good-bye, 2008, hello 2009

Is 2008 really over? It was such a big year in terms of world events - Obama's election, the fall of Wall Street, the demise of American auto makers, the housing crisis. But for me and my little life, 2008 was basically a year of getting through a relatively challenging year of parenting and not much else. Not that parenting itself isn't eventful and interesting already...but it's not like 2007 when I did a bunch of semi-professional music stuff AND finished my degree AND had a baby. All I can say about this year is that I didn't succeed in getting Daniel potty-trained; neither have I succeeded in convincing Anya that eating something besides breast milk is a good idea. Oh, she nibbles on the occasional Cheerio, but that's about it.

So instead, let's look ahead to 2009. I have always known that life as a professional musician is neither easy nor lucrative. I am starting to realize, however, that my so-called career choice is not only impractical, but may be reaching a dead-end. I am not on the job market, I am not networking with other musicians, I'm hardly playing any gigs. I am spending all of my time at home raising the kids, cooking the meals, and not doing a very good job keeping the house clean. At first, I thought this was a temporary arrangement, but the longer I am out of the loop, the harder it will be to get back in, and let's face it: as much as I would like (love, dream of having) an academic position someday, faculty jobs are nearly impossible to get, and I am not willing to move to just anywhere for one. So that leaves me with the possibility of giving this up completely, or limping along on freelance accompanying work (i.e. hiring myself out for high school concerto competitions) and private lessons that barely cover what it costs to hire a sitter.

Here's the thing. I'm tired of feeling so unprofessional. I'm tired of assuming that my career must be in a field in which I am so emotionally invested. I'm tired of feeling useless for anything but changing diapers and baking bread (though I do make good bread, if I do say so). I'm tired of people patronizing me and telling me how lucky I am to stay home and that I can always make a living out of teaching piano lessons from home. (I did not get a DMA in collaborative piano so I could teach piano lessons out of my living room; it's a fine and noble thing for many people, but it is not my bag.)

So I'm thinking I should do something entirely different, and I bet you'll be surprised at what I've come up with: accounting. Seriously, people. I'm really and truly considering it. I've always been good at math (though it's been a long while since I had a math class), I like numbers, I could probably do it part-time, and best of all, it's not one of those things about which people blithely say "Oh, it's SO great you can do your HOBBY for your JOB!" Now, I just have to figure out if this is something I can do without going back to school for another 5 years, because I'm not sure I could handle that.


Pam said…
Hi Suze! and happy New Year! Here's my two cents... Musical careers take a long time to build. Whenever you move to a new place (which is something I know a lot about) or get back into it after taking some time off (which is also something I know about), it takes a while to make the connections you want/need to make in order to build the kind of career you want to. I don't know exactly what you are looking for -- one gig -- a professorship or salaried performance work -- or a tapestry of varied musical work. I also don't know if you will ever be totally happy with what Madison has to offer you in terms of musical opportunities. What I do know is that you need to keep practicing, keep playing, keep taking auditions for things you want to be involved in, and be patient. In time you will make a musical life you enjoy, if you are honest with yourself about what you want, what you can live with, and what makes you happy, and you work towards those opportunities. After reading a post on my friend Josh's blog about how to make a living freelancing, I have to agree with him that it's a good idea to have work outside your field, so I'm not trying to totally diss your accounting idea. You might find that learning about accounting is mentally stimulating and that you enjoy doing it part-time. You might find that it is a nice contrast to your other activities. But, I hope you see it as just part of the puzzle and not a replacement piece. I'm sorry to sound so opinionated, but I understand what it means to be frustrated with your musical career and wonder why you've done so much schooling only to be doing work that doesn't call on your best self and all you've worked for. In my case, things have been gradually getting better, with patience and perseverance. They will get better for you, too. I am sure of it.

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