25. February 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

Okay, I’ve been home for a while and I still am not sure where to start on this whole “part-time” job thing. Maybe partly because it doesn’t ruffle my feathers, and partly because I joke so much about playing for a living.

Music is my job. It is full time (or at least close to it), I believe, if I put together all that I do: I drive “over the hill” to teach at UCSC one day a week. I sometimes go over there again because I like to attend my students’ concerts and recitals. (Not all “lecturers” – which is my title there – go to the concerts but I think it’s very important so I attend when I’m able.) One day a week I go to SCU and teach there for a somewhat brief time. I have eleven private students. I play in the symphony, the opera, the ballet (infrequently) and I freelance. I also have to practice and make reeds. (Whenever someone writes and suggests that 17 1/2 hours is all some symphony musicians spend in rehearsals I want to scream! That’s the time they all spend together rehearsing. Do people honestly think we only take our instruments out of their cases when we have a rehearsal? The reason we have to have the rules about the number of hours for groups such as the ones I’m in is so that we are able to have at least a general idea of what our calendars will be like so that we can put everything together in some way that won’t drive us entirely insane!)

So when I say I don’t have a “real” job I’m being sarcastic. I have a real job! I just don’t have all the real stuff that comes with it. I have no benefits. No medical or dental insurance. No vacation days, aside from the two that Opera San Jose now gives us. We are allowed a couple of emergency/sick days in the symphony, but we have to have a true emergency or be sick to take them, and we can’t carry them over. Mostly I play if I’m ill; I can’t remember when I last took sick days — I think it was about 15 years ago when I came down with pneumonia. I’ve played when I was so feverish I couldn’t remember how I played (doing the Poulenc Sextet of all things). I’ve played when I’ve had to run to the bathroom to throw up, only to come back to the rehearsal. (My colleagues weren’t happy with me then!)

So no, we don’t have “real jobs” where we can say “Gee, I’m not focussed today so I should probably wait on this project so I don’t totally blow it” and we rarely say “I have a fever so I think I need to leave now, so just count this as one of my sick days please.” Oh, and we work weekend nights. A lot.

So there. Am I defensive or what?!

I have a shirt that reads “Quit Work Play Music” and most people see it and give me a thumbs up. When I’m up to it I tell them it’s actually a bit ironic in my case, but mostly I just let them laugh about the witty t-shirt because everyone knows it would be great to not work and just sit around and make music all day. Besides, I like to make people laugh! (Right, Drew?)

BUT … I’m not bitter. Honest and true. All that I wrote above, in defense of who I am I suppose, might sound that way. But I’m extremely content. Most folks I see out in their “real worlds” are bitter. Or depressed. Or angry. Or envious of someone else’s job. Or simply burned out. And I’m not. (I remember a man once saying to me, after realizing I was getting paid for what I do, “But you like your job!” as if that meant I shouldn’t be paid. A women (a realtor) was furious when she heard that I made money playing the oboe. She told me she was going to dust of her high school clarinet and join an orchestra too. She was actually angry!)

So if I make a bit less money, and if I don’t get benefits (yet) at least I love what I do! So there. I’m hopeful that someday at least one of the performing jobs will grow to a point where some benefits can be offered. We had a few (minimal) benefits in the San Jose Symphony (RIP) and that was good. Especially for the two-musician families. (We had several couples in that symphony, and still have some in the newly formed symphony.) I’m hopeful. Because being hopeful is healthier than being hopeless. Although many people think I’m entirely hopeless. But that’s another story. :-)

Sometime over a year ago I was having horrendous hand problems. I finally went to see a doctor and he carefully checked me out. Especially when I told him I was a musician and played oboe. After telling me I was going to be fine and I probably had tendonitis (and telling me to go easy on the housework which was fun to hear) he asked, “and what do you do for a real job?”

I replied, “music.”

I could tell he didn’t believe me.

Sometimes I don’t believe it either, but I sure am glad it’s the truth!
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