(Photo by Collin Richie: Ben Herrington)
Annual income: Up to $32,000
Even as small child, Ben Herrington was driven to play music. It began with the piano, but a natural curiosity about other instruments and styles led him to master the trombone and the accordion. He can also sing, read music and play by ear.
“I think that’s part of what’s enabled me to do this full-time,” Herrington says. “There aren’t a lot of people who play piano, trombone and accordion. Making it work for me financially has been from having a diverse skill set. It basically brings me twice the work.”
Herrington graduated from the LSU School of Music in 2008. His area of study was trombone, but he didn’t want to play trombone exclusively. And while he had picked up a second major in music education and taught briefly, he didn’t want teach.
“There was a lot I liked about it, but it really made me realize that I liked performing better,” Herrington says. “At that time in my life, I figured why not try to make a living just from that.”
Seven years later, Herrington is still at it. His versatility means he can ease into numerous bands that need a player. He actively plays with three different bands in the Capital Region.
Herrington has figured out how to balance the practical with the creative. A large part of his work is playing weddings and rehearsal dinners, and he has networked extensively to continue securing this kind of work. He also plays the piano for a couple of small churches. Such projects, he says, free him up for more creative pursuits, including composing, arranging music and collaborating on new projects with other artists.
His chief creative project is with his eclectic “chamber folk” band, Minos the Saint, which plays frequently at regional festivals, arts events and clubs.
Herrington says most musicians he knows supplement their incomes with jobs outside of performing, but he has managed to keep the flow of work coming his way.
One personal rule he follows: being punctual.
“Musicians have a reputation for being late, but in my business being on time defines your professionalism,” he says. “If you don’t show up for an engagement party or rehearsal dinner on time, you ruin it.”
Herrington believes he will reach a new level of business this year.
“There’s a good chance I’ll have a nighttime performance every Thursday through Saturday,” he says. “I’m practicing Sunday through Wednesday.”
Herrington believes more dialogue should be exchanged between businesspeople and artists.
“The business world increasingly values the arts, but they need help finding exactly what that means,” he says. “And artists don’t really know how to think about their art as a business. As much as you care about your art, it’s very helpful to think about how to get your product out there.”