Balancing Family with a Career in Music

“Is it possible to successfully raise a family and have a career in music?” 

There’s a question that perplexes many aspiring and emerging musicians.  My answer…absolutely. If you truly want these things out of life, unconditionally YES! 

Of course, building a great career in music is never easy.  Nor is having a family.  But the best things in life usually aren’t.  And if you’re truly devoted to both visions, each will add fulfillment, meaning, and depth to the other.

If you’d like to have your cake and eat it too—the joy of raising a family while following your passion for a career—here are some suggestions that make this proposition more feasible.

1)    Choose your partner wisely.  The word “partner” is apropos.  It’s essential to find someone who communicates well, shares similar values, and supports your artistic lifestyle.  It also helps if you actually like the other person…a lot.

2)    Choose a complementary partner.  Though love may flow, it can be tough when two parents have parallel career goals.  For example, if both of hope to land an orchestra position or college gig, securing work in the same city may be near impossible (unless you met on the job). It is tricky when two parents are regularly on the road, or both are subjected to the roller coaster finances of freelancing.  Finding a partner who balances you professionally is a great asset.

3)    Become financially literate.  Both raising a family and supporting a musical habit require money.  Learn how the money game works, and win big.

4)    Consider cost of livingNot every musician must live in NYC, LA, or other celebrated urban area with an exorbitant cost of living.  Raising a family is much easier in a house than a studio apartment.  Pick your geography carefully, and reside where you can afford.

5)    Live by family. It is extremely helpful to live close to at least a few family members who babysit in a pinch, play an active role in your kids’ development, and provide moral support for the ups and downs that accompany a musical existence.  When this is impossible, consider “adopting” some neighbors or colleagues who invest positive energy in your family.

6)    Make great decisions early on.  Living gig to gig is expected when you’re 20, but not a great place to be when 30, 45, or 60.  Establish a sustainable musical business (aka your career) that automatically generates opportunity and capital as you age.

7)   Practice a lot when you’re young.  If you think things are busy now, just wait until you have a family!  One of the first activities to be compromised is often practice time.  The more you master your art technically when young, the better you’ll be able to cope with this reality.

8)    Become a master of time management.  Everything takes time. Learn how to work efficiently and live exceptionally.  For time management strategies, click here.

9)    Prioritize work and prioritize family.  It’s easy to get caught up in just one.  Some musicians become so focused on their art, they neglect spending quality time with loved ones.  Others become absorbed in family life, and cease to remain active vibrant musicians.  There is enough time to do both if you want them badly enough.

On a proud personal note, I just became a father for the second time!  My baby daughter Alaina Avery Cutler was born June 25, 2010.  Her brother Ashton Ellington, barely two, couldn’t be happier about it. 

And neither could I.  The time since Ashton was born has been one of the most active periods of my professional life.  And spending quality time with my family has made the endless hours and hard work required to succeed as a musician all the more meaningful.

June 2010 134

 Here’s a picture of me with my beautiful son and baby daughter.

Good luck to you.

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