Let me begin by saying that I completely respect a parent’s authority and (as a parent myself) that a parent’s decision is absolute; however, I would like to challenge the idea that ceasing lessons is the best answer to academic “rough spots.”
Music is Education
Music lessons are too often ranked low on the totem poll in comparison to academics, sports, and other school-related activities. I am a strong believer that music is a very important part of general education. There are countless studies that support music’s positive impact on the mind and learning. Music is, and should be, classified simply as education. The most successful students I teach are well-rounded individuals educated and trained in academics, physical activity, and the arts.
Music Can be a Career
My dad once told me I was living a pipe dream by trying to succeed in music. He actually kicked me out of the house because of the differences in our outlooks. Nowadays, he’s my biggest fan and has apologized for not believing in me. There are so many avenues for students to make a legitimate career in music. Like any trade, if you do good work, you will be successful; how successful is up to the individual. It is my hope that parents will start appreciating its validity and not trivialize music as only a hobby that accompanies your “real job.”
Strengths and Weaknesses
There are some students at our studio who are extremely gifted and passionate about music. In some instances, it is one of the few areas in which the student excels. Many parents believe that taking away something that their children love and are passionate about will make them more focused on their school work. I would argue against that line of thinking; if they love it and are passionate about it, and it is education (see my first point), then perhaps it would serve the child better to pour more into it. Music may actually be the most viable career for some of these students.
At Freeway Music, we instructors highly value the mentoring aspect of our jobs. We not only teach students how to play, but we also ask them about their weeks and their schoolwork, encouraging them to do better, instilling professionalism and responsibility into them, and more. This mentoring is vital in children’s lives. Rather than removing the lessons, what if you had a meeting with their private instructor (who often has heavy influence on the student) and ask them to help encourage the student to improve in school as a way of showing how serious they are about pursuing their passion for music? Use this passion to fuel their academic pursuits.
When it comes to removing distractions that can be leveraged as privileges, there are more appropriate things to remove from a child’s life than music lessons. What about phones, tvs, tablets, computers, going out with friends, dessert, cars, etc.? Surely there are some pretty strong bargaining chips beyond music lessons.
At the end of the day, music is a form of education that can help make a student well-rounded and perhaps propel them to a career. Music instructors provide a service that includes one-on-one mentoring. I must say again, I completely respect parental authority and the parent is final arbiter. I just ask that you consider these points I detailed above and challenge your preconceived notions that music lessons are expendable.
- Manager: Artists are always in need of someone to keep them organized and on schedule. You could help artists with their affairs as a personal manager or you can help organize a tour as a touring manager. If you are good at organizing, scheduling, and delegating tasks, this may be the right music career choice for you.
- Label: This could be a category all within itself. There are so many components included such as: Management, A&R, PR, Social Media, Distribution, etc.
- Booking Agent: Just like it sounds, a booking agent lines up shows and tours for bands. It may sound simple, but it’s very involved. There are a lot of moving parts to coordinate. The booking agent has to communicate with a lot of venues, bands, managers, etc, and coordinate all of them.
- Promoter: If you like creating and building hype, promoting may be the best music career path for you. Promoters organize, manage, and market events. They can work for the artist or the venue. Promoters use print ad, radio, billboards, social media, the web, press releases, etc to promote events.
- Publisher: Publishers help composers and writers sell and distribute their material, while ensuring that they are paid for their material. The royalties for songs are typically divided into melody, lyrics, and publishing. A lot of artists are not right for the spotlight and have publishing deals instead. Publishing is vital for writers.
- Original Project: A lot of artists make their money off of touring and merchandise sales. Creating, performing, and selling original work is what most musicians dream of. It’s one of the longest and hardest roads, but certainly one of the most rewarding as an artist. If this is your dream and passion, make sure you prepare yourself for hard work.
- Cover Band: Cover bands are plentiful and the gig opportunities for cover bands are plentiful, as well. Generally, the amount of income of a cover band is proportionate to their ongevity and how hard they work. There are many local bars, clubs, and restaurants that hire cover bands; however, the higher paid gigs are weddings, private parties, and corporate events. These jobs tend to spawn from playing out in the local scene.
- Support: This is also know as a “hired gun.” Essentially, you would audition for a group and get paid to play on a tour. The pay can be very good if you are with a bigger act and you get an opportunity to have free travel. Living on the road can be hard, however, and hired guns typically live gig to gig.
- Symphony: As a classical musician, this is a great steady job. Most major cities have symphonies. Pay is drastically different depending on the symphony.
- Broadway/House Band: Another form of a steady job is to be part of a pit or house act. It can be as small as a local house band for a club or as large as a steady act in Vegas or on Broadway. Often, these musicians are required to read and understand music at a high level. The pay for these jobs can also vary a lot depending on where you are playing.
“Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.” American Music Therapy Association
If you are passionate about music and the medical field, this is a perfect music career for you. The great thing about music therapy is that there are a wide range of patients you can work with. You can work with children with special needs or elderly patience with Alzheimer’s. You can even work with people with addiction issues. This is a rapidly growing field and illustrates the power of music.
Make sure you check out Music Career Options Pt. 1
Oftentimes when musicians decide they want to have a music career, they don’t realize the amount of options available. The purpose of this blog is to detail some viable career options for musicians aspiring towards a music career.
- Songs: The typical track for writing is to create music and lyrics to form a song. Not only can you sell songs personally, but you can place them with artists, movies, etc.
- Film: As mentioned above, movies often need soundtracks. One can easily forge a music career around scoring for films. This is a great avenue for someone with experience in conducting, symphonies, or writing parts for multiple instruments.
- Symphony: This one closely relates to the above career track, but focuses more on just writing for symphonies, orchestras, and various arrangements for instruments. This is a great path for a classical musician. Each state, and most major cities, have symphonies.
- Video Games: The video game business is booming. Every video game has a soundtrack, just like movies. Video games are really turning into movie-like productions, becoming more and more complex with time. This option is great if composing music for video games is a passion for you, as the demand continues to grow.
- Producer: Producers have a wide range of jobs they do in the studio. A lot is based on their skill set. Producers generally call the shots for how the record will come together. Things that producers work on include: writing, arrangement, equipment choice, mic placement, choosing players, instrumentation, effects, and basically anything that affects the sound of the recording.
- Engineer: The engineer is the “nuts and bolts” guy. They will do the actual recording into Pro Tools, Logic, or whatever recording software is being used. An engineer will also be able to set up mic, inputs, plugins, equipment, and everything to the producers liking. Engineers also will make any edits necessary and adjust levels for each instrument. Some engineers specialize in just mixing, drum edits, etc.
- Recording Artist: A recording artist is someone who specializes in session work at the studio. You will absolutely need to know your instrument well, be knowledgeable of gear, and able to work in pressure situations. Many recording artists also tour with the bands that they record with. If you are looking to make a music career as a session player, it’s important that you live in a town with a lot of recording studios. Also, it doesn’t hurt to stick around a while and get to know people in the scene, as engineers and producers often use guys they know.
- Mastering: Mastering is the icing on the cake. After a project is produced, recorded, and mixed, it is sent off for mastering. Mastering uses very expensive equipment to assure that each song on the record is similar in volume and tone. This process also includes the ordering of the tunes and the spacing between the tunes on the album.
- Band Director: If you are choosing this option as a career path, you must make sure that you are absolutely passionate about band. It requires a great deal of work and organization, but has a great reward. You get the benefits of having a steady job and a window of time (summer!) off as well.
- Private Music Teacher: This is a very popular option nowadays. Freeway Music is a model based on private music lessons. This career takes a while to build up clientele and can be unpredictable; however, it pays well and is flexible for one that is pursuing other musical projects. It’s imperative that you hook up with a great studio.
- College Professor: A college music educator has a more set schedule, but is also a steady music career with decent pay and benefits. One can also earn tenure in a college teaching position. You will more than likely have students that are serious about learning. Also, there are research opportunities and a pool of talented musicians readily available.
- Public School Music Teacher: Many jobs fall under this category: general music educator, chorus director, orchestra director, and there are even private music lessons jobs available depending on your school district. A public school career offers a set schedule, benefits, and steady pay. This is a great career choice for someone who likes consistency and is less of a risk taker.
I remember when I first walked into the music store and saw my old guitar teacher working there. He asked if I wanted to teach guitar in his store and I was a bit shocked. I said, “Sure…Why not?” I had no idea it was the beginning of an amazing journey for me. At first, teaching was just a job for me, but it quickly became one of the best things that ever happened to me. The more I taught music, the more passionate I became about teaching. There are countless benefits to teaching music, but I’m going to only list three…because I have an affinity for threes.
1. The Reward
Honestly, there is nothing more rewarding than teaching. Watching students “get it” and smile is enough to fuel my tank for days. I also love the character development you see in a music student. Music has a way of bringing students out of their shell and sparking individuality. It becomes a unique experience for every guitar student I have. It’s amazing to watch students perform at our showcases and see their confidence grow right before everyone’s eyes. I have parents walk up to me all the time and tell me how much I have impacted their kids’ lives. Students call me 10-15 years later expressing their gratitude for our lessons. Many of my students have gone on to become professionals themselves, using the very tools they were equipped with in their music lessons. There is nothing that describes the reward of teaching, unless you have experienced it yourself.
2. The Student
Sometimes, I am not really sure who the real “student” is…them or me. I have learned more from teaching my students than I have doing anything. Simply going over various learning events in lessons, I have discovered new information on the fly. Sometimes, students will show me something they discovered that I didn’t even think about. Teaching music has stretched my repertoire, styles I teach, instruments I play, methods, approaches, and much more. The better my students are, the more I need to practice to stay ahead of them. If you are striving to be a better player, you’ll be blown away by how much teaching is learning.
3. The Job
The previous two points were certainly my favorite benefits from teaching; however, there is the obvious benefit that teaching is a great occupation. Teaching private music lessons is a steady job that can pay quite well. Being a musician sometimes can be tricky and one has to wear many hats. Teaching music can be a viable career option or simply a stepping stone towards another career option. It is a very flexible job with both scheduling and the amount of hours you care to work. One can easily foster other musical goals while teaching music. Also, you are in an environment working with other music professionals like yourself. This will cause you to challenge and support one another.
If you haven’t taught music before, give it a shot. It could be the occupation that will catapult you to becoming solely a professional musician. It certainly will cause you to grow and learn, and the reward that you receive will be lifelong. Good Luck!