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Harmonizing Life & Music: How I Set Boundaries as a Musician

Updated: Jan 18

For a musician, the line separating work from everyday life is often blurry. Whether it's practicing, blogging, scheduling, preparing for taxes, or prepping for lessons, the number of necessary, yet unpaid tasks in a musician's daily life can quickly pile up and become overwhelming.

Because I love what I do and want to avoid burning out, I have learned to take proactive measures to protect my personal space and time. Here are three ways I set boundaries in my professional life.

1. Stick to a schedule. As much as I love playing, taking time away from my instrument is crucial to avoid burning out. I make an effort not to touch my flute on Sundays, which I consider a day of rest. I also avoid teaching on weekends except for makeup lessons on Saturday mornings.

Other time boundaries I set for myself include:

  • Not answering work-related emails or texts after 9pm

  • Not practicing after 10pm

  • Not accommodating make-up lessons without at least 48 hours notice.

It's always a good idea to communicate your availability and expectations to parents in a Studio Policy.

2. Choose commitments carefully. News flash to any developing artist: You don't have to say yes to every gig! A year ago, I would have jumped at every opportunity that I came across, whether the opportunity was compensated or not. Today, I have developed enough of a routine and schedule to carefully select which gigs I will take.

Episode 016 of the Music Studio Start-up Podcast was useful in helping me develop a freelancing framework. In it, the host interviews Lance LaDuke of Carnegie-Mellon University, who weighs 3 things when considering whether to take a gig: the "bread," the "hang," and the "art." The “bread” is the income the opportunity provides, the “hang” is the people he gets to work with, and the “art” is the quality of the art they are making.

If the gig has at least two out of the three categories and doesn't require me to reschedule too many lessons, I'll usually accept it.

3. Limit social media. I'm not much of a social media person to begin with, but I do recognize that it can be a great tool for self-promotion, networking, and discovering new forms of art. However, the dark side of social media is that it can quickly foster both imposter syndrome (what makes me think I'm good enough to do this?) and envy (wow, he got that orchestra position - I'm so jealous).

These days, my social media routine includes:

  1. Posting about something work-related

  2. Liking a few posts/stories from colleagues I admire - just enough to keep me inspired!

  3. Logging off again.

Everything in moderation!

Above all, know your vision, and don't compromise. When first starting to get my studio together, I had a vague idea of what I wanted my work schedule to look like. It's only through trial and error that I've found a system that works where I feel both fulfilled and balanced.

Fellow musicians and teachers, do you have any other tips to share? Were there any moments in your teaching and/or performing careers where you learned the hard way how to set boundaries? I'd love to learn from you!

Happy fluting!

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