Aug 262009
Authors: Anna Baldwin

By day, some university faculty and staff roam among the general population unnoticed, donning their Clark Kent suits of professionalism.

But by night, some of these creatures of habit find themselves not dressed in blue suits and red capes, but suited with the armor of brass horns and guitar picks.

These state employed university authorities live in two dimensions, two lifestyles, putting their professional life on hold for a little while as they rock out in the lime light.

The economics of a duel lifestyle

These university employees perform on the side as an outlet for their musical passion, and if not for that pesky economic factor, or familial responsibilities, it might be a full-time occupation.

“Yes, being only a musician would be wonderful, but I don’t think I’m going to quit my day job and go for it,” said Greg O’Malia, a video producer for the Communications and Creative Services Department.

Supporting his family, especially paying for his children’s tuition, O’Malia said he places a higher priority on his family than his music career.

“We don’t play a lot because we all have day jobs, we all families, we all have jobs and (we have) a lot of travel in our work, so it’s really hard for us to find a gig where we’re all free,” O’Malia said, who has worked at CSU for 20 years.

The same financial burden falls upon instructors Hilary Freeman and Ben O’Connor.

As an administrative professional in the math department, Freeman describes music as an addiction, and if she could support herself, she would follow the path of musicianship.

Like her band mates, Freeman works a day job to support her music habit.

O’Connor, who teaches Web design and plays stand up bass in three bands, Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams, Glove Trucker and Whiskey Trip, agrees.

“Breaking into that realm where you’re fully able to support yourself with a middleclass lifestyle playing music is almost as hard as winning the lottery or almost as hard as being a professional baseball player,” O’Connor said.

Balancing two spheres of reality

Freeman has had some success other than passing out Calculus quizzes, performing in the Fort Collins renowned 12 Cents for Marvin until the band’s break up last November, but has made self-sacrifices for her passion.

“Sleep is usually what gets sacrificed,” Freeman said. “My job is fairly flexible. Sometimes I can leave early on a Friday afternoon to travel to a gig. So, sleep is where the cut is made.”

Like Freeman, O’Connor attempts to perform as many shows as possible, playing 125 dates last year and four to five times a week during the summer.

He recognizes that having a full-time job while playing as much as he does is very difficult, but he calls it his passion.

“I want to play music, but I needed to find something to do that brings me some money in-between October and May, and so that’s where the teaching came from,” O’Connor said.

Since his band is busier during the summer than the fall and winter, he chose teaching to make ends meet.

Unlike her colleague, Freeman, who currently plays bass and sings backing vocals in both Atomic Pablo and the all-female Glass Ceiling, only takes part in three to five shows a month.

O’Malia’s band Easy Street, who three of it’s seven members graduated from CSU, was very active in the mid ’90s before other obligations forced them to slow down.

Now they play entirely for fun, O’Malia said.

One of the lucky ones

Like Freeman, O’Connor and O’Malia, Chris Nicholas also describes music as his passion or both his “vocation and avocation.”

In his first year at CSU, Nicholas co-instructs marching band and teaches symphonic band and conducting.

On his own time he plays trombone in the Caleb Riley Funk Orchestra, the Lindsey O’Brien Band and SoulFeel. He also writes all the horn arrangements for the bands.

“I think that I have the best job that anyone could have, and I get to perform and practice what I preach,” Nicholas said.

During the summer he plays a couple of times a week, but in the fall he slows down as his schedule fills.

Nicholas, who has toured the U.S., as well Europe and China, said balancing work and playing is matter of structuring time. But when he has availability he likes to travel and perform.

Before residing in Fort Collins, Nicholas worked at both the University of Iowa and the University of Wyoming, but said he’s fortunate to have landed in an area so supportive of his craft.

“I like that Fort Collins has a great live (music) scene,” Nicholas said. “There are so many opportunities to play. People support live music here, which is great.”

Staff writer Anna Baldwin can be reached at Nic Turiciano contributed to this report.

Class Reaction

Notorious for wearing self-made stage clothes with crazy fabrics and mohawks held up with Elmer’s glue, sometimes Freeman runs into strange looks in her class.

“After (one show) my students were staring at me while I was teaching,” Freeman said. “They couldn’t quite reconcile the two different Hilarys.”

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