On Music Teaching, Second Jobs, Balance and Diversifying

Music teaching is rewarding and fulfilling. However, some challenges my colleagues face is a balanced lifestyle and financial stability. I was surprised to hear that many teaching have taken second jobs to balance the scales. As I search for my second job, I tackle this sticky issue in today's post.

Variations on a Theme of Detail-work

Detail of Whitby Abbey Wall. Photo by Variation 1: Some of my students have given up chocolate, computer playtime and junk food for Lent. I've decided to give up procrastinating, namely, procrastinating on my bookkeeping.Inputting regular expenses and payments is no problem, so long as I don't let it pile up. The thing is, I do let it pile up. Then, mistakes happen. More like - 33 mistakes that need to be fixed before I hand over things to my accountant to file my income tax return.

On one hand, it's fun to be a sleuth. On the other hand, I wish I hadn't procrastinated so much. My head hurts from going through past entries to find out where the breakdown occurred. I fixed three this evening. The jury is still out whether Quickbooks is my friend or my foe.

Variation 2: One of my Iaido buddies - a pretty smart 15-year old - asked me to take a look at his arrangement of Handel's Sarabande in d minor. He took this keyboard piece and arranged it for string orchestra. Joe asked me to tweak it a bit. I enjoyed playing with the variations - adding more dialogue between the instruments so much so that I remembered how much fun it is to arrange.

Variation 3: One of my students has come up with a beautiful song, which is stuck in her musical ear. Her theoretical knowledge isn't at the same level as her musical ear, so I'm helping her transcribe it before she performs at the upcoming music festivals. Talk about a feat in ear training - rhythmic, harmonic and melodic dictation all rolled up into one. I haven't worked this hard since university on a dictation exercise!

Author's note: Click here to learn more about "theme & variations".

(c) 2007 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

So you want to be a consultant...

There are all sorts of consultants in the world - from accountants to lawyers and from corporate writers to artists. Yes, even music teachers and freelance musicians can fit into this category.

This month, my marketing friend Andrea set up a new consulting blog - Consultant Journal. I peeked at some of the articles, which are pretty useful. There's an article on Work from Home Scams and one on what steps to take when you begin consulting. I liked the article on gadgets consultants can't live without.

Check it out when you have a chance.

(c) 2006 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Summertime for Music Teachers

Most students take the summer off from music lessons. Only a small handful commit to summer lessons (to prepare for a summer exam, personal interest/motivation or parental interest/motivation). For example, I'm going from 40 students in the school year to about five for July. Where does that leave the private music teacher come summertime? Some teachers are able to take the entire summer off. From what I can tell, it's those who have a growing brood of children and a husband with a steady income and/or an established studio with no or little business debt. These folk are able to put away some money throughout the school year.

On the other hand, teachers with a relatively young studio, who have bought a house, got married and/or started a family recently do not have that luxury. Nor do teachers who wracked up some debt before starting a business (and just continued to add to it) or those who are married to someone who's also self-employed. For those of us in this category, there are but two options - run up the lines of credit a bit more (IF there's room) or get a job.

I had a wonderful interview with a temporary office staffing agency this week called . A friend recommended it to me (her husband is the website guy). Part of me is cringing at the thought of re-entering the corporate world but another part of me is looking forward to doing something different. Give me some data entry, where I don't have to think too hard. Surround me with adults all day for a change. That's fine by me. I like my students but a change in environment is refreshing.

It'll be different from being an employee. Temps can avoid office politics, don't stay in one place too long and aren't usually given a lot of responsibility.

The change of scenery will be good. (c) 2006 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Piano Paperwork Musings

This past weekend, Maestro and I processed all the student registrations submitted during the Early Registration period. Maestro lounged on his bed as I inputted the student's registration information into my teaching schedule, Palm Pilot, e-mail groups, birthday lists, my website administration site and Quickbooks.Quickbooks and my Palm Pilot are already programmed to enter the monthly invoices (Quickbooks) or beep before each piano lesson next year (Palm Pilot). Maestro would shoot up out of bed as soon as he heard the stapler, paper slicer and hole punch - all of which he guards zealously. He vascillated from watching my every move intently to make sure I use all tools properly, to lunging for them. The latter leads to him being hip-checked. Why he thinks they are toys is beyond me.

(c) 2006 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB Canada. All rights reserved.

Midnight Musings

Being an entrepreneur means that you never completely stop working. It’s past midnight and I am trading e-mails with the president of the local branch of the Alberta Registered Music Teachers’ Association, while I am working on tonight’s blog entry. We have a general members’ meeting on Monday, which we are preparing for. The executive is trying to implement some changes to improve how we operate and what we offer to members, students and the general public. But change is hard and, well anyone who works with people knows that sometimes personalities clash. It’s a challenge for volunteer board to meet the needs of everyone. Quite simply, it’s impossible to satisfy everyone. I have two main gripes: people who complain but don’t take action and people who don't do their share of the workload. It’s always the same volunteers doing all the work. We could use a little more help.

Enough ranting. I didn’t mean to rant but with “freefall” writing, you just type/write what pops out of your head without thinking.

Speaking of writing, I recently started a creative writing class at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society. After years of doing corporate and technical writing, it is a refreshing change to write “fun stuff”. Strange how childhood memories flood the pages of my notebook, like my juice cup from kindergarten with letters, numbers and animals on it or the cat that scratched my arm when I tried to feed it weeds. I have even started writing haiku (it’s addictive).

On another note, some students and I are performing Sunday afternoon at a local nursing home. It was something I did when I was growing up. The residents appreciate the visit and the entertainment. It is also a great way to hone the students’ performance savvy.

Picture yourself at the piano, playing away, when a resident spills coffee all over the floor, another decides to belt out a different arrangement of your song, while another babbles incoherently - loudly. If you can maintain composure through that, then performing before a stern faced examiner or at a family reunion should be a little easier.

That’s enough musing for tonight. I still need to figure out what I am performing at the recital. Maybe the song titles will jump out at me in a dream.

© Musespeak, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. All rights reserved.