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Laurie Niles

August 7, 2003 at 8:49 PM

Life as a free-lance musician is either feast or famine, and I don’t know which is worse.

This week is feast: I have a rehearsal or concert on six nights. The logistics of this require as much attention as anything else. For example, my husband or a babysitter must be in place with my children before I can bolt out of the door. Also, I’ve needed to change nearly every one of my students’ lessons, all to times when I’d normally, say, eat, wash the dishes, wash my children’s clothes, sleep, or do any one of those pesky little tasks required for day-to-day existence.

The pesky little tasks either don’t get done, or they get done when I ought to be sleeping.

The other side of the coin will show its face, rather soon, it looks like. The calendar shows potential for the famine phenomenon in September: a big, blank page. Everything starts in October this year.

During the slow times, it’s hard not to wonder, “Am I actually a musician? If I’m playing in the living room, and there is no one there to hear it, does that make me a professional violinist?"

Even a month-long “famine” of work can make a person philosophical. Or it can cause one to make commitments that are unsustainable once the feast is back. For example, “I think I’ll take on four new students!” or “Hey, yes, of course we can play chamber music for fun every Friday from now on!” or “I think I’ll take a job at Starbucks,” or, “Why don’t I try leading the Brownie troop?”

The trick, I suppose, is to enjoy playing, then enjoy getting a break. If only I could avoid getting bogged down in the scheduling, the juggling, the stress of it all, I could enjoy the roller coaster ride of a musician’s life. It goes up, it goes down, but it never is dull.

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