Achieving work-life balance in Germany as An independent contractor music teacher. Avoiding burn-out

1.1 Defining Work-Life Balance:

In-order to define work-life balance we must also be able to define what it isn´t. Researcher and musician Mr. Menger describes the commonly accepted truth of work-life dominance in the life of a musician in the following quote.


“An occupational characteristic that goes along with artistic life or, to be more precise, that blurs the boundaries between occupation and private life, and between their respective rationales. However, once this trait is regarded as belonging to the initial socialization process of the artist... such an explanation turns out to be highly deterministic and ultimately tautological.” (Menger, 1999, p. 554)


This quote touts the systemic acceptance of overworking oneself to get ahead in one’s career and furthers the belief that a serious musician or artist is 200 percent or more invested in their music career. If overworking one´s self is the societal norm, then is the concept of life balance an unachievable utopia?[ CITATION Tea15 \l 1031 ] The possibility of living a balance between work and self-care is possible if a musician/ music teacher is willing to sacrifice a small amount of work in-order to maintain their physical, mental, and emotional health. Work-life balance can be defined as the ability of a person to have functioning private and work lives while maintaining a healthy emotional, physical, and mental state.


1.2 Negative effects caused by lack of self-care in a music career:


In the Study called “the Study of Portfolio careers and work-life balance among musicians,” the researchers interview a group of professional drummers who are freelance performers and private lesson teachers. These musicians provided examples from their careers in which they had not practiced self-care and paid the price. [ CITATION Tea15 \l 1031 ]


“In light of these data, it should come as little surprise that Bennett (2008, p. 49) reports ‘there is a higher rate of injury amongst musicians than athletes . . . musicians have long been acknowledged to be susceptible to physical and psychological injury. Musicians’ health – both mental and physical – appears threatened by the very nature of the profession. The experience of this pressurized professional environment is sometimes further intensified by the ubiquity in some circles of drug abuse.”[CITATION Tea15 \p 7 \l 1031 ]


German neuroscientist, teacher, and musician Eckart Altenmüller identifies common reasons why health problems are developed by professional musicians. Musician health can worsen due to the high pressure and demanding nature of the work extending over a long period of time in a music playing and teaching career. This high pressure is often self-imposed. Altenmüller states that “Musizieren ist oft eine lustbetonte Tätigkeit die zu Übermotivation und Überbelastung führen kann.“ [CITATION Spa11 \p 52-52 \l 1031 ] This can be translated to mean that due to the passion of the musician in the making of their craft, the person themself is their own cause for the development of poor health. This occurs because the freelance musician struggles with imposing their own boundaries; because of their passion and love for the making and teaching of music. Altenmüller addresses another reason why musicians develop career related injuries.


“Musik machen unterliegt oft einem hohen gesellschaftlichen Druck, denn das kreative Produkt ist ja hörbar und in Echtzeit von Spielenden und Zuhörenden überprüfbar. Dies begünstigt Afführungsangst.” [CITATION Spa11 \p 52-54 \l 1031 ]


This quote from Altenmüller implies that the expectation of constant perfection from the musician, the audience. In addition, the society in which a musician lives can create the phenomena psychological problem called Stage fright. The common prescription for a musician to get over their fear of performance is to do more performing until the side effects from Stage Fright are no longer occurring. The freelance musician/independent contractor music teacher have less time for performing due to the amount of teaching that occurs during the week. This means a person can develop stage fright even if they had been stage fright free earlier in their career. Last but not least, the phenomena of chronic body pain, fatigue, and hypertension can be developed by musicians and music teachers. Altenmüller explains


“Körperliche Beschwerden, Schmerzen, und Verspannungen beim Musizieren sind ebenfalls häufig mit Ängsten verbunden, die dazu beitragen können, dass sich Symptome im Schmerzgedächtnis einprägen und dann chronisch werden.“ [CITATION Spa11 \p 52-54 \l 1031 ]


Alltenmüller has seen how fear and pain can be combined and saved in muscle memory, and in the overall thinking processes of the brain. He has seen how this occurrence has disabled many musicians during their career. The high-pressure environment in music needs to be counterbalanced with other stress reducing activities. [CITATION Dar181 \p 87-90 \l 1031 ]There are of-course other problems developed by musicians due to higher amounts of stress, but they will not be addressed in this paper.





It is important to understand that this “pressurized professional environment,” has been occurring in the music profession since there was a music profession. In Rostock, Germany dating back to year 1400 there have been free-lance musicians and also city paid employee musicians. The freelance musicians in the 1500-1600´s played the “Sack-Pfeife,” which can be compared to the modern age bagpipe. These musicians catered to the small village weddings and special occasions that were not deemed as official city functions, in which the city paid musicians would be requested to play for. This musician “side hustle,” has been occurring for quite some time. In every century the roles of the freelance musician change, but nonetheless the career of freelance musician and teacher remains.


In summary, it is important for a musician to have an external outlet in-which they can relax in-order to counterbalance their busy and stressful work life.





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