Behind the Scenes and In Front of the Curtain: Striving for Work/Life/Creativity Balance in the Arts

I didn’t have much of an idea about what I wanted to be when I grew up. As a sassy, nonconformist, theater-loving high school student who occasionally battled with teachers and administration, I just knew that being behind a desk in a corporate environment was not for me. I also knew I didn’t want to do any type of math in college, or in life, ever. This landed me at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where I learned the hard way that although there was no math requirement, get this—music is based in math! Who’d have guessed?

After repeating a few music theory classes (before you judge me, can you spell a B-Flat Mixolydian Chord Scale? I bet you can’t…), I eventually received my degree. I’d spent four whole years performing musical theater and pop/rock music, while learning guitar and writing my own songs. I was surrounded by gloriously talented and strange people, and had a marvelous college experience. One thing I hadn’t done in my time in college, though, was to plan what I was going to do once I graduated.

I had the very vague plan to procure a music-related day job, so I could practice and perform my own music at night. I ended up with an internship at a nonprofit music organization, a folk music club where Bob Dylan used to play, where I was hired on full-time and worked for four years. Lo and behold, a dozen years later, I’ve only worked for nonprofit performing arts organizations. Funny how life works out sometimes, no?

I love the performing arts, and whether I’m behind the scenes or in front of the curtain, getting to be part of the magic has always been an incredible thrill for me. However, I ended up having two jobs most of the time to pay my bills, a day job and a night job. I wasn’t playing any music of my own. I would still write songs sometimes, but mostly, my fabulous purple guitar gathered dust.

Around 2006, I decided to record my first full-length singer-songwriter album. I began recording with my friend Steve in his basement studio. We recorded on and off for over a year, but it was always hard to find time, between both of my jobs and his busy schedule. A few years went by, and Steve moved out of state. My album lay dormant for a while, until my friend Mario picked it up and started working on it. We came close to finishing it many times, but there was always something left to be done, one more guitar part, one more vocal to be re-recorded.

Fast forward to my big move to California to attend graduate school and escape from the eternally gray Boston skies. I enrolled at Claremont Graduate University’s Arts Management program with a glamorous, lofty goal: having only one day job! My album was once again forgotten for a few years, and I was occasionally fraught with low–grade panic, asking myself, “Am I getting a degree in giving up? Does my further commitment to my 'day job,' my already established career that I happen to also be very passionate about—mean I won’t ever finish my album and start performing music again?”

Last summer, Mario and I picked the album back up, determined to finish it despite being separated by the entire continental US. I found a recording studio here in LA and recorded those final guitar and vocal parts. Mario did an amazing job producing and mixing the tracks. There was one step left: professional mastering. I created a GoFundMe campaign to pay for the costs.

After grad school, with the help of networking contacts and the professional experience I’d gained through volunteering with EAL/LA, I had transitioned my career to fundraising for the arts. It came easily to me, speaking with potential donors who shared my passion for the arts. However, the table was now turned, and instead of promoting the vision and mission of a music nonprofit, I was asking for funding for my own art.

I have benefited so much from EAL/LA since moving to Los Angeles; I’ve been connected with many job opportunities and created wonderful friendships. As a member of the Leadership Council, I’m also entitled to a stipend for use in professional development or a creative pursuit. The funds from EAL/LA helped me reach my fundraising goal for my album. It is difficult for me to express just how thankful I am to EAL/LA for this stipend.

As I was driving home from work last night, I received word that my album mastering was completed. I immediately burst into tears and was so overwhelmed with emotion that I had to pull my car over. It’s been nearly ten years, and there have been so many stops and starts… so much discouragement spoiling the joy that singing brings me. But yet still, with the help of friends, I persisted. After a tense, seemingly endless waiting period while the files downloaded, I finally got to hear my album. It’s so much better than I ever dreamed it could be. It is glorious.

There’s a cliché notion that if you really want something, if it really means something to you, you’ll stick with it. Well, that’s a nice platitude, but life gets in the way sometimes, and years go by. As of right now, I still have two jobs and I do freelance work on the side. But, I also have a professionally mastered full length album of songs I wrote and sang, and a renewed determination to keep striving for a balanced life, and to continue making music and sharing it with the world.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.