Balancing a career in music with family

Balancing a career in music with family life can be a challenging endeavor. To play an instrument well requires tremendous dedication. If you add to that the craft of composition/arranging, promotion via social networking, overseeing the business aspects of being a musician, this usually goes well beyond a 40-hour workweek. Next you have to consider that many performing musicians travel half of the year or more. In my case I do all of the above plus chair a jazz department at a university in Los Angeles (USC).

What’s a husband, /father/ friend/member of a community to do?

It isn’t easy, brothers and sisters. The divorce rate of traveling musicians is pretty high.  I am blessed to have a dedicated wife who has stuck with me for 34 years of being a full time musician.  We’ve definitely made sacrifices along the way. I can’t recall all the times I’ve been on the road during our anniversaries, birthdays, our son’s school events. I even recall leaving for Europe with the Yellowjackets the day after my dad’s funeral in 1993, with no time to sit and digest the feelings of this life event.

What I do to make a difficult situation somewhat manageable is try to be totally present when I am at home. My wife, son and I spend time together whenever possible, and we keep the lines of communication open in a big way. We take weekends off whenever possible, and go hiking or just go somewhere to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

While on the road, I don’t hang out all night, I exercise every day, and I try to return home in some kind of reasonable shape. Traveling is far less exhausting if you take care of yourself.

I remember our son asking, “when are you coming home” along the way, and feeling heart broken in a certain way. He did not have a father for half of the year while growing up. My wife did not have a husband for half of the year as well. These are the sacrifices we make to be involved with music.

The good news is everyone seems to be doing well and surviving this unconventional life style. There have been some cool trips where Carla and Paul have come along to exotic places while we were playing a festival or club engagement.

Our son has grown up with a pretty good take on the world and how it works.

This is what it is, and we make the most of it!




  1. Ziv
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I always wanted to ask you this question, and here you are answering all I wanted to know, before I even asked…
    What a wonderful insight of this important aspect of your life.
    Bob, you’re a wonderful person, I really enjoy everything you do, your music, your blogs…
    I’m happy to hear you’ve managed to have a family life too, even your career as musician makes it difficult.
    If I’m not mistaking, your wife is also a musician, right?
    How about the kids? Are they also into playing music?
    See you in a few days!

  2. admin
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Ziv Carla, my wife, played flute at one time. She is “one of the cats”. Carla got involved with early childhood development and now teaches perspective teachers of the subject and also works with young children with special needs and their families.
    Our son Paul did play clarinet for several years, and learned the discipline involved with playing an instrument well. He decided music was not his passion, and moved on. He currently is a stylist for entertainers, and has an amazing eye for fashion. He buys me my best clothes!

  3. Terence
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Looks like the long wait sure paid off….I always look forward to this little insight into your priviliged life , Bob. What a challenge ? Thanks for sharing.

    PS : We’re still waiting for your long awaited biography to be published ( with more anecdotes of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and all…..) :)

    Thanks again,

  4. Jim Woods
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink


    An idea well expressed is like a design of gold set in silver. I’m very humbled to read about the sacrifices you have made along your path to greatness over the years. It is no mean task by all means. I am just very proud to note that your sacrifices plus your wife and son’s have paid off in leaps and bounds.

    The rest of the world can now sit back and enjoy your wonderful skill and creative ideas, while tapping into your wisdom in other totally unrelated fields, such as this blog.

    Thanks for continually inspiring millions of musicians across the globe, myself not being an exception.


  5. Posted June 7, 2014 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    This post has brought me some much needed comfort and encouragement. Especially right now. I’m glad I found it!
    Thank you,


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