“In a recent presentation to a university composition seminar, a younger composer asked about the role of discipline in the life of a freelance composer. It’s such a difficult, open-ended question to answer because it is so particular to the individual, yet it is something we all have to deal with. I don’t think that the need for discipline is really any different for a freelance composer than for a composer with a non-composing job or, for that matter, a composer who is a parent. We all have events that we have to schedule our creative existence around, whether they are classes (giving or taking), concerts (presenting or attending), a 9-to-5 job, or childcare.”
The above quote is from Alexandra Gardner, who wrote a nice opinion piece for the NewMusicBox. In a nutshell, the article briefly hits on the fact that self-discipline is uber-important to a composer at any stage of his or her life, and particularly to the freelance composer. I agree with her, but in the quote above she distinguishes the freelance composer from the composer who also happens to have a non-composing day job, as well as the composer who also happens to have a child. I know, she was only making a small distinction to make a larger point about the sameness of the three, but it is curious that a distinction had to be made at all. I would personally call myself all three things. I am a freelance composer who has to generate most of my own income from teaching because I have a family and some mouths to feed. Gardner is inadvertently suggesting that a freelancer ONLY makes his or her income from that chosen field, and that somehow having the day job strips you of the freelance title. This might lead one to question what is on the next lowest rung of the latter, underneath freelance? Hobbyist? Amateur? I do not consider myself either of those, by a long shot.
What then does she think of the academic composer whose principle roll at the university is to teach classes and lessons, and conduct ensembles? It is possible that the time a lot of academic composers spend actually composing is smaller than that of the composer who has the day job and is a parent. Is the roll of professor not the same as a day job? Sadly, Gardner’s attitude is shared by others, even in the academic world. I once had a teacher ask, “if you have the day job, or if you are spending all of your time self-publishing, then when do you find the necessary time to create your art?” Is the university gig any different from my private lesson gig or another’s administrative gig? I don’t think so. It might not look as impressive on my resume, by at the end of the day my roll in the community is essentially the same. The reality is that people of all crafts have to do what is necessary to stay afloat and to survive. At least for now, freelancing alone doesn’t provide what is needed for my family to survive. One doesn’t have to be defined purely by what they do to bring in money. I mean, I usually spend MORE time composing in a day then I do teaching.
To be fair, I don’t think Gardner meant to make any distinction as to say A cannot be B, nor can it be C.