Why I Still Identify as a Musician

The week I posted my first entry on WordPress, I was elected Vice President of my bargaining unit of my local AFT – 4517, Cambridge College Employees Federation. And now that things have calmed down since I have a second – literally a few moments – this brings me to my next post’s topic: why I still identify as a musician.

I knew what I wanted to do with my life when I was 16. My flute teacher sent me to a flute festival in England and said to me that when I returned, I would know whether or not music was what I wanted to dedicate my life to.

Teenage insecurities aside, I heard players that could wipe the floor with me. I didn’t even bother to enter the festival’s competition. I knew I wouldn’t win. I knew how to play virtuosic, technical pieces in theory, but seeing done what I had been trying to do, before my very eyes, done in practice:


Who were these teenage mutant flute players and what green goop did they drink that they could play so fast? I couldn’t even be mad. I’m lying. I was.

I learned a lot about being a musician at that festival. And I came home knowing that it was what I wanted to do. 11 years, including 6 years of music school later, someone asks me “so what do you do?” “I’m a flautist. I’m working toward some auditions right now in a few training orchestras and I teach flute, theory, and ear training”. “No, like so what you do for rent? “Um… Well, I personally am working in the IT Dept of a College.” “Ah, Ok. So you do have a 9-5”.


If you go to school for software development, but work in risk management, can you not call yourself a programmer? If you have a law degree, and you’ve passed the bar, but you coordinate a soup kitchen, can you identify as a lawyer? Not every person who passed the bar is working as a six figure making lawyer. Are you not a doctor, simply because you choose not to practice if you have all the certifications and paperwork and whatever is required to be doctor like and you’re choosing to be a stay at home dad, or volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club? Not every graduated med student becomes a practicing doctor.

When these conversations go down, it’s as though I’m being told my job is more valuable than my career. Some of my fellow music majors became pre med. Some pre med students I knew are now writers. I know an awesome composer who is writing a play. Before that, he was writing video game music. Its not that he can’t make money. He actively looks for ways to give his work away for free. But that’s the point. Careers, no matter what field, give more fulfillment. They also take more time and require dedication. Careers are linear. Jobs are stagnant.

For the record, my friend and I do not see eye to eye about giving away musical services for free. Careers are an investment, an investment of time and resources . We have to be our own managers, assistants, social media marketers (because its 2013 and you have be on top of that. Let’s be real here. I still haven’t gotten myself on YouTube.) Regardless of the obstacles, I’m not saying that being a musician is impossible. I’m also not saying that its super easy and I don’t sometimes wonder if I should go into more debt so I can get a job in one of these tech jobs that are flooding Boston right now. I’m also rather obstinate and hard headed. And through the brick wall plowing I have learned a lot. I’m working in an IT Department at a college. I use my education skills there every day. I’ve also learned a whole heck of a lot about technology, and I’m applying it to my private teaching. I use my iPad to teach and I now manage two facebook pages, my own, and the Union’s (I am one of many managers).

Between of all these “jobs” which interweave into each other, I apply them to my ultimate goal. That’s what makes a career.