Leaving the corporate world and entering college full-time to learn music composition at 40(-ish) years old was a huge lifestyle change. And not an easy one. I knew that working in the arts was not likely to be a highly profitable career move. At the same time, I knew that music – both composing and performing – was my passion, and I felt compelled to pursue it to the best of my abilities.
That hasn’t been easy. Part-way through my graduate degree, we had a significant setback in our household income (one of the risks of self-employment). And when your income is cut in half, I’m sure you’ll understand the temptation to say, “Screw the music degree. I’m going back to making money.” Believe me, there was an awful lot of discussion and soul-searching in that challenging year.
At some point during that time, I saw an interview with Penn & Teller. They – well, mostly Penn Jillette – talked about when they decided to truly make a go of their partnership. They decided that, from that point on, they would not take any work outside their chosen field. No unrelated “I’ll do this ‘until’ we start to make it” jobs. That decision really resonated with me. Working full-time as an administrator (or whatever) meant my musical ambitions would be at the mercy of the needs of my non-musical job. So together, my husband and I decided to follow that example. I would not take a job that was not musically-related, and we would make whatever sacrifices were necessary in order to allow me to pursue my music.
One of the most fun things to come out of that decision has been my role at WCNY-FM, the Classical Music station based here in Syracuse, NY. For the better part of the last 6 years, I’ve been the “fill-in” host. I always said I had perhaps the most fun job at the station. I got to fill in at all hours of the day, weekdays and weekends, and learn how all the other hosts did their programming. In some ways, it’s like a book editor – you get to know how the personality of each individual host by the idiosyncrasies of their programming. During that time, I also did a lot of the weekend programming and hosting, which allowed me to explore and share my own sensibilities with our listeners. Not to mention, I had plenty of flexibility, which allowed me to continue to compose and perform.
Well, starting August 26th, that’s going to change a bit! Long-time mid-day host Bill Baker has decided to retire. I’m terribly sad to see him go, as he has been a fixture at WCNY in both Radio and TV for many years. BUT . . . I have been asked to step in as the new mid-day host! I can’t wait to share my programming with a wider audience, not to mention the opportunity to bring you the Concert Hall (sharing those hosting duties with Bruce Paulsen), and some incredible interviews with the Live at Noon Series (including Matt Haimovitz, the Neave Trio, and Jeffrey Siegel, for starters!)
I must say, though, that before I said “YES!” to this exciting opportunity (and I promise you, it was a big, enthusiastic “YES!”) I took the time to think it through very carefully. As much fun as it is to work at the station, I am, first and foremost, a full-time composer. Part-time fill-in work is easy and fun – jump in, chat on the air, and zip home. The responsibilities of a full-time position require more effort, for sure. I had to think about what I am willing to give up, or not, to do this job.
First and foremost, I cannot give up composing. That, more than anything, is the second greatest joy in my life (outside of my family). Nor will I give up performing. Working with Samba Laranja and the Central New York Flute Choir is waaaaaay too much fun to set aside, not to mention the individual and small group performance opportunities that continue to come my way. On the other hand, being a host on WCNY-FM gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in an exceptional catalog of classical music every single day, including the newest releases hot off the presses. Having access to such an incredible array of music, plus the opportunities to meet and converse with outstanding musicians and other professionals in the classical world? As the commercial says: PRICELESS!
That’s not to say there won’t be a bit of an adjustment period! I don’t think I’ll be staying up until 6 or 7 am to work on the newest piece anymore. (Unless you want to hear me snoring on the air!) But I am confident that I’ll be able to balance both hosting and composing duties, and still have time to attend some concerts, or for the occasional trip to wine country, or just for some quality time with Dear Hubby and Benson the Dog.
So do me a favor. Watch my Pet Dragon Music website for monthly updates on my compositional activities (and remember, you can listen to my works and purchase the scores from there as well). Give me a “Like” on Facebook for more frequent updates on my various activities. And if you like classical music trivia, follow me on Twitter – I’ll be sending out a daily tweet with an interesting tidbit about the music I’m playing on the radio!