A new article for freelance teachers on the Teach Well blog:
After teaching lessons full time for ten years, I started to burn out. Although I had several awesome students, I was frustrated working with those who were apathetic, unprepared, or had a poor attitude. Over time, I became more complacent and distracted as a teacher, which wasn’t a good situation for anyone. The key to reinvigorating my studio wasn’t more willpower or grit — it was introducing a ‘Red Velvet Rope Policy’.
Public school teachers need to serve every student who shows up. As freelance teachers, we have the opportunity to be selective about who we work with. In the business development guide Book Yourself Solid, author Michael Port outlines a system for screening clients called “The Red Velvet Rope Policy”. Port tells us: “when you work with clients you love, you’ll truly enjoy the work you’re doing; you’ll love every minute of it. And when you love every minute of the work you do, you’ll do your best work, which is essential to book yourself solid.”
Also, see The Five Levels of Freelance Teaching.
Brenda Banks, my graduate school advisor at the University of Washington, interviewed me as part of a series featuring alumni with “alternative” careers. We discuss the origin of my blog, my experience in the UW jazz program, marketing, and my future plans. I also list my favorite resources for freelance musicians and teachers.
This week marks the one year anniversary of the Creative Music Blog! I want to share some exciting plans for the future and reflect on successes from the past year.
Launching this blog last September was part of a larger shift in strategy for how I earn a living as a musician. It also marked a major inflection point in my life. The practice of writing and sharing articles every week has connected me with a worldwide audience and opened doors for new projects and career opportunities.
I’m fascinated with how artists reconcile creating art with earning a living. Being a starving artist isn’t inevitable, but being passionate and skilled doesn’t entitle us to earn a living. The saying “do what you love and the money will follow” just doesn’t cut it!
Seth Godin writes and speaks about art and business in the post-industrial economy. Last month, he gave an inspiring seminar for Ensemble ACJW, a program of Carnegie Hall and Juilliard.
Seth notes that “the dreaded shortage of highly-competent musicians is finally over.” He argues that being great at music isn’t what we do for a living. We can thrive by earning trust and attention with a group of fans, connecting them with each other, and taking them on a journey. Anyone considering a career in music needs to hear this.
I never intended for this blog to be a personal journal, but friends and readers continue to talk to me about my article, “The Story Behind the Blog.” So on occasion, I will post about my personal journey to build a fulfilling and financially sustainable career as a freelance musician and teacher.
This is a guest blog article I wrote for Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts:
It’s no secret that making a living as a jazz musician is a tough road. The economic landscape seems bleaker than ever: streaming music royalties pay fractions of a penny, jazz venues keep closing, musicians are willing to play for free, and only 2% of the population listens to jazz.
Despite what most people tell you, it is possible to thrive as an independent musician in the new economy. And I will introduce you to a few remarkable artists who are.
Several folks have asked me why I started the Creative Music Blog. Here’s the story.
Although my career as a freelance musician and educator has been successful in many ways, it was not financially sustainable. I was teaching saxophone lessons to earn a living, but my family was scraping by because I chose to invest considerable time and money into my book and recording projects. With a young daughter at home, I had to make a change.