Considering a career change
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Considering a career change

Lynn 20 Apr 02 - 09:36 PM
Deckman 20 Apr 02 - 10:15 PM
Robin2 20 Apr 02 - 10:19 PM
53 20 Apr 02 - 10:22 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 20 Apr 02 - 10:24 PM
Celtic Soul 20 Apr 02 - 10:59 PM
Amos 20 Apr 02 - 11:10 PM
KT 21 Apr 02 - 12:50 AM
Lonesome EJ 21 Apr 02 - 02:40 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 21 Apr 02 - 06:07 AM
Amos 21 Apr 02 - 11:02 AM
GUEST,jonsesy 21 Apr 02 - 11:33 AM
Lynn 21 Apr 02 - 03:27 PM
hesperis 21 Apr 02 - 04:26 PM
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Subject: Considering a career change
From: Lynn
Date: 20 Apr 02 - 09:36 PM

Dear Mudcatters:

I'm giving serious thought to a major career change and I'd like your input.

I've been a professional folk musician since 1983. I've also taught music in the public schools since 1982. I'm considering dropping the public school gig and playing full time. The focus of my performances would be schools, libraries, nursing homes, as well as festivals and coffeehouses.

Before you respond, consider the following:

I've done a lot of curriculum work – writing and implementing – throughout my school career. I know the sort of stuff that's covered in Language arts and History classes in elementary and high school curricula. I have fed into that sort of thing with many of my in-house programs. Offerings for school programs would focus on curricular correlation.

I have experiences playing for pre-schoolers, elementary and high school age kids, the elderly, and some in-between. I'm especially fond of playing for the extremes.

I specialize in traditional material for kids, songs of New York State, old songs, and contemporary stuff that sounds traditional.

I have skills on guitar, tenor banjo, Appalachian dulcimer, flutes, whistles and keyboards. I have strong arranging skills and do some composing. As a performer, I prefer the traditional stuff.

Other concerns:

I'm 48 years old.

I can retire from teaching at a fraction of my salary if I work another fourteen years.

Teaching is not getting any easier. Long hours. Major frustrations. High levels of stress. Changing levels of support for the arts in schools. And the current administration does not look kindly on my doing Arts in Education programs in other schools.

I also have a weekly church gig (as organist/choir director) which provides performance satisfaction and a small salary. Much of my composing is for my choir or for organ (service music – preludes, postludes, etc.). I intend to continue in this capacity. (Read that as: this is a weekly commitment I intend to keep up with.)

I LOVE living where I am (rural central NY), and I DON'T want to move.

Am I crazy to even consider this?

I appreciate your candid responses. If you wish to respond privately, try


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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: Deckman
Date: 20 Apr 02 - 10:15 PM

Hi Lynn ... I'll take a stab at giving you some thoughts from my corner of the world. This is going to be a HUGE change and will require some serious "guts" (SISU as the Finns say.) But you sound like a gutsy person. If I were making this career change, I would try to gather a VERY large support group around me. I'd start with a manager, or perhaps several, specializing in different areas: one for the club gigs, one for the school assemblies etc. Being a teacher now, the obvious place to start is with your current teacher friends and assiociates. the more you are requested from 'within' the better. A financial planner would advise you to take a serious look at your monies and your insurances. I notice that you plan on continuing your church work. This is very sensible for two reasons: the basic dollars as well as the 'homebase' it gives you. So, it might come down to just how daring you are. At 48, you are obviously young enough to "go for it." And perhaps you'll regret not trying if you don't. Best wishes to you. Bob(deckman)Nelson.

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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: Robin2
Date: 20 Apr 02 - 10:19 PM


My husband and I went through this change in our lives about 12 years ago, and we found there were basic questions we had to answer before we could decide on such a big change....

The primary question is can you afford to? Can you reasonably expect to keep the basic standard of living you want? I'm not talking about how many times you get to eat out, but your expenses for your home and family. Is there enough resources for income to meet basic needs (food, mortgage, health)? Are you willing to cut back so your new income is sufficent?

Are you willing to travel more? If you don't live in the large metro areas, it has been our experience you have to widen your area of performance beyond the local areas to earn a living.

I think you stated your reasons for wishing to quit teaching very well. I also think you have much to offer schools on a per performance basis. Your experience as a teacher is money in the bank, I'm sure.

Age is certainly NOT a factor! You are multi-instrumental, with teaching, arranging, and composition skills. This is all marketable.

Since you have been a prefessional performer since 1983, you have the skills needed to promote yourself and your craft. If the answers to the questions above are yes, then I would expect you to be very successful as a full time performer!


PS...12 years ago, my husband went to being full time performers, and have never looked back. It is a wonderful life, though not what anyone would call "mainstream" Whatever you decide, I wish you luck! Keep us posted! My email is

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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: 53
Date: 20 Apr 02 - 10:22 PM

I was a professional musician for 10 years up until I got sick and had to quit. There were a lot of hard times, but I would not change a thing I did. I loved playing for a living. Bob

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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 20 Apr 02 - 10:24 PM

Hi, Lynn:

I read you posting and a couple of things jumped out at me: "I can retire from teaching at a fraction of my salary if I work another fourteen years." As my sons would say, "Big Whoop!" It sounds like you're saying the same thing. Do something that's filled with stress with long hours so that in another fourteen years, you can retire at a fraction of your salary? Just the way that you put it is the answer to the un-expressed question.

48 years old, eh? Mighty young. It sounds like you are going to have to find out what you can do with your life, or wonder what might have been for the rest of it.

Someone started a thread about career regrets, and the thing that really struck me about the answers was that just about nobody had any regrets about their choice, whether it was to make a living (of sorts) on the road or stay in a stable job. The only regrets that I remember in the whole thread were that a few people wished that they had tried to follow their heart instead of their head. Sometimes too, you have to try something that is eating at you, even if it turns out to be wrong for you. I would think that you still have youth on your side, and can try to create a livelihood out of a patchwork of opportunities that you have already established.

No one can really tell anyone else what is right for them. In the long run, we all end up talking about ourselves. Our choice might be a terrible one for someone else. So, I have no idea whether the move would be good for you. I suspect that not trying it might be a bad move, though. Having made enough dumb mistakes in my life for several people, I find that for me(and that's all I can talk about) I need to take the time to reflect on things, set them aside for awhile, come back to them, and pray for guidance. That works for me. Maybe someone else, too. Maybe for you. You're the only one who knows that.

When my Mother was a young woman, she was within a couple of weeks of finishing nurses training when my Father gave her an ultimatum to marry him, making her ineligible to complete nurses training. She chose to marry him (and I'm appreciative of that on one level.) But, she always regretted not having finished her nurses training because she felt a real calling to help people. She ended up helping people in other ways, and still is at 95.

All the best... not "good luck.." Who wants to count on luck?


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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: Celtic Soul
Date: 20 Apr 02 - 10:59 PM

Oooo...that's a toughie.

Here are some things that perhaps might help when it comes down to decision time. Do a little research (before you make the commitment and quit the job) on who might be interested in hiring you, how regularly, and at what pay. Find a *really good* financial counselor and start working out a plan to make the most out of what you *will* make. Factor in the slow times. Consider how often (if at all) you are willing to do some teaching from home (perhaps to make sure there is a little regular income) and factor that into the figs. Take a look at all outgo and consider what you'd be willing to trim back on. Do you live alone? If so, is there someplace within a reasonable distance from where you want to be that might be more economical, at least until you are confidant that you are up and running as a musician? And, look into how much of all this you can reasonably save in an IRA and/or perhaps some higher yield lower to moderate risk investment products. If you can save up your own "fraction of your salary" without making it impossible to live, then that might be just the "umph" you need to make the decision. As Robin2 has very wisely said here...if it does not look like you can maintain yourself and/or your family, then that's something to think very seriously about.

All the best to you in this decision! Please let us know how it goes. :D

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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: Amos
Date: 20 Apr 02 - 11:10 PM


Build the biggest most active net of supporters you can, and pull the bloody ripcord!!

Assuming you hhave a reasonable expectation of making a teacher's salary working the singing circuit you envision -- and can build up rpyalty interests if you nourish some productive songwriting and publishing buts in there -- I suspect you will be much happier. IF you can deal weith the ambiguity of the transition. If you can't, hold your hand in front of your eyes and pull the ripcord anyway.

You asked, and I must add that this is only my own viewpoint -- and I dunno what your mocassins feel like just now!!! :>) But if you decide to make this brave transition, you have ALL my encouragement!


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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: KT
Date: 21 Apr 02 - 12:50 AM

Hi, Lynn!

You said you've been teaching since 1982. That's long enough to know if it's giving you what you need. If you are not quite ready to cut the ties to the school district, perhaps a year long sabbatical / leave of absence would be a good option. With the shortage of teachers right now, it seems quite possibe. Then you could try it for a year and see what happens.

That said, if you choose to make the change, I applaud your courage to go for it. Nothing like being trapped in the "Golden Handcuffs."

In Julia Cameron's book, THE ARTIST"S WAY, there is a line that jumped out at me, and always comes back at times when I am trying to make a decision for something new.... "Leap, and the net will appear."

All the best to you in your discernment. KT

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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 21 Apr 02 - 02:40 AM

Teachers in Colorado Public Schools retire with 75% of their salaries continuing through retirement. They have the best health care available at no charge, and three months of vacation a year. They have a retirement fund plan that matches, dollar for dollar, every thing they put into it, tax free.

If you don't become a fulltime musician, maybe you should be teaching here?

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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 21 Apr 02 - 06:07 AM

Just some more thoughts, Lynn:

You've gotten some wonderful, practical advice, along with some "go for it" encouragement. The two sides of the coin. I'm wondering what the "fraction of your salary" is. Fractions can be anywhere from 1/10th to 6 or 7/10ths. Having retired a couple of years ago, I must say that the pension I have makes all the difference in the world. My wife and I couldn't live on our social security without government health, and we have retired to a less expensive area. The hard thing to think about when you plan for retirement (if you plan) is that old "fixed income" thing you hear about. Social security has a built in "cost of living" increase, but your cost of living may grow faster than the national average. I know people who are retired who have stopped taking medication because they can't afford it, and have run into serious medical problems. My two friends in the Gospel Messengers who are "retired" and HAVE a pension are still working. Joe is 77 and Frank is 76.

I think the advice to take a hard look at your basic expenses, and what you can realistically count on bringing in free-lancing is very good. Most of the musicians I know who've tried to make a living out of music have some steady income, either through giving lessons, or having a job like your Choir Director one. I have three Mudcat friends who have all made a career change in the last six months and they are all happy with it. None of them are relying on music completely for their income, and all have at least a part-time steady job with an income they can count on. That's probably the best short and long-term solution.

Is there any "fail-safe" position you can take... can you try it on your own for a year, as someone suggested, without throwing away your pension at school? That would be a more risk-free approach.


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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: Amos
Date: 21 Apr 02 - 11:02 AM


On that retirement plan, do you mean tax-dferred? Or is it really tax-free even when you use the dough after retiring?


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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: GUEST,jonsesy
Date: 21 Apr 02 - 11:33 AM

Hi Lynn, do you need a bass player? lol Seriously, there are agencies(booking) that specialize in just this type if performer. I think Raffi started exactly the same way. Don't limit yourself, however. Make a cd of original/traditional material to sell at 'commercial' gigs for a reasonable price. Oasis is a company(don't have the web address, but it's available)specializing in this sort of enterprise. Minimum order is for 1000 units and the person I spoke with recommended the 700 cd, 300 cassette package. I asked why as she replied "Because though everyone may like you, when it comes to taking you home some will like you 15.00 worth and some 10.00 worth." Good advice, I thought. You've got alot going for you and I'd encourage you to go for it. Fear can be a great motivator. In terms of sound Peavey makes a real nice 150 watt 4 channel unit for around 600.00(discount price, not list) which may be ideal for your needs. The speakers and board clip together to be carried in one hand(it's pretty light)and it comes with stands for the speakers 'and' the board. I think Mackie makes one similar, but is about twice the money. Break a leg! And enjoy!

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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: Lynn
Date: 21 Apr 02 - 03:27 PM

Thanks to all. Keep the advice coming. It's encouraging. I'll respond with other specifics later.

Jerry - the fraction is a pittance - 29% of the average of the last 3 years' salary. Almost makes me want to up and move to Colorado, EJ!

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Subject: RE: Considering a career change
From: hesperis
Date: 21 Apr 02 - 04:26 PM

Oasis is at

If the url on my friend's CD is correct.

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