Lawrence E. Clark grew up in a musical house with a singing mother and drummer father. However, a musical background didn’t stop Clark’s family from becoming upset when he turned down a high-paying job at IBM to pursue music. Clark remembered they stayed angry until he got a job with Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, proving he could earn a regular paycheck with music.
“Everybody was mad at me for a long time, and there was nothing I could say or do at that time that made them change their mind,” said Clark, now a 70-year-old percussionist and vice president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians. “The only thing that changed my mother’s mind was I started doing theater.”
Clark is not the only musician who had to justify his career due to the slim chances of performers achieving fame and fortune. Thankfully, musicians don’t need to move to Los Angles and write a Top 10 hit to make a living. Indianapolis offers viable career paths in the music industry.
If Madison Square Garden doesn’t return a musician’s calls, playing local restaurants, bars and parties can make some cash. Philippe Moore, the saxophone player for local jazz band Vinyl Trends, said being in a band is like running a small business. Musicians need to create a brand and spread it through word of mouth and social media. Vinyl Trends gives the same effort for every audience regardless of size and promotes their social media accounts after every show.
“If we do a wedding gig, that may be 50-200 people that see us, but of that 50-200 people they all have at least four or five friends that they can spread the word to,” Moore said. “… Now we’re telling people we’re on Facebook, so people can check us out on Facebook and we’d have video clips and pictures there.”
Teaching private lessons or at schools is also a viable full-time gig for musicians. Moore left a career in retail where he made over $60,000 a year to pursue music education and now teaches full time at St. Simon School in Indianapolis. He said asking children to sing or play an instrument engages a creative part of their mind they sometimes did not know they had. Moore loves the opportunity to use music to foster such creative thinking.
“I still consider it a huge success,” Moore said. “I work for a great school that supports me. I have been extremely successful in building a solid program. I’m extremely happy with what I get to do. That’s success. Am I the most monetarily fluid person? No. But I am well taken care of and I make a decent living.”
Music therapists are board-certified and full-time professionals who treat mental health through music. Ann Hannan, head music therapist at Riley Hospital for Children, said the human brain only analyzes speech in the language processing center while it analyzes music throughout multiple sections, making music an important tool to help people deal with pain, trauma and stress.
Sometimes music therapists perform music for patients, and other times they create musical activities for patients such as playing in a drum circle. Hannan said music therapists match their therapy to their patient’s tastes.
She once treated a 16-year-old sickle cell patient who asked her not to play her violin because he didn’t like classical music. Hannan explained music could decrease his pain through slowing his heart rate and breathing and then asked what music he liked. He told her he liked hip hop, so the two worked together in GarageBand to create a beat the teenager could play to help him relax whenever sickle cell caused him pain.
“A music therapist can use music that’s culturally appropriate for the people they are working with,” Hannan said. “They can use something that’s familiar that brings up positive emotions, memories and experiences. … Because of that a therapist can develop rapport with a person they are working with almost immediately because they have something in common.”
While none of these occupations have the fortune or glamour of selling out arenas, there are stable careers for those who love music. Even if they are not what a musician originally intended to do, Moore said opportunities exist for hard working musicians.
“Music is just like any other profession,” Moore said. “You need to work really hard at it.”
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.