Teachers forum: success in a down economy

As everyone is aware, these last three years have been a brutal experience when it comes to making a living as a musician or any other type of artist. It took a little while but the bad economy has finally trickled down to all manner of teachers and performers these past few years. Several orchestras’ have disbanded or are on very shaky ground (including my own) and all manner of employment for working musicians has been scaled back.
Even the colleges are starting to really feel the heat with severe cutbacks in many states.
So what skills can we teach our students to weather these rough times? Surely there will be other recessions as time moves forward. I myself have experienced three of them since I started my career.

The most important ingredient to surviving and even prospering in times like these is versatility. Personally I have always made sure I am constantly learning new skills even as I am continuously polishing old ones. It is not enough anymore to be just a drum set performer just as it is becoming impossible to have a high quality of life solely as an orchestra percussionist. We must teach our students to be competent in all areas of percussion at a young age. I learned audio engineering at a young age and this has really paid off big time for me. Being able to play any type of gig is also a huge factor in a musician’s success.

Gigging often at a young age is vital to building a solid career. I have noticed that many players do not even attempt to gig until they are out of college. This is a huge blunder. You can learn so much from older, experienced musicians that I consider this a form of higher education. I started actively gigging in a wedding band with much older players when I was 13 years old. I know that this is still possible since I have young students playing for money in bands and with theatre companies. I am also always pushing the entrepreneurial vibe on my students to get them to create there own gigs and some have done just that.

Another thing that is not taught much in this country’s academic institutions is general living skills. These are skills that you can learn that will save and can even make you money. Learning how to fix items in your household and do basic building and automotive repairs can save you a fortune over a lifetime. Years ago I could not afford to pay someone to build a studio for me so I learned how to do it myself. The same goes for putting an addition on my house. Over many years I have improved my skills exponentially where I feel like if I had to, I could do professional finish carpentry. Learning these things was not a burden to me. On the contrary, it was allot of fun and really satisfying. It also served to recharge my battery when I was burnt out from playing too many gigs!

All of us have talents we may never really explore, whether it’s out of fear or just plain laziness. I still believe that if you are really good at what you do, people will pay you for it. That goes for teaching, playing and creating things.

In my opinion the biggest factor to surviving a bad recession is stringent money management. Unfortunately most people sorely lack this skill. Saving money ahead of time is always a really good idea. Always have an emergency fund. Once I began a family I tried hard to put away enough money so that if I did not work for a year my family would still be ok. Living check to check does not cut it anymore in our modern society with it’s overpriced healthcare, pricey higher educational system and ridiculously expensive insurance options . It just takes one thing to go wrong and you could be out on the street. I also avoid debt at all costs, which means if I don’t have the money to buy something, I won’t buy it. There are exceptions of course and these may include student loans, a house or a car. The rule is, stay out of debt as much as possible and save your money.
Money = freedom and freedom= happiness.

Comments are closed.