As I was wrapping up my Masters degree from Northwestern University in 2000, reality started to set in. I needed to pay my bills as a musician! I had won a position in the Milwaukee Ballet and in the IRIS Chamber Orchestra (I ended up getting a position in the Elgin Symphony that fall). I hoped that my playing engagements would cover my bills, but I was pretty worried about my finances. I know that most freelance musicians also taught to supplement their income, but I had absolutely no idea how to get students. Did I spam local high schools with my resume (I have never done that in my life—it just isn’t in me to do that). I asked one of my former professors at Northwestern who was well connected in the public schools for some advice, but I didn’t seem to be able to come up with an intelligent plan.
Summer set in, and my meager savings started to evaporate. The future didn’t exactly seem lined with cash, and I was having a hard time sleeping. My pride (I just spent $40,000 on a couple of degrees, after all) prohibited me from taking a minimum wage job to cover my bills—I wanted to make my living I music no matter what, and taking a job like that would be admitting defeat in my own mind.
One day a colleague of mine called me up and told me that he was planning on leaving his teaching position. He wanted to know if I was interested. I nearly fainted from excitement (I’m a geek).
“What’s the name of the school?” I asked.
I like the confidence a name like that exhibits. This school wasn’t just good. It wasn’t just great. It wasn’t simply one of the best. It was the ULTIMATE music school. Look out Juilliard, here comes the
Actually, this place was a ton of fun to teach at. It was located directly underneath the Granville stop of
Being under the El right next to the train station was a pretty crazy location. Panhandlers would come in and ask for change inside the facility, and on more than one occasion a glassy-eyed street person would come in and start talking crazy talk.
I quit after about a year because I was playing a long-term musical that conflicted with my teaching day.
One year later a double bass teaching position at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater opened up. I submitted my teaching resume, which basically consisted of my degrees plus the
At the beginning of the semester the entire music, art, theatre, and dance faculty convened at a resort in
Unbeknownst to me, the administration had taken the liberty of preparing a Powerpoint presentation highlighting the accomplishments of the new hires. There was no consulting of the new hires for this presentation (well, no one consulted me at least). Several new faculty members were introduced, and each had previously taught as some reputable institution before moving to a position at UW-Whitewater.
Then they got to me.
The Powerpoint slide went up on the screen for Jason Heath. It read:
B.M., M.M. – Northwestern University
Previous institutional affiliation: The ULTIMATE School of Music
The entire room erupted in laughter.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of standing in front of a room of about 75 faculty members, all with advanced degrees, and have them laugh at you based on your resume.