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Balance

Finding the harmony between your job and your passion Add to ...

Caitlin Hanford is an elementary school music teacher. Chris Rawlings is an apple farmer. Joanne Crabtree is a psychotherapist. Anne Walker is an English as second language instructor. They’re also all musicians, balancing their passion for their job and their passion for their music, fitting in gigs as often as they can while keeping up the real job that pays the bills.

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It may be simplest for Joanne Crabtree. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, the 69-year-old Torontonian sees clients for her psychotherapy practice. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, she devotes to her music, writing songs, recording, performing before audiences with singing partner Paul Mills, and networking with the people she needs to connect with in order to win sufficient bookings. If the musical side of her life needs her on a psychotherapy day, she adjusts. “I can change the days I work. Everyone knows about my other life,” she says.

That’s actually different from earlier in her career, when she hid her psychotherapy from her musical colleagues and her musical career from her therapy clients. The fear was that knowing she had another interest would imply she wasn’t fully invested in each – an amateur, dabbling.

She still keeps the two worlds separate as much as possible. “There has never been a time in my office working on therapy when I have been interrupted by music and when I am doing my music I don’t think of therapy,” she says.

“Therapy work will kill you if you don’t put boundaries on it. When I put the key in the door to lock up, I leave therapy behind and turn my creative energies to music.”

Jazz-folk artist Chris Rawlings, 64, also has a structure to his life, but it’s not hermetically sealed like Ms. Crabtree’s. Fifteen years ago he took over the apple farm of his wife’s cousin in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. He also is part of the Mariposa in the Schools effort, which brings musicians into classrooms, which he considers a second job because of the money he receives but also is musically fulfilling. He also writes songs, records, and performs.

From March through May, he splits his time between his Toronto home and his Quebec farm. In June, he focuses on the farm until the harvest of 6,000 to 8,000 bushels of apples is completed, along with the acre of pumpkins and 1.5 acres of squash. But even while farming, he’ll weave in music, writing songs and recording demo CDs when the nights start getting darker earlier and he has to depart the fields sooner. He also hosts singing tours for Vermont schools, showing the farm and explaining how it operates through songs he has written. And when he is performing music, the farm he owns can intrude, with his farm helper calling a few minutes before the event to solicit a decision on a problem that’s cropped up.

“It feels really good most of the time. But sometimes I get stressed out, [such as]when we had an unexpected frost,” he noted in an interview in early May. “It’s a super integration of what I like to do. They dovetail very much with each other.”

Caitlin Hanford, 57, plays in two popular musical groups, Quartette which also features Sylvia Tyson, and The Marigolds. In each, the singers decided at the outset that they would only perform when everyone was available, something they knew would set limits because they all had solo careers. For the others, that solo career was performing. For Ms. Hanford, it was teaching music, these days for kindergarten to Grade 3 at Queen Victoria Public School in Toronto’s Parkdale district.

So during the week she teaches, although occasionally in an evening one of the groups will be practising to prepare for a performance. On some weekends, she will take part in “runouts,” performing with one of the groups in Southern Ontario locales where she can be back, and refreshed, for her classes on Monday morning. During March break and her summer vacation, she aims to fit in a lot of performances. “I see it as a balance. Music is my No. 1 passion. Even if there seems to not be enough hours in the day, I love what I am doing,” she says.

The toughest period is before Christmas, when the groups can be busy. “If you’re playing every weekend and teaching during the weeks there’s not a lot of time off. But the Christmas season is short and I love music so much it feeds my energies,” she says.

Singer-songwriter Anne Walker, 52, is an itinerant English as second language instructor in Pickering, Ont. Just as Mr. Rawlings writes songs about his apple farm to educate the student tours, she likes to write songs that can be used in the classroom to help students learn English.

Teaching hinders her music somewhat because she must be at school through the morning, keeping her from evening and late-night networking sessions to secure gigs or taking part in open stages where promoters listen to musicians. As well, she is limited to performing during the school year at places she can travel to and return on a weekend.

In 2007, she was diagnosed with cancer, and that brought her life into focus. It became clear that music was very important to her, and the many songs she had written but not recorded should see the light of day. She put out a CD, Labyrinth, which cost about $15,000, since she not only has to pay for studio time but also pay for musicians to accompany her. Then she needed to find more gigs to pay for it.

She’s the only one of the musicians interviewed who still has children at home, albeit now teenagers. When they were younger, she curtailed her singing career somewhat, and also looked for family-friendly settings where she could take her children. On some occasions, they would come on stage and sing with her, again blending elements of her life together into a workable balance.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter

 
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