Thursday, November 8, 2012

Interviewees' Shared Characteristics

Last week, I did three interviews in three days, so I am busy transcribing a lot of new exciting content that will be posted in the coming weeks.

I've now done more than a dozen interviews, and I'm even more amazed at the level of talent and passion of these people. I am honored that they took time out of their busy schedules to talk to me. Some common themes are starting to emerge:

1. Everyone, to some extent, has a flexible work schedule.

Every single person is a freelance musician and their other career also offers some flexibility. No one is punching a time card from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday; nor are they executives who are routinely expected to work 14-hour days. 

Dan McDougall does data entry from home; upcoming interviews feature a musician/realtor and a musician/photographer, both of whom are self-employed. 

Joe Hallman and I, though we work somewhat traditional office jobs, have employers that are understanding of and willing to work around our artistic commitments. For example, at Curtis, we get four weeks of vacation -- a huge benefit and perk of working there. I use probably 75% for gigs, not actual vacation.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, in her Atlantic article that I mentioned before, says that flex-time or telecommuting is basically essential for working mothers -- especially those in leadership positions or who strive to hold leadership posititions. Forbes and many large corporations agree that flexible scheduling is important for worker retention, productivity, and satisfaction. This seems to be key to making two or more careers a reality, regardless of what those careers are.

2. Family Matters

A supportive partner also seems to help, whether you are raising a family (see Brian Peterson, Chris Schmidt) or not. Luke Bakken's wife helps him keep track of the Spokane Symphony rehearsals; Dan McDougall's partner lends a sympathetic ear as a fellow freelance musician and also attends most of Dan's performances.

However, others, myself included, are single and don't have kids. Do the challenges of establishing oneself in not one but two careers limit one's chances of having a long-term relationship at the same time? 

3. Music training DOES apply to other fields.

This cannot be overstated. There are myriad ways that music training and a musical career help in other fields. Brian Peterson's reedmaking helps him perform delicate surgery. A musician/photographer you will meet in an upcoming post exudes such creativity that it probably can't be fulfilled through one artistic outlet; the overlap is completely natural and it makes you wonder why all musicians aren't also visual artists of some sort. 

Many interviewees cite the rigorous training; intent listening; experience working with different types of people toward a common goal; and musicians' constant drive toward perfection as applicable -- even desired by employers -- to any other field. 

4. Role Models

To my surprise, almost everyone struggles with this. Maybe it is just not a great question. Joe Hallman preferred to rephrase it to, "Who inspires me?"

With a dozen interviews completed, and more to come, I have to say that everyone I have talked to for this project inspires me! I haven't talked to a single person who turned to another field because they couldn't "cut it" as a musician. Whatever their passion, whatever they want to do, they make it work and they do it at extremely high levels. I hope you find them inspiring, too.



  1. I think somewhere I was reading about a correlation between musicians and puzzle solvers. Really, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense -- playing a piece of music is an concrete realization of the abstract on the page (and that which is not written on the page as well). The translation of notes to fingerings, and eventually sound is right in line with puzzle-solving and translates perfect to many disciplines, such as math and other logic problems.

    Great post, BTW!

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