Musicians Who Had Day Jobs (a partial list)

compiled by BSO Director David Brussel

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), Venetian composer. Ordained as a priest in 1704, but granted a dispensation from celebrating mass on account of a medical condition (probably asthma). Withdrew from active priesthood in 1706.

Alexander Borodin (1833-1887), Russian composer. Professor of Chemistry, St. Petersburg Academy of Medicine.

Alexander Borodin was a chemist
Cesar Cui (1835-1918), Russian composer. Military engineer with a specialty in fortification; later a music critic.

Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1891), Russian composer. Officer in the Imperial Guard, later a government clerk.

Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894), French composer best known for the orchestral rhapsody España. Received a law degree at age 20, and had a career as a civil servant at the French Ministry of the Interior.

Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), Russian composer. Naval officer, later Inspector of Russian Navy Bands (until the position was eliminated in 1884).

Charles Ives (1874-1954), American composer. Insurance executive.

Rudolf Sieczyński (1879-1952), Austrian composer of sentimental Viennese songs, best known for Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume (Vienna, City Of My Dreams). Held a doctorate in law from the University of Vienna, and spent most of his life as a government functionary, working as a clerk, a wartime prison camp director, and an administrator with the Austrian Regional Agricultural Authority.

Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933), American singer-songwriter-guitarist, Country Music pioneer. Worked as a railroad brakeman until tuberculosis obliged him to take up performing and recording full-time.

Duke (Edward Kennedy) Ellington (1899-1974), prolific American composer-pianist-bandleader. As a teenager in Washington, DC, he held jobs as a commercial sign painter and as a messenger for the US Navy and State Department.

Jack Purvis (1906-1962), American jazz trumpeter. At various points in his life, Purvis worked as a chef, a carpenter, a radio repairman, an aviator, and a mercenary soldier in South America. Much of the information on his life is and based on uncertain or apocryphal eyewitness accounts, as documentation is incomplete.

Eddy Duchin (1909-1951), American pianist and bandleader. Worked as a pharmacist before becoming a full-time musician.

Bo Diddley (born Ellas Otha Bates, 1928-2008), noted American rock singer-songwriter-guitarist. Worked as a carpenter and mechanic as a young man in Chicago. In the 1970s, he served as a Deputy Sheriff in Valencia County, New Mexico.

Elvis Presley (1935-1977), American popular singer. Presley was working as a truck driver when he made his first recording in 1953. He held similar jobs in motorized transportation while serving in the US Army in the late 1950s.

Philip Glass (b. 1937), American composer. Worked as a plumber and cabdriver in New York in the late 60s and early 70s.

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