Writer’s Workshop: A New Career?

Today, Mama Kat asks the musical question, “If you had to choose a new career for yourself, what would you choose?”

I’ve talked about this before, specifically last September, when the prompt was “Something you wanted to be when you grew up.”

Understand now, I retired on disability about four years ago. My career days are over. But if I had it to do over…

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a musician and spend my life playing the guitar. Problem was, I didn’t know where to begin. I could play the guitar, and was pretty good at it, but never felt comfortable playing in front of people, even my family. I don’t sing well, and I don’t like to sing, so I thought that relegated me to the background, accompanying people who could sing. I was lost on my own; I knew a lot of songs, but none that I could play on my own, so when people would ask me to play something, I was like a deer in the headlights.

Besides, I was led to believe that being a musician wasn’t a “real career.” You know, where you make lots of money and gain lots of prestige working for someone else. I was sold on the idea that having a “real career” was the key to happiness. And maybe it is, for some. I came to believe that being a musician was a good avocation, something to do in one’s spare time, but it was hardly something one could make a living at. Better to focus on getting your degree and making yourself employable, be tops in your field, advance through the ranks.

I’m not going to say that doing all that brought nothing but unhappiness and desolation. It didn’t. But, if I had it to do over again, knowing what I know now, I’d sink a lot more time into the guitar.

21 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: A New Career?

  1. It was really uncommon back in the day to encourage kids to pursue careers in music or the arts. I think generally parents want kids to enjoy their hobbies and talents, but to find a safe job that supports your lifestyle and/or a family. You were lucky to have had experience doing both!


  2. Some of us make our choices based on what’s expected of us, instead of on what we really want. I’m with you on wondering about the “what ifs”. I remind myself often that I can’t change the past, but I can change the present and the present can change the future. If playing the guitar still brings you joy, then I hope you play it often.


  3. I was there, John – you were a good guitarist.

    My piano teacher was a Eumir Deodato fan – as a Gershwin specialist and 40’s radio jazz veteran, she loved Deodato’s version of Rhapsody in Blue. She encouraged me to improvise and compose, and got me sheet music for anything I heard on the radio.

    I used to play and sing Chicago tunes on the dorm piano, and that’s how I was asked to join All You Can Eat. We did tunes by Chicago, the Ohio Players, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell… I was the only guy with the guts to sing, so I became the lead singer. After a year, I got sick of the exclusive diet of playing frat parties and went to Horizon Brass Rock. That was partly Boz Scaggs’ fault – Horizon needed the synth part in Lido Shuffle, and I could play it. The bass player, Guy Guercio, was a distant relative of James William Guercio, producer of the first seven or eight Chicago albums.

    We were eventually managed by Chicago’s former road manager John Brockamontes, and booked through Irving Azoff’s old agency Blytham Limited. Both these horn bands played mainly copy tunes. When it came time to decide whether to pursue music full-time, the echoes of my dad’s admonition to get a real job had me on my way to National Semiconductor.

    When I got to Silicon Valley and design engineering in 1978, I auditioned for several bands and joined Ringmaster. We got local radio airplay and a regular club following, but no record company interest, even after we recorded and shopped several demo tapes. Not knowing anyone in L.A. definitely hurt us, and we all worked day jobs. Ringmaster broke up in 1986.

    I’m glad to have worked in the semiconductor industry for 25 years. That gave me the financial cushion to worry a bit less about retirement. It also had its fun, creative moments – two of my three patents are in analog signal synthesis, borrowing from my music background.

    Unless you get a regional or national following with halfway honest management, the music business is a lawless field with very long odds for any kind of financial success. In today’s world, the unfortunate truth is you need to make money to survive. Fun and money can be mutually exclusive.


    1. First, thanks for your vote of confidence.

      I knew at the outset that music was a dog-eat-dog world, and Mom drilled it into my head that I was to go to college (the one of her choice), finish in four years, and get the hell out of the house, and that I’d need money to do that (especially to pay off the student loans I was forced to take out to go to the school she wanted me to go to), so I know I wouldn’t have attempted making a career out of music, at least not until I knew I could make a living at it. The phrase “don’t give up your day job” comes immediately to mind. As it turns out, I graduated in 3.5 years and got married (forty years this January), and wouldn’t give that up even if I was assured of a stellar career as a guitarist.

      On the other hand, I would have liked to have given it a go…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No matter what happens, it all works out. You made a great choice for life partner. Who knows what would have happened if you’d had a different career – the butterfly effect would probably have changed everything.

        A lot of music biz success happens “…if you get in with the right bunch of fellows.”

        I happened to be picked every time by guys who already had some connections to bookings, and pretty much organized everything. Yes, Ringmaster rehearsed in my California garage, and I bought big chunks of the sound system. But guitarist Steve Bicker got us promo materials (he did photography for most of HP’s internal presentations at that time) and got us booked and played on the radio.


  4. While the music field is very competitive and pay is generally less consistent than some fields, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from making that choice.
    It’s good to have passions, and if your passion can provide income, well…


    1. Even if it isn’t a whole lot of money… I once saw that the definition of a guitarist was someone who loads $1000 worth of gear into a $500 car and drives a hundred miles to a gig that pays him $50. I could think of a lot of things to do with that $50…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve written that same post about four times since October 2014. Especially the next to the last paragraph. But for me it was “Be a secretary because you can’t make a living at writing…” The thing I always come back to is, how might my life have been different? Do you ever wonder about that? Could have been worse if what the naysayers said was true. On the other hand, could have been a whole lot more fulfilling… I hear ya loud and clear!

    Impromptu Promptlings
    A to Z Challenge Letter O&P


    1. Or at least have left enough room in life to try… I worked with a guy who was a published author. He worked as a job scheduler and wrote in his spare time. Wes Montgomery was an amazing guitarist with a bunch of albums to his name, and he worked as a machinist full-time. Another, Tal Farlow, was a sign painter who found the time to become a great player and record a number of albums himself. No reason you can’t do both, I guess…


  6. I figure I am in a job I was meant to do…help people( I’m a Credit Counsellor). Now, I love art and travel so if I wasn’t scared to show my inclination to art….not meaning draw but to work in a museum or something, I would have taken art in School. I also love to travel so I could have seen myself as a tour director…but it wasn’t meant to be and knowing how much I love to be with my family at Christmas and I needed to be here for my mom after my dad passed away so…I am where I am supposed to be


  7. My dream of youth was to go into show business to make a living and I was so fortunate to have great opportunities come my way to make my dream possible. Spending the first 20 years of my working life pursuing things that I mostly enjoyed was such a wonderful experience. I didn’t end up with any good retirement package and never saved much money, but I’m not sure that’s what real living is all about. If we don’t do the things we enjoy when we’re young, we may never have the opportunity to do them and end up with twilight years of pondering what could have been.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


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