Daniel: Composer, Teacher, and Free Thinker
Updated: Jan 13
It was a chilly Monday afternoon as I waited for Daniel in a popular hipster cafe. I sat at a small table in the center of the room, as I heard him say hello and gracefully sit down. He wore a stylishly over sized grey sweater and well-worn, synthetic leather shoes. He ordered an espresso and we started to talk.
Daniel, you are passionate about many different things. Can you tell me about what your main projects are?
I teach music two days a week at a private school, and spend the rest of the week teaching private lessons, composing, and writing. I offer private voice and music lessons at my studio, "Horizons Musical Studio" in Tacoma, WA. I'm very proud to have built this business up over a number of years, as it is very rewarding to see improvement and delight in students.
What does your schedule look like? And how did you build this schedule?
I spend Mondays composing all day (which can be at home, at a cafe, or really anywhere). Tuesdays and Wednesdays I teach at Horizons. Wednesdays I also teach at the elementary school, and on Thursdays I'll teach a few private lessons. I leave Fridays open, so that I can have a three day weekend.
After graduating I realized that there were few jobs for musicians that didn't have either a high level of musical education or a strong network of fellow musicians. I worked at a restaurant for two months, and then realized that I had to do something else... something more meaningful. I got lucky and found a part-time teaching job at the school, then I built freelancing work around that job, so that I could create multiple income streams. I very much prefer this to working full-time.
Do you get pressure from others to work a full-time job, or do something more "stable?"
Surprisingly, no. My parents are very supportive of my pursuing a career in the arts. My father even worked freelance for several years, while I was growing-up, so I think that gives him confidence that I can make a good living - and I do.
I also don't think that traditional jobs are "stable" anymore. A person can get fired, or a company can go under at any moment. I much prefer my freedom and flexibility to the accouterments of a full-time job. I can buy my own insurance on the market, and there are alternatives to a 401k.
Let' s talk about something a little more abstract: success. How do you define it?
"[Success to me is]... being in a state where all basic financial and emotional needs are met, with the future possibility for growth. Included in this is enough extra cash to get a cup of coffee and have some flexibility in life."
Daniel laughed and rolled his head back as he added, "I also want enough space to hang out with the gang, including my good friend Sarah Phillips... make sure you add this quote to the interview!"
You mentioned earlier that you run a successful studio. Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur? What are your thoughts on this topic as it relates to social media?
That's a complicated question. In owning a studio, people are quick to put certain expectations on me. I feel like being an entrepreneur is considered this thing that needs to be a huge "grind "all of the time. There is a lot of pressure on social media to hustle, almost for the sake of it.
I do not think that hard work always equals success.
I also feel like (in this space) it can be very hard to stay positive on social media. When I post a new song that I've written or a project that I have worked on, I get instant feedback. This can make it difficult for me to do my own reflecting, and ever fully appreciate what I have accomplished.
This is strange because when authors write books, their work gets reviewed slowly by different people. In our digital age, once something is created it gets put out there - for everyone. And everyone gives instant feedback on something that may have taken you a LONG time to create.
The internet (is like) a hive as information is put out there quickly with no time to reflect.
This is why I like books so much, because I get the chance to think about one thing (story) at a time, and there are no view counters or opinions of others alongside the work. One book that I would recommend to other young creatives is Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon. The book speaks about sharing with the community and learning from others as a pathway to success.
I have recently taken this idea, and started a thing that I call "Digital Goodwill." I spend a few minutes each day leaving encouraging comments on social media. I feel like you get what you put out into the world - so be kind!
Daniel, before we end things: What plans do you have for the near future?
I'm very interested in starting a one man show called "Daniel Incandescent." This project would be completely for my own benefit and for the benefit of those watching me. I love the idea of putting art into the world and just seeing what happens.
I have had some slight pressure from others to monetize this (even though it has not materialized yet), but that would defeat the point. I love what I do and I want to contribute to the artistic ecosystem.
After we wrapped-up, Daniel pulled out his small leather-bound notebook:
"I'm going to stay here a while and work on my composing."
I packed-up my things and finished the last sip of my coffee.
The late afternoon sun shone behind Daniel's shoulders; He looked like a painting.