Lousy Job = Learning Experience

Sometimes I have had to do a job I didn’t especially like to pay the bills. I think most of the US population has been or is currently in this position. What many people neglect to do is to gain as much knowledge as they can during that time, including learning more about that job and studying other subjects for a role they do desire. This self-discipline is one of many keys to my being what I consider successful in my musical career.

I have always sang and played violin and piano (at least as far back as my memories allow). My mother started my musical education before I was even born as she was a professional violinist, pianist and vocalist. This developed my creative mind, as well as my logical mind. I started seeing patterns and mathematical equations in music long before it was taught to me in school. I remember reading music before I learned to read English. I understood complex fractions and the patterns of sound waves as they interact as perfect fifths and octaves before I was out of kindergarten. Vibrations per second, beats per minute, etc. were all part of my learning process during these early years, and this made me WANT to be a musician more than anything else!

But then came the entrepreneurial spark. I started my first real business when I was 9 making hairbows and selling them at a local consignment shop. I had to manage inventory, expenses, and profits, fulfill special orders, monitor quality control, and manage customer satisfaction. I was in school (obviously), so I had to manage my time in the evenings and on weekends between homework, practicing and fulfilling orders. I kept my records in my Holly Hobby notebook, including detailed listing of supplies with the receipts taped inside. Once I had enough profits after a few months, I made my first major purchase: a pair of designer shoes! White leather with gold buckles from Etienne Aigner. My family could never afford such luxuries, so I decided that is where I wanted to spend my money. I had already paid back the small loan with interest from my mother as she purchased the first set of supplies. This business continued and evolved with the styles for several years until the fashion changed and hairbows were no longer as popular. Plus, my interests changed to more music.

I started performing professionally for weddings and other events at the age of 14. My career as a private music instructor began at age 16 when I was paid to teach violin and piano to children at my church while their parents were in choir practice. This business was a bit more difficult to track since there was no clear inventory or expenses. After reading most of the tax codes at the time, I learned how to track mileage and other incidental expenses. I had already been doing my family’s taxes since age 14, so I understood how deductions worked.

One summer, I decided to leave my hometown and work at Walt Disney World between semesters of college. I was given the shift no one wanted (closing) in merchandise at one of the busiest locations (the Emporium). Again, I learned from this: I do NOT want to work in retail, unless I am the owner. I also learned how to work in uncomfortable clothing to fit a theme and to deal with it. Not everyone with whom you work are of similar backgrounds to you, nor do they have the same education. Some have more experience and I learned from them; some have better people skills and I learned from them, too. I also learned how to work with managers who may have seemed difficult at first. I took this experience back to college with me, and the next year was extremely successful for me.

While in college, I continued to teach private lessons, and was even given the title of “Adjunct Professor” at the school where I was enrolled. I also was a waitress and bartender at a local private business hotel where I learned the art of five-star dining. I learned how to make mixed drinks and a myriad of napkin folds, as well as cook buffalo meat and shuck oysters. I learned how to pair wines with dishes, and learned the difference between every type of grape and its regions in the world. This was the “behind the scenes” knowledge that I was not taught during cotillion. But why would I ever need to know this stuff?

That answer came sooner rather than later. After college, I moved to Orlando where that hospitality experience landed me a “day job” as a waitress/bartender at various locations at Disney. Bartending paid the bills while I was building my music career. The entrepreneurial spark returned and I started another business of teaching private lessons and providing professional string ensembles. I joined the Musicians’ Union, and networked at every opportunity. This got me on the lists for many of the contractors, and that opened the door for the touring world. I used my vacation or unpaid days off from the day job so I could gig and tour.

Several transitions and career changes later, I wound up as a manager in the business affairs area. My job was to draft and negotiate contract terms and work with the legal teams from all parties involved. The highlight of that job for which I am grateful is learning the value of having a TRUE mentor and leader – someone to inspire you and encourage you to be the person you want to be. During this time, I still toured and performed, but I decided I needed to go back to school and further my education. So I did. I now have the education and degrees to match my passion for a career in music. I took the life lessons from that role and use them today in all my business dealings.

From the variety of odd jobs I have held, I have gathered a diverse knowledge of skills. I continue to learn from most of my encounters every day, and I realize that no matter how important I may think my job is, I am always relying on others to help me do it. From the clients who pay for our services to the musicians who work with me, my real job is to work well with others so that we are all successful in life.