Friday, January 9, 2009

Conducting IS Teaching!

In reading my RSS Feeds this afternoon on Google Reader, I was drawn to the blog of David Griggs-Janower courtesy of ChoralBlog (Thanks for sending this out Philip - David's blog is now being added to my reader!)

In case you don't read ChoralBlog, the post that caught their eye and subsequently my eye was his post on "being on", and what it is like to have to be on the ball, or as he put it "in three times zones at the same time" for a full rehearsal.  He also draws comparisons of how conducting, which is teaching, can be extremely draining, full of overtime responsibilities like marking, score marking, rehearsal preparation and the list goes on.  In fact, my hat goes off to full times teachers who need to be in teacher mode all day long, not just for a few classes and rehearsals like me.  Not only that, but I work with adults all the time, so I don't need to think about discipline, worry about class attendance, or deal with ... ahem ... parents!  If there is any profession that deserves two months off in the Summer, you certainly have my support.

I remember way back when I was in my undergrad looking at my choral prof's schedule, wondering how he could do it.  Three university choirs a community chorus, a few voice students, and teaching conducting courses.  Every night must have had one rehearsal, if not two every day with his University choirs.  I couldn't fathom his lifestyle at that time, yet here I am living it, and surviving (and even finding time to blog about it).

His subsequent post as a reply to the comments he received from the previous one is also great, and raises the usual point of teachers holidays, and responding to the all to many comments of "well, you're so lucky as a teacher you two weeks off for Christmas and two months off for Summer".  Now, don't get me wrong, I've never had a 9-5 job, so I can't fully appreciate the responsibilities that tied into a job like that.  My wife, however, does have a full time day job, and I certainly know that she works hard.  Probably harder than the average actually, and doesn't take things like sick days, early departures, or long lunches for granted.  I once heard of someone though who after getting their full time government employment was very quick to point out how great the Friday afternoon lunch was, which usually involved drinks, and then going from the restaurant, straight home.  All I could do was smile, and wonder what it must be like to have that kind of freedom in a job - where you aren't being literally watched all the time (maybe I shouldn't have used the word literally there ... as people tend not to watch conductors enough)

I'll agree, the time off in the summer is great.  It makes up for working most evening until 10 PM, and most weekends through the year.  However, there is no income, and yet, there is still work to be done!  Preparations for the next season, re-writing course outlines, organizing rehearsals, programs, program notes.  And although sick days can be taken in the year, they are not without major consequence.  Unless you have an assistant, finding a last minute sub is often impossible.  You are faced with either canceling the rehearsal in the hopes to make it up for it later, or working while sick - and as a result, having a slower recovery time.  I conducted a full concert once with an inner ear infection that would put most people in the hospital, and certainly you wouldn't see them at work - however, after eight weeks of rehearsals, and over 250 tickets sold - who was going to conduct it if I called in sick?

Musicians are also suckers for punishment.  If you were, say, a dentist, and were offered to take off a portion of your holidays to do some complimentary crowns for approximately 18 hours, would you do it?  Or an accountant who would spend the time between December 28th and January 1st doing taxes pro bono?  Probably not.  Yet, there I was in rehearsal from December 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st for a concert on the evening of the 31st and a recording session on January 1st - my week off, just two days after Christmas, and 4 days before classes begin on the 5th doing this, for not a penny.  Don't get me wrong - it was fun, I got to visit with old friends, and sing great music, but it was hard work (and to be fair - I could have said 'No')

The bottom line is this.  I love my work, I wouldn't trade it in for the world.  What I don't like is when people assume that because I love what i do, it means I don't have to work hard!

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