As this sultry summer comes to an end, I have a few thoughts about my 15th year performing at Live! on Atlantic (formerly known as Beach Street USA). I have performed in quartets with the Doorway Singers, solo, a few different duos, a trio, and most recently with the house band. It’s hot, it’s sweaty, it’s long, but we are doing what we love and getting paid for it.
A few weeks ago a gentleman came up to me as I was performing on Atlantic Avenue. He said, “It’s such a shame that all this talent is wasted and you don’t get to travel around.” I looked at him in shock, because actually, people from all over the East Coast, even Canada and overseas, come here, to my city, to vacation, and I get to stay in one spot. I get to wake up on a Saturday morning and go see my son’s baseball game, and then go gig that same night. I’m not sitting on a hot tour bus trying to make it to the next city and calling my kids to say a quick hello and that I miss them.
The old mentality is still that a “real” and “famous” and “successful” musician tours around the country and possibly the world. While these things still do happen and many love and thrive in that lifestyle, that’s not the only model of musician that equals success. Most musicians would say that success is being full-time doing what they love - writing, performing, arranging, teaching, whatever it is that brings them joy in their art, and not having to work another job. I’ve gotten asked several times over the last few weeks, often by other musicians, if I perform full-time. And when I say yes, that I perform, and then teach and perform for Young Audiences, they are surprised. I’ve been blessed to work up to where I am, gigging 3-5 times a weekend, with other gigs sprinkled here and there. I don’t say that to boast, but just to show that being an employed musician is attainable.
Now, I don’t make three figures, but I am content with two, and I would not trade what I do for that. Nor is it easy. When self-employed, there is always work to be done, the next hill to climb, the next album to write, record, and fund.
And would I like to travel someday and tour, getting my name across the country, performing for thousands at a time? Sure. But right now, I’m not pursuing that while my kids are young. I’m extremely happy getting to do what I love and make a living at it.
So, cheers to the successful artists and entrepreneurs out there!