children as paid performers?

said: Jul 24, 2006
 104 posts

I am interested in hearing some of the pros and cons regarding children performing in public at paid “gigs” or busking (aka playing for handouts). My own three children have had lots of experience performing in public because of their involvement in Suzuki concerts as well as traditional conservatory recitals. We also perform in nursing homes, and at private functions (not for pay, just for fun). Recently, I was approached by a librarian who would like to organize a performance featuring my children as part of a library enrichment program. She saw my children play at a library fundraiser last year, and approached us to see if we’d be interested in a “paid gig” in a couple of months.

We enjoy any kind of public performance opportunity (both as observers and participants) and my children would eagerly agree to performing at the library. My question: Is it right or fair to have children perform for money? Should the children know that they are being paid? Would you allow your child or your student to play for money, and why or why not?

Thanks for your insights!

said: Jul 24, 2006
 89 posts

Congratulations! Even if you decide not to pursue the opportunity, it’s always nice to be asked.

My kids have played for money a couple of times. Sometimes, when the teacher has set up the performance, she uses the payment to organize something like a pizza party for all the performers; other times, the kids have received gift certificates or cash (in the case of wedding performances).

In either case, they were proud to have a “paid gig” and motivated by the reward.

A teenage friend who regularly attracts paid performance opportunities has begun a charitable organization that donates her profits to various causes, such as Katrina relief or cancer research. I’m sure the librarian would be thrilled to have the kids donate all or part of their fee back to the library, if you’re so inclined. :)

said: Jul 24, 2006
 22 posts

I as a student have played in paid-gigs, but my teacher instead of directly giving us the money (I was very young, around 6 years old), she organized a party and bought useful, but fun, gifts for us (all the parents agreed beforehand). I thought this was a fun idea, because as a 6-year-old, what was I going to do with a hundred dollars?

“Practice! Practice until you go crazy….then do it five more times.”

said: Jul 24, 2006
 44 posts

If your children are like mine, and I suspect they are, they spend hours polishing their music to make it performance level. When they were little, my kids did many gigs in nursing homes, etc. because it was thrilling to perform in front of an audience. The performance was the reward. However, as the years went by, they were getting asked to play at more and more events. Not only was this a big time commitment for them, but also for their chauffeur—me! They would usually spend several hours practicing for a specific performance, but we might also have to buy music. Many times we would have a chamber music coaching with a teacher. This was an additional expense for us. I was thrilled that my children were having the experience and having so much fun doing it, but at the same time I started feeling that some compensation was in order.
I eventually decided we would do no free gigs except for our own church and the local childrens hospital. When we would get calls for charities, I would ask the kids if they wanted to do it and let them make the decision to play for free or not. However, I often just said “no” because we already had too much on our plates.
It takes some tact to let inquirers know that you expect compensation. I would often suggest a gift card or $10 as appropriate when they were smaller. As they got older and more advanced, their fees went up. I usually did the scheduling myself, since I had to drive and the kids felt uncomfortable talking about money. I think the specific amount is not as important as the fact that the kids are compensated in some way. After all, it takes an incredible amount of practice to get a set of pieces to performance level and the kids are taking time out of their free time to do a performance. Don’t underestimate the value of your children’s skill and knowledge.
My 18 year old violist has made all of her own spending money in high school. She can make $300 in a weekend doing weddings (violists are in short supply in our community.) While money is not the only motivator, it is certainly a great one for teenagers.

said: Jul 25, 2006
 4 posts



Eve Weiss said: Jul 26, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
16 posts

Our son who is 11 is essentially a professional jazz violinist. He is paid to play at festivals and is provided transportation, housing and usually food of som sort. He started gatting paid to play around the age of 8. But not every performance is for pay, nor do we think they should be. Indeed playing for a few nursing homes or schools should be a necassary part of how we are educating our children to give back to the community.

As to the pay, we are also teaching our son that his time and effort will be valued and rewarded. One of the biggest problem facing young performers is not knowing how to value thier work. He saves most of it and is allowed to spend a small percentage on his own interests.

Now our son may be the exception rather than the rule but the basic elements of:
Learn to value your own labor
Learn to educate others as to the value of musical performances
Learn to “give back” to your community
Learn the responsibility of promises (contracts) and the need to deliver consistent quality

All great things to learn regardless of the dollar amount and thing that will serve our son whether he becomes a musician or accountant…

said: Jul 26, 2006
 104 posts

Thank you for all the feedback. Normally, I am against giving children money—for example, I don’t give my children an allowance nor do I allow people to give them a gift of cash (they do receive monetary gifts from several relatives on birthdays, but that money goes straight to their college fund, and they never touch it.) However, I can agree with those who suggested that the money they receive from a paid gig could be donated to charity or saved along with birthday money for future educational needs.

I also like the emphasis on stressing the value of the work ethic and noting that there’s nothing wrong with being compensated for it. It will also be interesting to teach about contracts and obligations.

I think I will have them accept the offer, and see how they like their first paid gig!

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