As a full-time working musician, I am truly blessed to be able to do what I love as my career! As with any job, though, there are compromises. I think the hardest single item for the average consumer to understand is that musicians rarely get to celebrate holidays or special dates with their loved ones on the ACTUAL day. This includes Christmas, birthdays, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and most of all, New Year’s Eve.
I understand that everyone in the hospitality industry can relate to this compromise as many have to work holidays to service guests who are taking that special holiday as their family time. Maybe it’s just my opinion and perception, but I think that musicians are just plain overlooked as having a “job” that they must do. It is just expected that there will be a live band playing New Year’s Eve, or that there will be musicians in the church for every major holiday. But do people actually think that this is their “job” and not just something they want to do only for fun?
Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity to work during the high seasons. That is when there is the most work, and we as musicians must take advantage of those working times in order to save our money for the extremely slow seasons (like summer). I actually choose to work on most major holidays as so many people (including musicians) want that time off to be with their families. I don’t have children, so Christmas Day itself is not as special to me as it may be to others. I celebrate holidays with my family on non-peak days. I take vacations when others are working in order to entertain them when they take their vacations.
This is a concern for many aspiring musicians as they may not realize that they will get grief just because they choose to take a few days off in the middle of a week when it is not a holiday or special occasion.
Recently, I advised some clients that I would be unavailable for just 3 days (not 3 months or even 3 weeks). I just don’t know how to respond between the reactions of “Hmmm, this is really an inconvenience for me,” and “How can YOU afford to take a vacation?” and even “Well, if you MUST cancel our appointment.” I even offered to work extra days to re-schedule their appointments, but that did not appease them.
As a musician, I work every major holiday and most weekends to accommodate and entertain consumers and clients. It may be difficult for those clients to understand that musicians need a break, too. Even with good communication, you cannot please everyone all of the time.
For the families and spouses of working musicians, this may also be contentious. Coming from a musical family, I am blessed to have a family that understands my schedule and knows that I will probably not ever be available for an Easter brunch or New Year’s Eve celebration, but not everyone is so understanding. Several of my musician friends have spouses or parents that get very upset when they learn that they may not be together on a holiday. Or when the musician must be away on tour during a birthday/anniversary. I have seen this lead to arguments and even to marital break-ups. This is where there must be compromise from the families of the musicians, too. In our family, we do celebrate the special days, but the actual date is of little importance. We just do it when we all can do it. Besides, we usually avoid many of the crowds by having our celebrations when others are working. I take days off when others are working to take advantage of special room rates or other money-saving measures, too.
This is my job, and I do love it, but even I need a short break occasionally from it. Doctors and specialists suggest that everyone needs regular relaxation time to refresh themselves. These short breaks are what keep us all going, and are very good for our overall health. Hmmm, this will probably lead to a future blog post about musicians and their health. Another time.