Recently, I was teaching my usual Saturday morning violin class when one of my students asked me: “Miss Hannah, have you always been a professional violinist?”
I paused before answering because part of me thought “Yes, I have considered myself a violinist since my very first lesson when I was 4 or 5” and the other part thought “well, not really because I’ve made money doing many other things.”
The answer I gave them was something of a combination of both “I’ve always been a violinist, but before I was a professional I had many other jobs.”
They didn’t understand how I could be a violinist and not a professional violinist (they are young kids) so I explained that when I was in school - high school, college, graduate school - I didn’t have the experience to teach violin or perform for compensation because I was still BECOMING a professional. I was still learning how to do this whole music thing. Before I could teach others, I needed to learn for myself. This made sense to them.
Then they asked, "so what else have you done?” and that made me think. Over the last few days I’ve been tallying up all of the different jobs I’ve had in my life.
I’ve been (in alphabetical order):
Assistant Music Librarian for a regional orchestra
Assistant to the Opera Director during graduate school
Barista (my first job! At a local bakery, and then again at a regional theatre)
Bartender at a major regional theatre that hosted a chamber orchestra, opera, recital series, touring musicals, and more
Coat Check at a major regional theatre building that hosted a chamber orchestra, opera, recital series, touring musicals, and more. (The same place I was a bartender)
College Admissions Assistant
Concierge at an Apple Store (the person you yell at before you get to talk to a Genius)
Specialist at an Apple Store (the person who sells you the devices)
Ticket Sales and Ticket Sales Manager for a major American orchestra
Wait Staff assist at a Jazz Club
Then I started thinking about all of the “professional violinist” jobs I’ve had, and realized I’ve had many!
“Professional Violinist” Jobs:
Beginning Orchestra Music Director
Chamber Music Coach
Orchestral (opera and ballet, too) musician - section and principal positions
Group Class teacher
Musical Theater Pit Musician
Non-Classical Ensemble Violinist (I played in Rock bands that don’t necessarily fit under the label “Rock”)
Youth Orchestra sectionals coach
And THEN I started thinking about all of the jobs I still want to have, and realized that I already do have (or have had at some point) some of the jobs I want to have in the future - college teacher, orchestral musician, freelance performer and collaborator, I just want them to evolve.
There are also non-violin playing jobs that I still want to have in life. That may seem kind of confusing considering I’ve regarded myself as a violinist since I was little, but there are still jobs out there that I find alluring.
Non “Professional Violinist” Jobs I still dream of having:
Iyengar Yoga teacher
Musicians Health Authority
Owner of an English Tea Shoppe
Owner of a Music School
Owner of a bookstore
Some of these jobs are positions that I want to grow into - like owning my own music school that emphasizes musicians health and wellness from the very beginning - this is a marriage of my interests now, and an evolution of my degrees and certifications. Being an Iyengar yoga teacher would enhance my understanding of of the body and contribute to my knowledge in the field of Musicians Health. I don’t see myself as a writer of fiction, but I do see myself as eventually having the capacity of writing a book (or academic articles) related to the interests and pursuits listed above. Owning my own tea shoppe or bookstore might seem like a complete left turn from what I do now, but I have this vision - I can see the entire enterprise ahead of me; the types of jams, the tableware, the decor, all of it and I love all of the associations with, and benefits of drinking a cup of tea or reading a book.
This is not to say that my entire identity comes from how I make money. I think of myself as many things, most of which I pay money to do, and don’t receive a dime in return. These interests and additional passions always sneak into my violin life a little bit. For instance, when I was riding horses regularly, I often found comparisons between the mindset required for riding a horse, and the mindset of an anxious violinist about to go onstage for a performance. I also found musician friends who also rode horses, which was really fun.
This little exercise was really good for me. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to evolve what I have right now, professionally speaking, that I forget to reflect on all the places I’ve been, the experiences that have shaped my life now, and what I still dream of doing, or being. Who knows, maybe one day I will open that tea shoppe/bookstore and ride to work on a horse while holding a yoga pose. You never know!
What about you?
What do you do? And how do you see yourself? Are they the same, or different?