It's very difficult to make a living as a professional musician. If you can't imagine being anything else, this is what you must and will do. But if you have the discipline, you should consider joining the ranks of great players who earn their living in another field. Be the doctor/lawyer your parents wanted you to be, but keep your chops up!

Personal Information

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NAME

David

JOB TITLE

Jazz Pianist, Composer, Music Teacher

LOCATION

Pasadena, CA

SALARY

$60,000 - $80,000

NUMBER OF YEARS IN THE FIELD

Been a professional musician for 37 years.

Education

California State University-Los Angeles
B.A., Music

University of Southern California
MM, Jazz Studies

Career Bio

The profession

As a performer the prerequisites are talent and a love of playing. As a keyboardist I must stay abreast of advances in instrument technology. As a teacher, to work at the colleges I needed a master's degree. It is possible but can be difficult to find students outside of the school environment.

How I got here

Been playing music since the age of 5... went to college initially as a humanities major but never stopped playing. Left school after sophomore year to work as a musician.

A typical day

Daytime: 3-5 hours of private lessons, leading combo/ensemble class. Preparing lead sheets and synthesizer sounds for work in commercial band. Night time: 4-6 hour performance (includes breaks!). These activities do not necessarily happen every day.

The hardest parts

Trying to create and monetize opportunities for myself as an artist, in contrast to my work as a gun-for-hire freelancer. Dealing with the noise level and stress of playing contemporary DJ-style dance music.

The best parts

As a teacher, watching a student grow to understand and enjoy the process of making music and improvising. As a player, making music that moves me, my fellow players, and the audience.

The myths of the profession

Many people suppose that musicians enjoy endless personal satisfaction and the admiration of the audience. Both are possible with hard work but there are no guarantees. Also, the physical stamina and control necessary to play well must be constantly maintained; use it or lose it.

The workplace

I teach at home in my living room, and in pleasant practice room environments at school. I've performed in funky bars, glistening concert halls, state fairs, museums, prisons, jazz festivals, swanky hotel ballrooms, nightclubs and private estates... among others.

Advice for someone thinking about going into the field

It's very difficult to make a living as a professional musician. If you can't imagine being anything else, this is what you must and will do. But if you have the discipline, you should consider joining the ranks of great players who earn their living in another field. Be the doctor/lawyer your parents wanted you to be, but keep your chops up!