Composing classical music: it's a living...if you're lucky. Throughout music history, composers have had to take other jobs to make ends meet, particularly at the beginnings of their careers. Take a look at what some of these famous names have had to do for money.
Giuseppe Verdi: Politician and farmer
Though Verdi saw more musical success during his lifetime than almost any other composer has, he also loved farming. He spent 15 years of his life "developing his farm into a modern operation of which he was inordinately proud," writes Jan Swafford in The Vintage Guide to Classical Music.
Verdi was also drawn into politics: when Italy was unified into a single country, the popular Verdi was elected to the first national parliament. "He dutifully stuck it out for five years," writes Swafford, "before returning with relief to music and farming."
Alexander Borodin: Chemist
In addition to be a notable Russian composer of acclaimed symphonies and other music, Borodin had a successful career in chemistry research. He had a chair at the Imperial Medical-Surgery Academy and, an advocate of women's rights, established medical courses for women. A chloride reaction known in the West as the Hunsdiecker reaction was known in Russia as the Borodin reaction.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Naval officer
An officer in the Imperial Russian Navy, Rimsky-Korsakov went on to become Inspector of Naval Bands, teaching music classes in uniform. That paid the bills, and also gratified the composer's lifelong love of the sea — a love that manifested itself in his classic compositions Scheherezade and Sadko.
Charles Ives: Insurance salesman
Charles Ives is perhaps the most famous composer to continue working at a non-musical day job throughout his most productive artistic years. In fact, he's about as well-known in the world of insurance as he is in music. He invented effective strategies for wealthy people to structure their finances, and wrote a book on the subject (Life Insurance with Relation to Inheritance Tax) in 1918.
Ives retired from the insurance industry at the end of a long and successful career — during which he's also written some of the most acclaimed and influential music in American history.
Philip Glass: Cabbie, plumber, mover
Talk about paying your dues: while an up-and-coming composer in New York City in the late 1960s and early '70s, Philip Glass worked moving furniture, driving a cab, and fixing pipes. (He took his friend Richard Serra to a plumbing supply store, where Glass introduced Serra to the idea of sculpting with lead.)
Because "I didn't want to work with drunks," Glass explains in his autobiography, he'd quit each night's cab shift just before bar close. "When I got home at 1:30, I would write music until 5:30 or 6:00, so I would be up all night, then take the kids to school. After that, I would sleep until two in the afternoon and get over to the garage by three. A lot of Einstein on the Beach was written at night after driving a cab."