The Actors’ Work Program Helps Musicians Design and Implement Rewarding Career Plans

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume C, No. 12December, 2000

Patricia S. Schwadron

802 members Mark Perchanok (oboe) and Richard Renner (trombone) have been successful musicians for over 20 years. Now both find themselves in transition – wanting to radically change they way they live, work and make music, but unsure about how to proceed. Perchanok has decided to stop performing and start a second career. Renner wants to develop a financially and personally satisfying sideline career while he builds his music network in New York.

In recent months, both have found support and guidance through the Actors’ Work Program (AWP), a full-service career, training and employment service for entertainment industry union members sponsored by the Actors’ Fund of America.

After more than 20 years in the business, including 19 years in the pit with Cats, Perchanok wants to take a break from playing the oboe for a living. But after being a musician all his life, he was not sure what else he could do well, and wanted to find out.

He began to explore possible alternative occupations by going for aptitude testing. It was not surprising – but not particularly helpful – that the results indicated that his highest potential was as a musician. However, his AWP career counselor explained that aptitude and intelligence are not the best predictors of career success; your interests, values and transferable skills are more more useful guides to potential future options

At AWP Mark completed career-related assessments relating to his interests and personality. The results confirmed his interest in working with information and technology in structured, business environments. This gave him more confidence about exploring computer-related fields, where he has seen other musicians find satisfying work. Since he has limited computer skills, he is also taking advantage of free AWP computer courses.

Renner has wanted to play in an orchestra since he was 10. He received his undergraduate degree from Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford and his Master’s degree from Western Connecticut State University. “It did happen, but not enough to make a full time living,” he says. Over the years, he has supplemented his income by teaching music and holding a series of office administration jobs. For the last five years he has been performing full-time, playing for bus and truck tours and cruise ships. He enjoyed the traveling but got tired of being out of touch with his family and friends for long periods.

Renner decided to focus on building his life and musical career in New York City. Recognizing that it would take time to develop a network for playing work, he asked Jackelyn Frost at Local 802’s Musician’s Assistance Program for suggestions on finding work to build his financial security. “Jackie showed me The Actors’ Work Program brochure, which talked about ‘dignity’ in sideline work. That really hit it on the nose for me.”

At the AWP orientation he heard about various training options and fixed on proofreading as a skill he would enjoy learning and using. “I knew a guy in the pit who was proofreading, and it seemed like a good fit for me. After all, as a musician, I’ve been comparing consistencies on musical scores my entire career.”

After confirming his plan with an AWP career counselor, he completed the two-week proofreading training program, participated in a job search and resume writing workshop that focused on proofreading work, and then waged a campaign to find a job in that field. With the same discipline and persistence he applies to his music, he visited a number of proofreader employment agencies suggested by AWP, took proofreading tests, and interviewed. He also volunteered in the AWP office to create current work experience on his resume.

Through an AWP referral he found part-time work as an editor for Talking Books and, within weeks, was hired as a full-time proofreader for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in Manhattan. The person who hired him for that position is a vocalist trained at Hartt School of Music, who told him she thinks the musical training and discipline they have both received transfers directly to success as a financial proofreader.

In a thank-you note to his career counselor, he wrote: “I am thrilled by the small-town attention that you have given to me in this megalopolis. Your guidance in job hunting has brought to me a fulfilling second career. I am certainly fortunate to have found the AWP.”

Patch Schwadron is the Career Counselor Supervisor for the Actors’ Work Program. To learn more about the range of free services available at the AWP, register at 165 West 46th St., 16th floor, and attend an orientation, held every Monday from noon until 1:30 p.m., at The Actors’ Fund, 729 Seventh Avenue, 10th Floor. For more information call (212) 354-5480, Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.