Reading, Writing and Rhythm

Creative teaching gigs available to musicians and other artists

Volume CIX, No. 1January, 2009


• Musicians and other artists can earn $154.97 per school day for subbing in the New York Public Schools.

• The subbing is through a special program where you can use your music as part of your lesson plan.

• Before you can sub, you have to complete a four-week, part-time training seminar. The next one starts on Jan. 13.

Do you want to use your music to enrich the lives of public schoolchildren — while getting paid? Here’s some news: the Actors’ Fund has come up with a very creative way for musicians and other artists to do occasional teaching gigs in the New York City public schools through the Actors’ Work Program. It’s not without some fine print, but it just might turn out to be a positive experience for you and a way to make some extra money.

Here’s the big picture.

The program is called STARRR, and it stands for “Substitute Teachers for the Arts and the 3 R’s.” The idea is that musicians, actors and other performing artists are sent into the New York City public schools as substitute teachers. But instead of following a standard curriculum, you are allowed to use your music as a teaching tool. You could even give a mini-concert. It’s ultimately up to the principal what you are allowed to do, but the idea is that you use your artistry in the classroom.

The pay is $154.97 for a full day of teaching, minus taxes. That means getting to a school around 8:30 and getting out around 3. On top of this, there may be opportunities for additional work at an hourly rate.

Here’s the fine print.

  • You have to attend a generic orientation session about the Actors Work Program, which lasts 2.5 hours. (If you’re already a member of the Actors Work Program, call your career counselor now and ask about the STARRR program.)
  • You have to audition. 
  • Here’s the big one. You have to attend a four-week training session. Training is normally all day Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, for four weeks. All participants must attend all sessions, but you’ll get out of training in time to do evening gigs.
  • You have to pay $115 to be fingerprinted, unless you’ve already done this in the past from some other kind of teaching work.

If you are already a licensed substitute teacher, you may be able to avoid some of these hoops.

Once you finish the training, you’ll own a substitute teaching license and you will start getting gigs through the program. Technically, there’s no guarantee that you will get an assignment, but the reality is that schools need subs. Once you’re in the program, you’ll be expected to commit to at least two full days a week of teaching.

Are you still interested? If so, the first step is to attend one of the following Actors Work Program orientation sessions. These sessions are not specifically about the STARRR program, but you must start the whole process by attending one of these. The next two are:

  • Monday, Jan. 5 from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m.
  • Monday, Jan. 12 from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m.

Both sessions are at 729 Seventh Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets, on the 11th floor.

After you do this, the four-week training session starts on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

If you need any more information at all, please contact Kathy Schrier, director of the Actors Work Program, at or (212) 354-5480. Even if you’re not interested in the STARRR program itself, but you want more information on career development, call the Actors Work Program. It is a valuable resource for musicians and all performing artists.

Any Local 802 members who go through this program should please contact Allegro editor Mikael Elsila at or (212) 245-4802, ext. 179. We’d like to hear about your experiences.