A Day in the Life of a Music Educator

How to Become a Professional Musician with Insights from Michael Nestor 

Music educator Michael Nestor has been passionate about music since his childhood – even before he formally learned how to read music. 

Even though he briefly switched majors in college from Music Education to Computer Science, it didn’t take him long to switch back. 

He knew teaching would be hard work, and he also knew teaching school kids would throw lots of random variables into the mix. But neither the hard work nor the randomness scared him off. 

In fact, sharing his passion and experiences with students is what he loves to do. 

Though the saxophone is Michael’s primary instrument (thanks to his dad, who was a big jazz fan!) he also strives to learn to play others. 

He equates this to running into a brick wall, and says if you keep running into that wall it will eventually come down, and you can keep right on running. 

When teaching jazz to middle school students, he reminds them that when they’re doing improv, no one in the audience knows what you “meant” to play. He says the same is true in life. People don’t know our insecurities unless we share them. Great advice!

Nestor shares he doesn’t get in nearly as much practice as he’d like these days – but for two good reasons. His kids, ages 2 and 6, keep him pretty busy. 

They’ve even convinced him to give Kidz Bop a chance! 

Moving around as a military kid gave him the ability to accept himself, without needing the approval of his peers.

In this blog, we’ll explore Michael’s background and how you can pursue a career in music (if that’s your jam anyways!).

Background of a middle school band director

Behind every great musician is that one person who believed in them – no matter what. 

For many students, that person is Michael Nestor, a Georgia-based school band director. 

Born into a military family, he spent his formative years living in Germany and Monterey, California. 

After discovering a natural inclination towards music, Michael taught himself how to read and play. 

And thanks to the guidance of his father, Michael became an expert at playing saxophone. 

image of man playing the saxophone

Photo by Bartek Leszczyński

It’s only natural that when Michael entered college, he went into the music field until…. he completed shifted his trajectory.

He thought learning music was too complex, so he dived into the field of computer science. 

Soon, he realized that spending the rest of his life clicking clacking away on his computer wasn’t for him either and he belonged in a more creative field. A dynamic one. 

He landed on music (again).

Throughout his time at college, Michael learned about all types of musical instruments because as he says, you never know what you’ll end up teaching. 

How to know if you should pursue a career in music

Music has the power to stir our emotions and move our souls. 

For some people, a career in music just makes sense.

But how can you determine if it’s the right path for you? 

First of all, the passion has to be there. 

If you find yourself humming melodies randomly or constantly tapping your foot to a rhythm in your head, you might be onto something. 

image of woman sitting and playing guitar on wooden path

Photo by Roudy Salameh

If you know you want to pursue music, start by assessing your current skill level. Are you willing to put in the time and effort to hone your craft? 

If you play an instrument, do you practice regularly? 

If you sing, are you actively improving your vocal range and technique? 

Consider your commitment to learning and growth. 

Are you willing to put in the effort to develop your musical knowledge and skills?

Think about your ideal role in the music world. 

Do you see yourself as a performer on stage, a composer in a studio, an educator shaping young minds, or a sound engineer behind the scenes? 

Understanding your desired role will help you focus your efforts in the right direction.

Are you open to working with other musicians and professionals in the industry? 

Networking and building relationships is crucial for success in the music business. 

If you’re a team player who can jam with others, being a professional musician may be the right path for you.

Financial Expectations

Consider what you need to make financially to sustain your lifestyle short-term and long-term. 

It may take time to establish yourself and earn a stable income, especially if you choose a competitive field like being a professional singer.

Be prepared for potential financial challenges if you are pursuing the performer route. As a performer, you are essentially your own business owner. 

Sometimes in life, you have to improvise – a lot like playing music.

That being said, until you’re established it’s wise to have a backup plan or side gig to support your musical pursuits.

Dedication and Discipline

Like any craft, a career in music requires ongoing commitment and discipline. 

Practice, rehearsals, impromptu jam sessions, and continuous learning are all part of the package. 

Are you ready to commit the time and effort required to excel in your chosen area of music and to take in feedback?

If so, then you’ll do well.

Seek Advice and Feedback

Don’t be afraid to seek advice from experienced musicians and mentors. 

They can provide valuable insights and feedback on your potential as a musician and your prospects in the industry since they’ve been in your position once themselves.

In the end, determining if a career in music is right for you is a deeply personal decision. 

It’s crucial to align your passion, skills, and commitment with the reality of the music industry. 

If music brings you joy and you’re determined to make a career out of it, why not pursue it?

How to become a professional musician 

If your heart beats to the rhythm of music and you’re ready to work hard, you can transform your love of beats into a rewarding career.

While it may demand dedication and consistency, there’s no better feeling than knowing you’re doing what you’re meant to do in life.

If you’re just starting out, consider playing live somewhere. 

Taking your music to the streets can grant you exposure you wouldn’t have otherwise. Street performances will help you gain confidence, a fan base, and pave the way for future gigs. 

musician playing the guitar live in the streets

Photo by Musa Ortaç

Consider starting a YouTube channel too – Of course, you must proactively promote your work and market yourself. With the right strategy, you’re bound to garner some views.

Consider covering a popular song or even allow other creators to use your music for free to gain some exposure. 

Composing original music is another avenue to kickstart your music career. 

Find your voice and be authentic. 

Like Michael, if you have a knack for teaching, the role of a band director may be perfect for you. 

Band directors play a crucial role in shaping the musical talents of students.

This role requires strong leadership and communication skills, as well as a deep understanding of music theory and how to play various instruments.

When Michael was in college, he endeavored to learn everything he could about all types of instruments – largely because you never know what you’ll have to teach in a band director role.

If you love writing compositions, you may do well as a composer.

Composers are responsible for writing music for film, TV, video games, and live performances. 

Now more than ever, gritty passion and creativity reign supreme. If you take a career in music seriously, you can turn your love for the craft into a fulfilling career.

A day in the life of a band director 

As a band director, Michael’s days are filled with teaching school kids all about music. In addition to the dynamic day-to-day activities, one of his favorite parts about his job is how he gets to see kids grow into their own person and find their own musical style.

Plus, he gets to work cross-functionally with his wife, who’s the principal at the school he teaches at. 

When he’s not helping to refine the musical strengths of kids at school, you can find him on the trails hanging out with his two daughters. 

Michael also enjoys woodworking, creating digital music, cooking, or watching a Marvel movie. As a kid, one of Michael’s favorite pastimes was reading Spiderman comic books.

Final thoughts

Everyone’s musical journey is different. Some play music for their own ears only; Many dream of performing onstage in front of thousands. Others spend their days teaching students how to hone and refine their talents. 

However yours begins, remember you’ve got options when it comes to being a professional musician. 

Music is a universal language that holds the power to connect hearts and captivate minds. If you are authentic and true, as with any other art form, you’ll find your people.

To your advantage as well, many artists today have the internet to thank for their prominence. Creatives can blossom and share their talents on platforms like Youtube,  Soundcloud, Spotify, and more. 

Or perhaps you are in pursuit of a more traditional role like a band director or composer. 

Whatever the case may be, it is essential to continuously hone your craft and market your talents.

Oh, and never stop practicing. Or as Michael might say, “Jazz it up!”

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