Tune up your career goals

There's more to the music business than performing

There's more to the music business than performing

February 22, 2005|by CHRIS COPLEY

Cutting-edge careers: This story is part of an occasional series about evolving job possibilities.

Who hasn't seen a singer or instrumentalist on stage or in a music video and said, "Boy, that would be a great job"?

Being a music star might look like a cool career, but it's not for everyone. Performers make their living being stared at and evaluated by dozens, hundreds or thousands of people. If stage fright or fear of making mistakes is part of your personality, a concert career might not be the way to go.

So, if you can sing or play an instrument, or love music and want a career in the music business, what else can you do besides perform?

Teachers are in demand

Singer and guitarist Lew Palladino, who plays with the Tri-State-area rock-blues band The Rhythm Kings, is also a music teacher. He teaches at St. James School and at Carpenter's World of Music in Hagerstown.

"Performing and teaching is a good way to sustain things," he said. "When the performing dries up, you've still got teaching."

Linda Barnhart, music teacher at Paramount Elementary School in Hagerstown, decided to focus her musical career on teaching.

"At some point, music became something I wanted in my life on a daily basis," she said. "But I think my personality is not cut out for performance. Teaching became a natural choice."

Teaching is practical - it's steady work, you get benefits, and you don't have to travel far several times a week to do your job. But "practical" doesn't have to mean "boring," according to Barnhart.

"I absolutely adore what I do," she said. "It's a lot of work. But I love the kids. I love sharing my music. When we're performing something, and they get it, it's awesome."

A permanent record

A big part of the music business is producing and selling recorded music. Regional artists need recording services just like the national artists do, and the Tri-State area has plenty of private studios to meet that need.

David Levy, owner of Legacy Lab in Chambersburg, Pa., has been a recording studio producer for 20 years. He said two people - an engineer and a producer - work together to capture a studio performance and produce the best possible version of that.

"The producer oversees the vision. He makes sure everything is in order. It's a diplomatic thing - he's the liaison between the talent and the engineer," he said. "The engineer, on the other hand, is technical. If you're putting seven microphones on a drum kit, you'd better know where to put them or it will sound thin.

"The engineer has to have a great sense of electronics, of how things work. He has to be able to jerry-rig things. And above all, he needs great ears that can catch little things."

On the mend

Mechanical skill is also needed by instrument repair workers. Business is good, according to Pat Lowry, partner in Ellsworth Music Supply & Repair in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Instruments of all kinds get dropped, sat on, rained on, run over or worn out. Repairers should be familiar with handling wood, metal, power tools, adhesives, electronics and more. And know how to play an instrument.

"You need musical skill and mechanical skill, plus a lot of experience," Lowry said. "You come across all these unique instruments. We got in a flute from the middle-1700s recently. You never stop learning."

Repairers learn their trade in schools, specialized for different types of instruments, or through hands-on experience. Lowry recommended apprenticing with a repair shop, if possible. Or learn on your own, as Lowry did.

"Even when I was a kid, I would buy broken instruments and repair them," he said, "then sell them to my classmates."

Music for church

One career option for musicians is church music. Almost every church has part-time or full-time paid musical staff, whether worship music is based on a piano, organ or praise band.

Ken Stoops, director of music and organist for John Wesley United Methodist Church in Hagerstown, said the type of music played in churches is changing.

"There are churches doing traditional music and succeeding and others that are completely contemporary and succeeding," he said. "Anyone who wants to go into church music, anything they can do will be valuable - voice lessons, keyboard lessons, organ lessons."

Stoops said churches generally recognize the importance of music and pay musicians a decent salary. But salary is not what draws him to lead music at a church.

"It is a service-oriented career," he said. "It is a service to God and community."

Greg Shook pastors a church in Shepherdstown, W.Va. He also wears many musical hats: music instructor with Shepherd University, director of Hagerstown Choral Arts, private music teacher, solo performer.

Shook said he likes the variety, because music is a passion for him.

"I started out as an oboist, then got into taking organ lessons, then voice and then directing," he said. "If I could do nothing but music, I'd be thrilled."

Follow your dream on or off the stage

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