Teaching as supplemental income for musical theatre performers

If you're looking for a way to support your performing career, make additional income, and continue developing yourself as a musical theater artist along the way, teaching could be perfect for you. Although it takes more effort to initially arrange than waiting tables, teaching will give back significantly more to your performance career and will create a great synergistic relationship that connects all the work you're doing. It allows you to stay within the theater community, network for potential performing opportunities, it will position you as somewhat of an "expert" in your field which never hurts, and best of all, the old saying is absolutely true: the best way to learn a skill is to teach it. When I started teaching voice, I saw my performance abilities skyrocket in ways that I didn't expect, which I attribute to the fact that I was spending several hours per day accompanying, demonstrating singing techniques, talking about the intricacies of singing, researching established artists, and choosing repetoire. It was like free practice time that I was getting paid for! Awesome. There are several types of teaching jobs for dancers, musicians and actors, and depending on the constraints of your performing gigs you'll want to consider which is best for you:

Teaching in K-12 public or private schools: this option will provide you the most consistent stream of income, since your hours will be set for a semester or full academic year, and if you are hired as an employee of a district (rather than an independent contractor) you may even receive benefits. Each state differs on what type of credentials or degrees are required. Teaching jobs in the arts are usually very competitive, since funding for arts education in K-12 has been extremely limited in most parts of the country. Be aware that the younger your classes are, the less will be required of you in terms of lesson plan content, but the further you'll stray from actively using your performance skills on the job, and you may find yourself doing more classroom discipline than creative artistry.

Teaching as a contracted teaching artist in schools: some states, due to lack of regional funding for arts education, have started to organize small collectives of arts professionals known as "teaching artists" that can be contracted as 1099 workers to teach music, dance, visual arts and theater in K-12 public and private schools. You will be contracted for a short period of time, usually around 8 weeks, and will have specific outcomes expected of your "residency," which usually culminates in some sort of class performance or exhibit. You will not be subjected to the same state credentialing requirements, and you can be paid quite handsomely for this type of work (almost as much as you might make teaching privately), but you won't receive benefits and will need to pay your own taxes out of it.

Teaching for a community studio: if the bureaucracy of teaching in a pubic or private school doesn't appeal to you but you still don't want to have to market yourself to find your own students, teaching for a local studio or workshop environment can be a good route. Pay scales vary widely and work might be less predictable, as classes may be cancelled due to low enrollment (or the whims of a studio manager). Experience matters much more on a resume in this type of work than degrees of credentials, and you will have more control over your schedule.

Teaching privately: this is the most flexible of the options listed, since you are your own boss in this scenario. You'll charge what you want, take days off when you want, and build your circle of clientele as large as you want. This is also the most difficult of the options, because your income will be inconsistent based on whether students show up, you'll need to arrange a teaching space, and you will have to find all of your own students, which requires significant effort.

I have taught in all four of the formats listed above and believe there are both benefits and challenges in all scenarios. If performing is truly your main goal, teaching for a community studio or privately are the best options for you, since you'll get more exposure to a network of other teachers and performers and will likely come across performing opportunities. Teaching in K-12 or as a contracted teaching artist are excellent for consistent paychecks but are less likely to connect you to the theater world, since K-12 is very separate and regulated.

Do you have a teaching story or recommendation? Tell us in the comments below.

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