My name is Ashlyn Batten and I am a part-time organist, part-time piano teacher and part-time therapeutic horseback riding instructor. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Comprehensive Music with a double concentration in piano and organ from Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, as well as a Master’s of Sacred Music in organ from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. I am also a certified therapeutic riding instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International. I work 30 hours a week at a therapeutic riding program, am the organist and choir accompanist at a small church, and teach 5 piano students each week.
Many people ask me why do I not just get a full-time organist position? Well, quite simply, because then I would not have time for my other biggest passion in life: horses. While getting a full-time music job would be financially more stable, I would never be happy just doing the church music thing. That leads us to the next most obvious question: how do you make it work?
The first thing that I usually tell people is that I believe that God gave me both of my passions and that He will provide for my needs if I am using the gifts He gave me. I don’t believe that He would give me something that I’m so passionate about and not want me to use it or not provide for me while I am doing what He designed me to do. Follow your dreams and passions and, while things may be tight for awhile, they’ll work out. If your dream is to be a full-time organist and church musician, go for it! People may say you are crazy when you become a music major, and question your ability to make ends meet, but if that’s what you’re passionate about, go for it!
Secondly, while I may not be wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, I love what I do, and there’s a lot to be said for being happy where you work. It’s better to be happy and make a little less money than spend your life being miserable. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a job that you hate! If you have to work for most of your life, do something that you know you’ll love doing. As musicians, we can always find extra gigs to get a little extra income, so you have to focus on the “big picture” of finances rather than the small number of a part-time salary. You can easily make a couple hundred extra dollars by playing in a Christmas cantata, an Easter program, accompanying singers or instrumentalists, teaching lessons, weddings, funerals, etc.
Lastly, in my particular case, the schedule works out great! I work at the therapeutic riding program most every weekday morning, and teach lessons there almost every weekday afternoon. Then I have the regular Wednesday night and Sunday morning church gig, and fit in piano students wherever is left! The hardest thing is finding a day to actually take off. (Speaking of, that’s very important! If you don’t take time off, you will burn out, no matter how much you love what you do!)
All that to say, follow your dreams and your passions, and things will work out if you set your mind to it. Even if your biggest passions in life are polar opposites, there’s always a way to do what you love. Sometimes one will be a full-time job and the other a hobby, or perhaps, like me, you’ll have several part-time jobs.
While it may not be the easiest or wealthiest life, it’s a pretty great one!