Kym Tuvim never wanted to be a piano teacher. Once when she was a music student in college, her dad came to visit.
“We were having dinner with my housemate and her boyfriend at the time, and he said to them, ‘Well, what are you guys gonna do when you get out of school?’ And they were in the visual arts programs, they were both painters. They were amazing artists. And he said, ‘Well, when Kym gets out of school, she can always teach.’ And I remember being just appalled, like, ‘I’m not gonna teach, I’m gonna have a collective of musicians and I’m gonna write music and perform.'”
But those dreams didn’t pan out. Tuvim found herself working as a secretary in a community center, sneaking off to play piano during her breaks.
“Some families heard me, and one of the families asked if I taught. And I said, ‘No, I don’t know how to teach,’ I’d never taught. And they said, ‘Well, we’d be willing to try if you’re willing to try.'”
And then Kym fell in love with teaching piano. She now turns lessons into a sort of game, and the kids love it. Her own piano lessons were completely different. As a child, she loved to play piano. But she was afraid of her piano teacher. “I remember being a kid and being at the piano and not knowing what things were. And feeling like I should know this. And if I don’t know it then I’m gonna get in trouble. And I never want my kids to feel that way.
“I’m trying to save my kids from my fate. You know, because I don’t want them to have to fake it, I want them to be able to read if they want to.”
“Teaching was not anything that I was ever interested in or thought I would do. And I’m so grateful that I fell into it. It’s a very soulful, joyful way to make a living. You know, helping people learn, especially working with kids. Playing music, it’s a creative process, and an empowering experience for the kids and really gratifying for me because I feel like—hopefully—I’m the teacher that I wanted as a kid.”
But Tuvim never gave up her dream of being a professional musician. She struggled to finance her first album, Nothing Sweet Nothing, using her earnings as a piano teacher. Once when she ran out of money she had to sell one of her guitars. Word got out among her piano families.
“‘You can’t sell your guitar, we’ll do a fund-raiser.’ And so one of them hosted a house concert, and we made several thousand dollars from my piano families.”
Day Job is a look at how musicians pay the rent.