Transitioning Your Career – How I Went From Jazz Artist to Writer
Pay attention to your yearnings.
When I was about to turn forty I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had been a stay at home mom for ten years at the time and was starting to feel the itch of getting back to my musical roots. I had begun pursuing a music career out of college but when the babies came, I chose to stay home with them. So at forty, I decided to return to my music aspirations. I went back to school part time to study jazz and then 18 months later recorded my first jazz standards album, aptly titled, The Rest of Your Life.
Listen to the need of those around you.
There’s a saying that success happens when your passion and the world’s great need intersect. I have always been passionate about encouraging couples in their relationships. I had been a jazz artist in the Nashville area for 11 years when I released my second album, A Million Kisses. The album is a concept album about the celebration of committed love; I wrote and produced every song on it!
For a decade I had watched couples attend my shows together yet they seemed increasingly disengaged from one another. In the process of writing for the album, a stirring began to emerge as I realized that many of our friends had divorced or were having serious marital troubles and I began to want to do something to encourage them. About that same time, I heard from my listeners and business mentors urging me to consider writing a book around the topic to go along with the album. Since I was already a songwriter the idea of writing about a topic was familiar to me but this would require a lot more words!
I never planned to write a book about marriage but the encouragement of my fans and mentors inspired me to take the leap. In Dancing in the kitchen: Hope and Help for Staying in Love I share my stories and the stories of other couples who have gone through hard circumstances in their marriage and stayed together, all to inspire couples in their journey of making love last. Being an author, as well as a Jazz recording artist has just extended my career from one stage to another. Now I speak about my passion as well as sing about it!
Keeping it fun.
One of the themes in Dancing in the Kitchen is cultivating fun again. It’s really important in a relationship but also an important life skill. Whether we are busy building careers, raising families or caring for aging parents, having fun can slip to the bottom of our to-do list. Yet as it says in Proverbs, laughter is good medicine and a downcast spirit will dry up the bones. You have to be intentional! Join a group, find a hobby you enjoy that you can do with others and get out of your house. Go dancing, take a creative class like art, music or photography and try new things. You need a little lighthearted community while you are doing the work of life. It will give you a fresh energy and perspective.
Avoiding the midlife rut.
You may not be looking for a career change but feeling like you are in a mid life rut may mean you need to schedule some fun and cultivate friendship. (And yes, by schedule I mean put it on your calendar! Your health is worth that calendar date.) Friendships are important at any stage but I believe even more important mid-life. Make time for them. And if no one is inviting you then you organize a meet-up with the neighborhood girls, women you work with or reconnect with an old friend for lunch.
I recently did this when I had business in a city where two friends I hadn’t seen in 30 years happened to live. At first I thought, “Oh, it’s been so long they might not want to re-connect after all these years.” But I took a risk anyway. We had the best visits and departed with hearts full of joy. Be brave and ask. It’s worth it.
Mid-life is just a new phase. It will be what you make of it. Plenty of success stories started mid-life or later. Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at age fifty. Vera Wang entered the fashion world at age forty. Grandma Moses was seventy-eight when she started painting and she is known worldwide. She was previously a housekeeper and a farm laborer before she picked up that
hobby. In 2006, one of her paintings sold for $1.2 million. So it’s never too late to cultivate a new interest! Art lessons anyone?
This guest post was authored by Debbie Cunningham
DebbieCunningham is a recording artist, author and speaker. She graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance and has spent a more than a decade in the music business as a songwriter and entertainer. She has recorded two albums; the first, a Jazz standards album entitled-The Rest of Your Life. The 2nd, an all-original jazz album entitled- A Million Kisses.
As a Jazz recording artist, Debbie Cunningham has entertained couples with songs of love and romance for more than a decade. Married to her high school sweetheart for more than thirty years and unwilling to sit idly by while divorce rates climb in today’s society, she began writing songs about the journey and celebration of committed love and her latest album, A MILLION KISSES, emerged.
That writing led to her search for and gleaning wisdom from married couples who had gone through hard circumstances and stayed together, all to provide hope for other couples in their journey of making love last. Her new book on keeping the love and fun in a marriage after many years is about to hit shelves on May 7th – Dancing in the Kitchen: Hope and Help for Staying in Love