How Catherine Marie Charlton handles 2+ careers (Pianist, Exec Director)

by | Aug 29, 2022

Meet Catherine Marie Charlton. She’s a multi-careerist based in the Philadelphia area.

I’ve known her for years through the music community. In a word, she’s a genius. When you listen to her the piano, it’s like going on an odyssey to another world.

Catherine’s Careers

  • Pianist, composer, recording artist
  • Executive Director, Musicopia and Dancing Classrooms Philly (DCP)

Previous careers:

  • Piano Teacher
  • Risk Analysis, Market Research – global credit card company


  • Reference Librarian
  • Minister

On her motivations for many careers

I’ve spent a lifetime trying to figure out how to balance my deeply spiritual and creative being with my highly analytical thinking.

On how long she’s had these careers

Recording Artist/Music Entrepreneur: 28 years and counting- my first piano album was released in 1994 when one of my songs was packaged on all Apple Power Mac operating systems as an example file demonstrating music compression capabilities of the then new QuickTime 2.0.

Risk Analysis/Market Research: 5 years (1995-2000). I left this career to pursue music full time after I had been teaching piano in the evenings after work for several years and realized I could support myself as an entrepreneur.

Private Piano Teacher/Studio Owner: 22 years (1997-2019)

Nonprofit Executive – In 2017 I decided I wanted to phase out piano teaching because the hours conflicted with being home for my kids after school; I began a new nonprofit career as a Grants and Corporate Development Director and was promoted in 2020 to Executive Director of Musicopia and DCP.

Librarian: 18 months (2005-2006) – I was a reference librarian in a small urban public library; I loved the job but didn’t like working Saturdays and realized I could earn more continuing to teach piano.

Minister: I gave guest sermons at various churches for several years; I applied to and was accepted to seminary but turned down enrollment in 2020 to accept promotion to Executive Director of Musicopia and DCP.


Advice to aspiring multi careerists

Our world has too many categories.

We are all human on a spectrum, bringing ALL of our experiences, dreams, and brilliantly colored abilities to our workplaces.

Exploring your own “cross-genre” being is sure to yield amazing synergies.

Overcoming obstacles

Being in a new career that has consistently been all-consuming and had huge administrative and very non-artsy components has been very difficult for me after 17 years of entrepreneurial creative work.

I went into this nonprofit career having just released a project of a lifetime (I Dream About This World: The Wyeth Album).

My new job precluded the focus I’d have wanted to devote to marketing a release and as such I had to let go of my expectations for where that project would go and who would hear it, and simply be deeply satisfied that I had created an impactful work of art.

I no longer have the luxury of going to a recording studio for a week, and I’m learning to capture moments when I can, and schedule creative time on my days off.

For example, I recorded the piano track for a new (yet to be released) album last year when my family was away and I was isolated in a meditative snowstorm, and now 18 months later

I’m patiently scheduling days one at a time with colleagues to develop that work slowly and beautifully.


On how careers are mutually beneficial

Producing record albums has helped me hone skills in big picture creative thinking and leading teams to focused release dates. This in turn has helped tremendously in leading my board through the strategic planning process.

On finding balance

Musicopia and DCP have always been 100% remote pre-pandemic and will remain so. This work-from-home flexibility is tremendous and allows me to spend time with my children before and after school.

I also have been creative in finding ways to delegate my role to minimize working on evenings and weekends.

For example, instead of me as Executive Director being the one to speak at all community events and student performances (because we are music and dance organizations, we have a LOT of these!), we have assembled a list of board members who enjoy public speaking and rotate appearance assignments from this list.

On what she wished she knew earlier

A morning meditation and walk or workout is NON negotiable. If I don’t get those in, my brain doesn’t think clearly throughout the day.

The piles will be there tomorrow- it’s okay to walk away from the office and spend time with family or at the piano.

I didn’t realize how much I missed spreadsheets when I was doing music all the time. I have an engineering degree for a reason- my soul loves numbers! I’m happy now I get to balance creativity with analytics.

What to read

How to sublimate ego

Any time I struggle with tasks at hand or get overwhelmed from the sheer volume of work in my day job, I remind myself that I am in the work as an act of service.

All of our programs are in (mostly inner city) schools that might not have access to music or dance education otherwise.

Everything I do, even the banal office work, makes it possible for more students to experience the hope, self-confidence, dedication, and sheer joy that comes from practicing music or dance, and to benefit from the transformative energies of creative expression in community.

I also am in an act of service working to provide for my family.

A Day in the Life

Music making career usually more for the weekends or on a comp day if I find I have put in way too many hours. Wednesdays and Fridays are blocked off from meetings and set aside for focused work and donor calls and meet-ups. Here is a typical school day:

5:50-6:15 am: wake up, gentle stretches, strength training, and headstand while listening to morning meditations; write down morning work epiphanies to get them out of my head

6:15-7 am: make and drink tea; make school lunches while chatting with my son

7 am: first kid on the bus

7:10-8 am: read, chat with my daughter, check calendar and work messages to make sure there are no fires

8 am: second kid on the bus

8-9:30: nature trail walk, workout, same breakfast every day

9:30-4: work

4-6:30 pm: family time

6:30-8:30 pm: board committees and meetings, emails, focused work

8:30-10 pm: wind down

10 pm: lights out

Where to find Catherine


Kabir Sehgal is a Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, as well as New York Times bestselling author.

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