HOW ONE MUSIC TEACHER FOUND HIS SOUL SATISFYING SIDE HUSTLE: AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. SAMUEL STOKES
Dr. Samuel Stokes is a public school music teacher. He teaches piano, percussion, voice, and guitar to students ranging from 2nd to 12th grade. But that’s not all. He’s also a successful composer, playwright, and pianist where he has used his talents to contribute to podcasts, music videos, animated shorts, an LP record, a national TV commercial, and most recently, a new, original one-act musical, Ebenezer, which features a blend of hip-hop and traditional Christmas carols and is based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer will premiere in Warrensburg, Missouri Saturday, December 1, 2018 at the Dickens Christmas Festival and is also available for colleges, high schools, middle schools, church groups, and community theatre groups to perform.
Lately, I’ve been fascinated with teachers who have successful side hustles. I seek out teacher-bloggers, teacher-authors, teacher-photographers, teacher-business-owners, teacher-artists, and teacher-musicians to name a few of my favorite teacher side hustlers. These are the movers and shakers and busy movement makers who love teaching, but know they must monetize their creative and business talents in order to meet their financial and creative desires while they reach for their life dreams. This week, my very special guest is former teacher colleague, Dr. Samuel Stokes. Dr. Stokes came to our school five years ago, but has been teaching private music lessons, composing music and writing plays professionally for over twenty years.
When I sat down with Sam, I asked him a few questions to learn more about his new, exciting endeavor, and in hopes of inspiring YOU (ok, and to keep myself motivated as well).
Me: What inspired you to start your side hustle?
Sam: “I always wanted to be a composer when I was growing up, so I already had a lot of experience composing and arranging. I enjoy teaching as well, which also provides a somewhat steadier income for raising a family, but composing and arranging on the side allows me to be creative and to continue practicing and perfecting my craft. It also provides some extra income to help us pay the bills!”
Me: How do you balance your work and your personal life?
Sam: “The balance between work and personal life has got to be the hardest part. I am the sort of person that could spend hours a day working on musical projects outside of school, but having a family also requires a lot of time. I try to set myself reasonable boundaries when working at home. For example, I might set aside an hour when the children know that I should be undisturbed at the computer as I work on a musical arrangement, and likewise I try to set aside time to spend with my wife and children without letting work interrupt it.”
Me: What has been the most exciting or inspiring part about having a side hustle?
Sam’s reply: “Getting money for my creations is exciting to me!” Sam Stokes truly nails it when he articulates his reasoning:
“Of course, the extra income is helpful, but it is also exciting to be paid for artistic creations because it is perhaps the most concrete ways for people to show you that your art has value to them. It's nice when people tell you they like your work, but when they like it so much they want to buy it, that is really a good feeling.”
Me: What has been the most challenging element of having a side hustle?
Sam: “The biggest challenge to having a side hustle is keeping a consistent schedule for working on it. I'm a husband, father, and have a teaching career - all of these things take precedence over the side hustle. Sometimes there isn't much room to squeeze in anything else. I do my best to always at least have a minimum routine, such as working 30 minutes a day on composing and arranging, but during certain times of the year, even that can be a struggle to keep up with.”
I recently heard life coach, Susie Moore in her podcast interview with Melyssa Griffin remind listeners of Steven Covey’s oft quoted line, “Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities,” from his uber successful bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This was my first introduction to Susie Moore, but what she was saying resonated with me and I began to search for more articles by her and follow her blog. I realized the concept of helping her readers and listeners schedule their priorities is at the heart of her life’s work. If this idea resonates with you, too, check out Susie Moore’s FREE side hustle mini-course here.
Me: Would you recommend a side hustle to other teachers?
Sam’s response: “I could certainly see becoming a full-time composer and arranger at some point in the future, but it's hard to imagine ever giving up teaching entirely.” I think most passionate teachers feel this way. We went into teaching because we want to make a difference in the lives of kids, and if we follow our creative or business passions into a full-time job, then we don’t see the immediate impact of our work on students. Sam, like me, also identifies as an introvert and says that while this personality trait makes him “well-suited for composing and arranging,” he also admits that after “spending long hours composing and arranging during the summer, it doesn't take long before [he] miss[es] the human connection of working with students and other teachers.”
Me: Now for the fun part, what inspired you to turn such a well-loved traditional Christmas story into a rap musical?
Sam: “A Christmas Carol has always been a favorite story of mine and being inspired by The Muppet Christmas Carol, I decided I wanted to make my own musical version. I was also inspired by Darren Hardy, former publisher of Success magazine, entrepreneur, and best-selling author of The Compound Effect and Living Your Best Year Ever: A Proven Formula for Achieving Big Goals. His straight forward approach to sticking to habits and seeing projects through just made sense.”
Me: what was the most Fun and what was the most challenging aspects of this project?
Sam: “Writing the music was by far the most fun part about this project. It pushed me outside of my comfort zone in writing and performing a new style. The most challenging part was making the words and rhymes fit the meter and finding the right tempo so the audience can digest what is being said since it is the words that are telling the story.”
Me: how long did it take to complete the project?
Sam: “Once I had the concept in mind, it only took about two months of focused work. Luckily, we were out for summer break and my schedule was a little lighter, so I could dedicate more time to this project from the end of May to the end of July.”
ME: tell us more about the premiere and how music teachers can produce ebenezer in their own schools and community theatre programs.
Sam: “Performances of Ebenezer will be at 10am, 11am, and noon on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at The Music Studio in Warrensburg, Missouri, home of my alma mater, University of Central Missouri, as part of the Dickens Christmas Festival. Music teachers and community theatre directors can find a synopsis, perusal script, and musical demos on my website at http://samuelstokesmusic.com, as well as the full package of Ebenezer materials for purchase at www.sheetmusicplus.com/m/SamuelStokesMusic.”
Dr. Sam Stokes has been my inspiration and motivation in my own side hustle as a teacher-blogger and teacher-author. He would ask me every week if I had sold anything on TpT or if I had created or uploaded any new materials. He would see or hear part of one of my lessons and wonder why I had not yet uploaded that lesson to sell. When I asked him to help me with photography and video before heading off to Alaska this past March, he was all too eager to get me set up and allowed me to borrow the very same equipment with which he made the commercial produced by Joseph Gordan-Levitt called “Everyday Spectacular” advertising LGs V20 device. Check out the video below.
If you are still trying to figure out what your soul-satisfying side hustle might be, check out this resource to help you discover your side hustle and move you in the direction of making extra income while you still enjoy your role as a teacher. This printable workbook includes 10 pages of content to help you discover your soul-satisfying side hustle, a resource page with links to recommended books, blogs, podcasts, and a FREE online course, as well as a FREE online strengthsfinder test to help you discover your unique talents.
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