March: Getting Organized

March is the month I get into major organization mode.  It’s been a few months since I’ve done any major planning (I tend to do the bulk of this work for school and choirs in the summer and again in December/early January) and this midpoint in the semester seems to be a good time to reevaluate, catch-up, and refocus on the next few months (the final stretch!).  This kind of work is not necessarily “fun” but it’s absolutely necessary and I have such a feeling of accomplishment when I can check these things off my list!  This year, March is the month for taxes, grading, WCMW planning, and preparing for Easter. Taxes.  A necessary evil, I swore last year I would never do my own taxes again and, well, here I am.  After spending too many hours than I care to count this weekend crunching numbers with H&R Block At Home (and working through 3.5 federal returns – don’t ask), we are done with the Federal return.  Next weekend, we’ll tackle the state(s).  A few tips for fellow freelancers who are brave enough to attempt this on their own:

  • Keep track of your mileage (gigs, self-employment teaching, medical, professional development) and add it up in advance.
  • Save receipts of things you can count off against your business (for me, that means sheet music, website costs, office supplies, and travel)
  • Certain bills can be deducted if they apply to your business (i.e. percentages of phone and internet and a portion of rent/utilities for a home office)
  • Keep track of equipment you purchase/use for your business (computer, phone, external hard drive, printer, etc.)
  • Collect tax documents from employers, banks, investment companies, and lenders in advance (many post them online instead of mailing them log in and get the information you need before sitting down to complete your returns).
  • If you make estimated tax payments throughout the year, make sure you have a list of the amounts and dates.
  • Review your credit card statements in advance to be sure you didn’t miss any expenses that might be deductible.

Mid-Semester Grading.  This week is Spring Break at the college.  Spring Break as a college student meant a combination of sleeping and vacationing.  Spring Break as a professor means grading 32 essays (5-pages each), 25 quizzes, 3 group projects, and 13 playing exams.  What was I thinking?!  Well, I was thinking that this would be the perfect week to lay low, dress in comfy clothes, curl up on the couch, and catch up on grading.  Hopefully, by the end of this week, I’ll have all mid-semester projects graded and ready to give back (meaning I will finally have a coffee table again!)

WCMW Planning.  The Westminster Chamber Music Workshop is a series of free chamber music events in Westminster, MA.  Each event is designed to be educational and entertaining for community members of all ages!  This year, Steve and I are planning four music events, one for every Saturday night in May.  Running a small organization of any kind is a lot of work but lucky for us, we love it!  We have two small grants from local cultural councils to help us provide these concerts at no charge to the community and we recently announced our exciting line-up of guest artists.  March is our month to get the word out, send guest artist contracts, garner sponsorships, and begin designing our print materials.

Easter preparation.  Any church musician knows that Christmas Eve and Easter are the biggest services of the year.  This year, Easter falls on Sunday, April 8 which means we are in full prep-mode this month!  We have special music planned for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and two services on Easter Sunday (that’s four services in 8 days!)  Of course, we have more to practice than just introits and anthems; special services often mean special choreography and yes, we practice these things in rehearsal! :-)

Here’s to March – a month of getting organized, making decisions, and making excellent things happen!