Life can be complicated for many people. It sometimes seems especially so for those whose livelihood is in the arts such as music educators and music therapists. You aren’t sure what to do, how to do it, when to change. You feel lost. While I can not answer these questions for you, I have identified what I consider to be the keys to surviving and even thriving based upon my life as a music therapist and my husband’s as a music educator.
Consider a 2-5 year plan. Where do you want to be living? What do you want to be doing? Describe a day in the life. What kind of music do you want to be creating? This information will inform the rest of the keys. It should serve as the basis of how you live your life. It is okay to “re”key from time to time. In fact, I’ll bet you plans will change with life.
Care for your body. There is an expanding body of evidence to support the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. Yet, there are other aspects to consider. Whether you are a music therapist, an instrumental teacher or a vocal teacher, it is important you care for your voice. Be sure you warm-up your voice and cool it down each day. In addition, you need to be sure you are injuring yourself in rehearsals or performances. Be sure to see “Music Shouldn’t Hurt” by Susan Poliniak in Teaching Music, Vol. 19, No.2 for specifics.
Care for your environment. As much as possible, the space around you should support & encourage your work. Find a system to organize paperwork, music, recordings, instruments and equipment that works for you. Be sure you have a space for creating and enjoying your music. Include something for your sense or smell, sight, and touch in your environment. Who wants to plan classes or sessions in a chair that doesn’t feel comfortable? Who wants to spend much time in an area with a nasty smell?
Control your finances. Be aware of both your income and your expenses. There are great resources out there to help you learn about finances, budgeting, and saving. A few examples are David Bach, Robert T. Kiyosaki, and Suze Orman. Use your 2-5 year plan to help guide your financial plan. Live within your means. Budget money for enjoying the now. Be sure your fees for lessons and sessions cover your time for travel, preparation, and clean up. From time to time see what others are charging in your area for the same or similar services.
Consider your relationships. Create a list of who inspires you personally, professionally, musically. Realize some relationships are required – familial & work included. But, you can decide how to handle these relationships. Be aware of the people who surround you. Do you have friends? Do they have goals and interests similar or complementary to yours? Are you setting aside time to maintain and develop these relationships? It is easy to get so “busy” with work we don’t invest quality time into relationships. Care for your persona/brand both off and on-line. Remember, what is posted online lives on for family, employers, students/clients to see.
Care for your thoughts/mind. Continue to learn throughout life. Find ways to “unclutter” your mind so you can focus on a thought at a time. Find ways to release the constant mental monitoring especially those of negativity. Continue to make music for yourself. Find for yourself how to balance the need to perfect your craft as a musician with your need to enjoy being in the moment with music.
Thank you to the Fort Hays State University chapter of CMENC for asking me to present. You are the inspiration for this post. I am grateful to Stephanie McWilliams of The Unstoppables for providing me a base upon which to build.