So, what’s your real job?

So, what’s your real job?

This is a question I am asked all too often by both my parents, students, and sometimes fellow school staff/administration.

The financial elements of being a freelance music teacher and performer often present a unique lifestyle that most non musicians really have no concept of. Frequently I am even asked (as a saxophonist) when I am planning on joining an orchestra full time…

My response (much to the shock of the onlooker) : Never.

Sheet Music Plus Teacher

This is just one of many examples when the career path of a freelance musician can not be confined to a neatly wrapped package.

Being freelance is hard to explain. Are you a school teacher? Well Kind of: I teach just saxophone though, to one person at a a time, without an assigned classroom…… Also I am not on the payroll, and I receive no benefits…… But I do have a parking pass and a badge!

We private teachers straddle the line where we may be issued a badge by a school district, yet must identify ourselves at the front desk each time we enter the building!!! (This is one of life’s greatest mysteries!)

Your students are your employer and Its best for you if they know that.

Music is a noble art; we are trying to reach an abstract goal that really has no mountain top or concrete ending point. Often times in our creative ways, I think its easy to assume that everyone we associate with knows about our quest for great art!

Unfortunately students and or parents sometimes do not understand the years of schooling at a university or conservatory, the thousands of hours of practice, the hundreds of performances, hours of our own private study, immeasurable costs of instruments, music, supplies, music, other miscellaneous musician costs, and the continual development of our craft just to reach the point where we can have financial security in our chosen field of employment. They more likely assume you are someone who played in high school band and now teach a few kids as a hobby. Sigh,….

So, at the start of this year when I sent out my billing policy I simply informed my employers (parents) that this is what I do. I nicely and professionally explained that this is my sole form of employment and my daily job.

Since then I have been paid on time by my students much more frequently than before! Perhaps parents now simply feel bad for me assuming their child is my sole source of income, or perhaps they have gained a deep appreciation for my life long quest of art. But either way, I’ve been sending a lot less emails asking for money! Anyone else out there have any tricks for explaining your occupation?

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