Jump Start

When musicians need a reboot and a fresh start, the Career Center at the Actors Fund has just the right tools

Patch Schwadron

Does your musical life need a reboot? Are you exhausted and not feeling creative anymore? Sometimes what’s needed is a new start and a new source of income in order to support your music with a fresh perspective. The Career Center at the Actors Fund can help you look at your skill set and create side work (or even a brand-new career) that can bring in money, make you feel like yourself again and give yourself a base from which to jump start your music. The Career Center can help you foster resiliency and self-reliance as well as give you referrals. Through Career Center services, you can develop rewarding sideline careers in such areas as teaching, administrative support, healing professions and new media. Often, musicians and other artists need to work outside of the industry to support the continuing pursuit of their art. Many of the skills that musicians and other artists have – communication, discipline, creativity, flexibility, professionalism – are highly valued in the broader labor market. The Career Center helps to identify and apply these skills to other work settings.

The first step in becoming a participant is to attend a free Career Center orientation session. Through career counseling, job skills training and job development, you will find meaningful work that can be done either while continuing in the entertainment industry or while developing new professional directions. To get started, call (212) 221-7300, ext. 259.

I recently interviewed two Local 802 members who have been helped by the Career Center. Their stories are below.

Patch Schwadron is the Career Counselor Supervisor at The Career Center.

Photo: Simone Marques

Photo: Simone Marques


Laura Dreyer, saxophonist, woodwind artist and composer, has performed with major groups nationally and internationally as well as on award-winning recordings, featuring her mastery of Brazilian music. A member of Local 802 since 1986, Laura juggles a career of national bookings (with upcoming dates in D.C., Portland and Reno), subbing with the Diva Band (as a founding member) in the current production of “Tappin’ Thru Life” at the New World Stages, and teaching at the Church Street School for Music and Art and PopsED (the New York Pops Education Program), as well as teaching private students.

Laura has taken advantage of the Career Center at the Actors Fund repeatedly over the course of her active career. She explains “As a freelance musician, you can get panicked about when your next project will be and what to do about it. Coming here gives me structure and steps.” After enjoying performing with bands on the road for over 10 years, Laura decided years ago she wanted the experience of staying in the city, which meant that she needed to develop a side source of income. Building on her interest in visual arts, she plunged into graphic design. The Career Center gave her some basic skills and then helped her win a grant to learn specialized graphic design software. The skills she learned gave her some income, and she says, “I continue to draw on those skills for my own work to this day.” At the same time, her writing for Saxophone Journal attracted her first invitation to teach.

Laura next engaged with the Career Center when she saw that summer gigs were dwindling. Through the program, she pursued training and licensure to work as a NYC tour guide. After a summer of this work, she discovered, “It was not my thing. However, the process helped me get my mind around studying and building my public presentation skills.”

Next came school. Laura had started at the Berklee College of Music but left after two years to tour and perform. At the next meeting with her career counselor, Laura was encouraged to attend an information session for Empire State College (, which offers bachelor’s degree programs to adults. The program gives credit for life experience, accepts past college credits and offers independent study courses. Laura immediately enrolled as a part-time student, and over the next three years completed her degree while keeping up her recording, touring, teaching and performing. She reports that her professors were “jazz-friendly and arts-friendly people” and she was one of four graduates selected for the 2015 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, which she accepted at a ceremony in Albany.

As an admirer of the late jazz pianist, composer and educator Billy Taylor, Laura feels the call to promote “musical literacy for all.” She worries that “there is a huge generation who grew up with no music in schools at all” adding that “this shows up in our culture in negative ways.” Laura was first introduced to instrumental music in public school in the San Francisco Bay area, with her first private lesson coming after attending a high school summer jazz workshop offered by the National Association of Jazz Educators. Most recently, Laura followed through on a recommendation from the Career Center to explore free training as a segment producer at the Manhattan Neighborhood Network ( She now plans to produce a 30-minute show that focuses on music education.

March is Women’s History Month, and Laura reports that she’s seen positive change for female jazz players over the course of her career. She recalls that when she was asked to play in all-female bands in the 1980’s, “there was a wide range in the level of playing.” In today’s jazz world, however, she finds that there are many well-trained young women musicians who are “kicking ass.”

Photo: Supramod VD

Photo: Supramod VD


Yael Acher-Modiano’s work as a flutist and composer encompasses a range of genres, including classical, jazz, free improv, music for silent films and music for dance. She leads her own progressive jazz group called the Kat Modiano Quartet. She has performed, collaborated and recorded all across the U.S., Europe, Canada, Israel and Japan. A native of Tel Aviv, Yael graduated with a B.A. in classical flute from the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem, where she also studied jazz and composition. After living and working in Copenhagen for over a decade, she relocated to New York City in 2005 to study composition at NYU as a Fulbright scholar. She has been a member of Local 802 since 2006.

Yael came to the Career Center when she thought she needed to find a day job to supplement her performance earnings. She had already started teaching music appreciation and her “Music and Memory” classes in senior centers, but was not making enough income to meet her financial needs. Her career counselor encouraged her to conduct more focused outreach and marketing to centers and other settings where there would be interest in her teaching and programs, which are geared to seniors. “Seniors generally love the music and pose no discipline problems!” says Yael. “They share their feelings about the music and engage in talking and asking questions. I feel I’m making a difference for them as well as for myself. Music is connected to life. This is the only job I feel I can keep along with my performing work.”

Yael also worked as a stockbroker for a year and a half. “I was good at creating relationships, which I do as a musician, but I didn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s gambling. My spirit was suffering,” she remembers. “For me, the important part is that work gives me the freedom to make music, and to promote my different projects with compositions and concerts. And I need time to dream or create, which is necessary for artists.” She appreciates that in her work with seniors, she is accepted as a musician, a composer, and has been invited to perform as well.

Financial challenges interrupted Yael’s graduate studies. At the Career Center, she learned about SUNY Empire State College’s Masters in Liberal Arts Studies, where she is now enrolled part-time and has received helpful grants and fellowships. She expects to complete the degree in 2017, with a focus on Music for Social Change. Her interdisciplinary studies focus on gender violence, and she has performed at domestic violence shelters. One of her courses examines feminism and women of color. She greatly appreciates the freedom to design her own electives and a final project-thesis that will involve both research and composition/performance on: Portrayal of gender violence in expressionist films of the Weimar Republic era.

When asked about being a female musician, Yael said she has experienced bias regarding women’s roles in both Israel and the U.S., while in Denmark she found a more egalitarian society.