I’m Sick And Tired Of Working For Chump Change
Tom Kuegler

The life of an artist has never been an easy one…until the artist reaches a tipping point with fame and then maybe fortune follows.

I am not an artist by trade, but am married to a professional tuba player. Peter, my spouse, started playing at the age of 9. He had great mentors in middle-school and high-school including a rostered player at the Philadelphia Orchestra. Lots of experience playing in orchestras and marching bands in high school and college (he had a full music scholarship even though he was a math major) and at West Point for three years. He wanted to make a career of tuba playing for a major orchestra after his 3 years at West Point. He went on several auditions, and always came in second. Note: unlike violin players, major orchestras only have one rostered player and a couple of substitute players.

He was disappointed, no doubt. He realized he needed to find another career to sustain himself, because free-lancing as a substitute player in various community orchestras or the Philadelphia Orchestra or wedding gigs, etc. would keep him in the poor house.

He found that permanent, full time job after a couple of false starts. That happens when you are young. He always derisively referred to that permanent, full-time job as his ‘day job,’ because his love was still music. HOWEVER, he grew to love that permanent, full time job even though it wasn’t music performance. It gave him an opportunity to use his mathematics training…

He was in several different brass quintet over the years, and continues to play professionally in one of those quintets that has been doing performances for over 35 years now. And yes, they made a couple of CD’s (but the group isn’t famous, and that’s ok by Peter!). Right now he performs for the love of music, at the age of 73.

You are still young. You have time to make a good life for yourself. Don’t give up. Find a steady income for yourself and continue to write. You will always have that. I’m sure that you have other interests, other dreams…follow them. Perhaps you can make a good living out of those other skill sets.

Two concluding thoughts, the depressing one first.

  1. I’m a volunteer at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, National Park Service. Poe was a brilliant man, great writer at times, mediocre at other times. He created new writing genres (science fiction, the detective story). Unfortunately he was dirt poor most of his adult life; always chasing money. He had a couple of demons (alcohol being one of them); while the demons may have been his writing muse, they were also his undoing. His unrelenting anger at authority figures (you need to read a couple of his biographies to “get this”) contributed to his downfall; this anger was another one of his demons. I was trained as a psychologist so I cannot help but see his behavior through a psychological lens.
  2. I know part of this essay was a rant. I get this. The following statement, however, is just an example of your youth, inexperience in the world of work, and perhaps anger at authority figures (?). “The reason a boss or client is so harsh is because they’re trying to convince you that you deserve it. They’re trying to beat you down into nothing.While this statement might be true of unenlightened managers, it is not true of good ones. This I know from being a subordinate AND from being a manager AND from reading dozens of well written management books AND from teaching Leadership Theory as a faculty member. Managing people is not an easy task, just like being a parent is not easy. You learn by doing in many cases, as some organizations do not provide adequate training to newly promoted managers. IF they had bad bosses, they’re likely to mimic that bad, unenlightened behavior. So what I’m trying to tell you is this: don’t lump all bosses into one dung heap AND get rid of that anger because it will be your undoing. Read at least one biography of Poe and you will understand what I’m saying…

Don’t settle but be a realist at the same time. Perhaps you’ll find a day job to support your human needs (food, shelter, clothing) and continue to write to meet your spiritual needs. I wish you the best.

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