Matthew Bennis shares his thoughts on becoming a musician… full time.

12717914_10101489069474948_460659900134352310_n“I have been a flute player for 2 decades, although I haven’t picked it up in a few years. That is how I learned to read music well, and I have always excelled at sight reading. It was then that I realized that no one needed a flute player unless they are proficient in all of the other reed instruments.

I decided to take up piano instead. I taught myself over the past 9 years how to play, and subjected myself to many ‘trial by fire’ situations which required me to sight read broadway scores in dress rehearsals, auditions, and performances in the suburbs of Philly and the DE area. There are a lack of piano players who are comfortable doing this in these areas, so I was being used more and more in ’emergencies’. Any pianist is better than none! haha

Went back to school for a bachelor’s in nursing degree during this time, which I obtained in 2013.

Worked as an RN at a prison in the Philly suburbs for 2 years before I paid a visit to New York City on a beautiful, lightly snowy winter night. The energy was electric and I decided that I was going to move to new york to attempt to make music in the big city because…well, you just have to go for it.  
So I left the prison and got a job at New York Presbyterian in the children’s hospital up on 165th st in Manhattan. Washington Heights neighborhood. 
Moved to NYC in may 2013 and worked at NYP as a pediatric RN while moonlighting as an accompanist and music director in the city. 

I used to work all night at the hospital 7pm-7am, and then head right to a morning rehearsal. Then home in the mid afternoon to sleep as much as possible before being back at the hospital at 7pm that night. 

Many times I would not sleep at all and work straight through. I just LOVE to make music so much that it seemed worth it to me. 

After almost 3 years of trying this, I burned myself out. I felt unwell and was frazzled all of the time. This showed in my work, at both jobs.

Finally, I had to decide between financial security and my truest passion which has always been music. So I decided to take time off to see how a trial period works out… I needed to finish all of the projects that I had already started (“The Nose” being one of them), and I wanted to be able to put all of my efforts into it. 

I guess I should have known, but now I realize that performing music full time is a LOT of hard work. I don’t seem to get any more sleep than I did before! I take on any available work because I need to pay rent which sometimes means 2 rehearsals and a performance in 1 day. 

For example this past Sunday I had a 2p-5p, followed by a performance of a musical 8p-10p, followed by a shift at the West Village piano bar “Monster Bar” from 11p-4am. 
Then 9am Monday morning I had to be at the piano accompanying for classes and showcases at Actor’s Connection til 4p. 
Then I got to sleep. 

BUT I don’t feel like I am working at all. I’m having the best time, and my mood has drastically improved. “

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