I’ve hit the age where I’m not longer eligible for most of those “young composer” competitions. So now what? Sit around and wait for that blowout festival celebrating my 70th birthday? I won’t hold my breath. The mid-to-late-30s is an interesting time for those of us with day jobs, like myself, who sometimes self-identify as composers. It’s a time to acquire a midlife-crisis-mindset, as some of our friends and colleagues begin to make their living solely from composing and performing, while others start studying for the LSAT. While my composition career is only a mere blip on the musical landscape, I’m not about to give up composing cold turkey just yet. For those of you in the same boat, here are a few careers to look into while you continue to support your composition habit.
1. Arts administration. I know. Yawn. But it is a popular choice among composers, and why not? Work really hard, put in a lot of extra hours which severely cuts into your own composing time, and get paid peanuts. Okay, it doesn’t sound that glamorous on paper, but at least you’ll be working in the arts, which is probably what you always wanted anyway. If you’re lucky, you might end up with a cool gig like me. Otherwise, I’d suggest polishing your tin cup. Just look at the classifieds: non-profit arts organizations are always looking for development-types.
2. Lottery winner. This happens to be my personal favorite for obvious reasons. Once you hit that Mega Millions jackpot, your composition life is made in the shade. Live wherever you want, write music whenever you want—or don’t, who cares? Commission a piece from Stockhausen in celebration of your cat’s birthday. Buy a huge-ass Julie Mehretu painting and stare at it until you feel inspired to write an orchestra piece. Anything goes.
3. Retail store greeter. This one makes a lot of sense for those who balk at the value of their composition degrees. Useless? Hah. I’ll show you useless. Go down to your local Wal-Mart, grab an application, and soon you’ll be standing by those automated sliding doors dishing out disingenuous hellos, welcomes, and have-a-nice-days left, right, and center. You’ll have the distinct satisfaction of knowing that every single person waiting in line for the cashier is thinking to themselves: Why doesn’t that guy shut the hell up, get his butt behind a register, and starting ringing? Just another way to be subversive in the face of the culture at large, but doesn’t require your vast musical prowess. Save that for after work.