reasons - lifestyle, injury, financial instability in the music industry, etc. - are as varied as their career paths, which include:
- Cellist/computer engineer
- Cellist/non-profit executive
- Cellist/real estate agent
- Hornist/web designer
- Violinist/celebrity photographer
- Violinist/marriage and family therapist
Adria FirestoneI think a lot about how to structure a career in and outside of the arts as I consider my own choices. For me, PR is much more than a way to pay for voice lessons. It does pay the bills nicely, but it also fulfills my love for communication in its many forms, especially writing, photography, design, and presentation. Besides, I know I could never handle a full-time career as a performer. My interests are too varied, and I simply lack the physical and emotional stamina the lifestyle requires.
These thoughts have continued since I picked up the latest issue of Classical Singer. The magazine has recently published a series of articles by Adria Firestone, a retired opera singer who now works as a life coach. She writes vividly of the burnout and disappointment she experienced before leaving opera. Reading Adria’s story and the article in the LA Times makes me wonder how many others, like me, would be better served by balancing music-making with other work.