Phoenix Russell tends alpacas in the morning and gives horses and humans massages in the afternoon. Anthony Esposito composes songs while waiting in his cab at the ferry terminal. Lauren Major stays up late bartending and rises early to teach at the West Tisbury School.
Vineyarders holding multiple jobs say that summer is the time to hustle, but Sundays are a day of rest.
“That’s my biggest thing is Sundays,” said Ms. Russell, an alpaca farmer, wampum jewelry artist, masseuse and horse caretaker. “If someone offers me $200, I will not come and massage you. Because if you don’t give yourself one day you’ll burn yourself out.”
Ms. Major, an assistant teacher and a bartender at Alchemy, agrees. “If I didn’t know I had that one day to spend the whole day with my kids, that would be really hard.”
As the first busy weekend of summer begins, many Islanders are shifting into multiple summer jobs. Wearing many hats is a part of Island culture. Like an on and off switch, the seasonality of the Vineyard encourages Islanders to change gears mid-year and pick up more jobs to make ends meet.
But most Islanders embrace the entrepreneurial spirit as a way of life here, and do what they can to make it work.
“It’s certainly not unique to the Vineyard,” said Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business school professor and seasonal Vineyard resident. “It has a lot to do with the economy.” She said multiple jobs is a national phenomenon that is perhaps emblematic of the Vineyard, where there is an absence of large employers to offer long-term employment. “People who choose to be on the Vineyard rather than in the city are in a place where by definition there are fewer employment opportunities,” she said.
“For those who are in the early stages of creating a business there can be a huge upside to having the flexibility,” she said. But the downside is less security and uncertainty. “It can be complicated to move from job to job.”
The tension between security and freedom, paying bills and following passions, was evident in discussions with several Vineyard residents.
Phoenix Russell, 24, started her day Monday by hanging out with Il Bacio and Roberto, two of the friendliest alpacas at Island Alpaca Company, where she does barn chores three days a week, except during the summer. “I just have too much going on,” she said.
The summer is when her wampum jewelry business picks up. She attends four shows a week, including Featherstone and the Chilmark Flea Market, to sell her handmade wares. She massages humans and horses, trades she learned attending schools in Washington state and Costa Rica, and takes care of four horses in Chilmark, too.
“It’s kind of the Island way to do a little bit of everything to make ends meet, especially in the winter,” said Ms. Russell who was born and raised on the Vineyard. Ms. Russell is a self-taught wampum jewelry maker, collecting the shells herself and fashioning them into leather bracelets, pendants and earrings. She works on her jewelry two to three hours a day but no more. “I don’t want it to become this job that isn’t fun anymore. I don’t want to hurt my body or my mind.”
“In between all that I fish a lot,” she said. “If I’m not working somewhere I’m trying to catch a fish.”
Some days find her doing all her jobs, she said, but “it doesn’t feel hectic.”
On the down side, “You work all summer and save that money. Come May, June, it’s a real struggle to get by . . . making ends meet when you don’t know when the next paycheck’s coming in. But I manage to do it.” Being on her father’s health care plan helps, she said, as do some rules.
“Keep a schedule,” she said, petting Roberto. “Give yourself one day off. You have to have boundaries with how much you’ll work.”
Don Groover, 57, has worked at the Tisbury Printer for 15 years, but by night he’s playing the guitar.
“My day job, as much as I like it, that pays all of the bills,” he said sitting in his backyard one afternoon this week, a banjo resting on the table. “I just can’t imagine not playing music. I could be dead tired after work and I still find the energy to play.”
Winter months mean teaching guitar lessons and playing weekly gigs at the Ritz Cafe in Oak Bluffs on Friday nights. He also serves on the board of the Martha’s Vineyard Skatepark. During the summer Mr. Groover plays music sets five to seven nights a week, sometimes doubles.
His trick to keeping up with it all?
“The one secret is after work I always take a nap,” he said. “Fifteen minutes to a half an hour usually . . . and I’m good to go all night if I have to.”
“It all falls together,” he continued. “I book the gigs I’m in so I try to control what happens.”
These days Mr. Groover is in six bands, give or take, and welcomes last minute pop-up deals. Gigs are carefully planned with the help of a date book.
“I have every single date book for the past 20 years,” he laughed. “I don’t throw them away, and I’ll go back and compare how busy I was in say, July 1997.”
But there are cons to working nights, Mr. Groover said.
“Not having a Friday night off in the summer to go down to Coop de Ville and watch the sun go down, missing a lot of birthday parties, for example,” he said. “If my friends want to see me they have to go out at night. I had this past Saturday night off and I went to a birthday party for a little bit, and thought, so this is what the regular people do. It was nice.”
Working multiple jobs is part of being a musician for many, Mr. Groover said, and he’s grown used to the hustle and flow of moving from day job to evening gig.
“I don’t even think about it anymore,” he said. “It just happens.”
Jess Phaneuf, 27, started her evening gig at radio station WMVY just before 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
“Today, I am already so tired, and I just got here at three,” she said, sitting in a chair surrounded by radio equipment. “I’ve already been really running around with posters.”
“I don’t like drinking coffee but today I almost got one,” she added.
Ms. Phaneuf, like so many others, is balancing passion and necessity, learning the fine art of multitasking and time management. For her, she said, it’s mostly about the love of music and radio.
She came to the Vineyard in 2008 for a dream job at WMVY, where she is now programming assistant, promotions director, and on-air talent six days a week.
“It’s awesome. I still can’t believe that I’m doing this here as my full-time job. It’s amazing.”
But despite the job, “I knew I needed something else, because, you know, radio’s amazing but it doesn’t pay. Even though I’m full-time, I’m salaried, it doesn’t pay much.”
Her days are balanced between shifts at the radio station, working two days a week at a furniture shop (Robert Perry Unfinished Furniture and Lighting) and daily updates to her music blog. Her passion for music led to another job as an independent music promoter. This summer she’s working with Flatbread Pizza Company to promote their live music.
On her longest days, or what Ms. Phaneuf calls her “endless days,” she heads to work at the furniture store in the morning. “And I do Flatbread stuff, and I do radio station stuff there and I do store stuff, and I have maybe an hour before I come into the station.” She’s normally at the station until 11 p.m. or midnight, and sometimes stays as late as 2 a.m.
Helping revive and promote the Vineyard music scene is a passion, she said. “I feel like a lot of things are needed in the music scene. My wheels are always turning about all that stuff.”
The downside is clear, Ms. Phaneuf said. “I’m tired coming into work and I have an eight-hour shift ahead of me. But I guess I’m lucky that I’m young and I can do it right now.”
Her advice is to “Take time just to stand still. Like literally stand still . . . try to have time where you close your computer.”
She takes Sundays off for personal time, to do things like sit down to eat lunch instead of grabbing a bite to go in her car.
“I think a lot of people like to just kind of dabble in this, that and the other thing because there’s that opportunity here on the Vineyard. It’s kind of fulfilling to the individual and it’s very helpful to the community to have those kinds of well-rounded people doing multiple things and bringing their experience from one thing to another.”
“I almost wish that I could do a little bit more,” she said.
Anthony Esposito, 31, finds he writes his best songs while sitting in his cab.
“If I haven’t written a song in a while, I like to sit in the taxi in between boats,” he said. “It’s very inspiring to clear your head. You just have to think about that one thing.”
Mr. Esposito is a videographer, photographer, music mixer, live sound technician, musician and cab driver for All Island Taxi.
He is currently working on a film project for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, a video project about piano tuning with Boaz Kirschenbum, and during the summer he works for photographer Tim Correirra as his “go-to video guy.” He also acts as Mr. Correirra’s second photographer and runs his photobooth.
“Even working for one guy I work three different jobs,” Mr. Esposito said. “I just love that my schedule is constantly changing. I think it keeps things interesting.”
Mr. Esposito grew up in a family where having multiple jobs was the norm. His father, Charlie Esposito, runs the Performing Arts Center at the high school, and has a background in recording music, among other things.
“My dad was constantly recording music and he taught me about taking pictures, helped me pick my first manual camera, bought me my first cassette four-track, and taught me about studio fundamentals and graphic design.”
There’s a reality to juggling many jobs, he added.
“It’s so expensive to live here that we have to. If we don’t work our multiple jobs . . . we can’t get through the winter. I know I can’t. I don’t think I have had a winter where I haven’t struggled and run out of money. It’s just a fact of what happens.”
But in the end, Mr. Esposito said he enjoys this style of life.
“The busier you are and get out and do things, it’s more fun to be here,” he said.
Sonya Mayrand, 26, will be working four jobs this summer: catering, child care and two masseuse gigs. But Ms. Mayrand said the variety works for her.
“Because massage is so physically and emotionally demanding I need to find a balance,” she said. “It also maximizes my time. I pick and choose my schedule to make the most amount of money. I think that’s what everyone does. They piece it together to scoop up all the money over four months and survive on it the rest of the year. That’s living in a seasonal location.”
Ms. Mayrand grew up working multiple jobs on the Island. She’d split her time between Humphrey’s in West Tisbury, babysitting and catering. Now she does massage out of a Vineyard Haven studio and this summer she’ll be doing massage at Integrated Health Care as well. She’s also trying to start her own business.
“I definitely need and live by my day planner,” she said. “I check with my day planner first before I commit to anything.”
Finding the right balance and taking care of herself sometimes means sleeping over socializing.
“Sometimes I’ll sacrifice on social stuff to take care of my body. I just stop when I need to stop before I burn out or get sick.”
“I keep every Sunday off for a long solid beach day,” she added. “That’s my light at the end of the tunnel every week.”
Lauren Major, 37, arrived on the Island when she was 21. Her first job was bartending at the Lampost in Oak Bluffs. During the winter months she was a substitute teacher and worked as a counselor at an after school program. Education was her focus, she said, but the late nights at the bar followed by long days at school proved to be conflicting lifestyles.
“And because I was young I picked the cash,” she said. “As I got older priorities changed and being able to securely support my family year-round.”
Currently Ms. Major is an assistant teacher at Project Headway at the West Tisbury School and tends bar on weekends at Alchemy in Edgartown.
Over the years Ms. Major has worked at the Hot Tin Roof, the Atlantic Connection, painted houses, washed windows, was a longtime manager at clothing store the Green Room and worked as a legal secretary assisting in real estate closings and deed research.
“You’re going to have to go through these different things until you find what fits . . . but I knew I wanted a career in education and I had to seek that out,” she said. Ms. Major plans to get her masters degree in early childhood and special needs education.
In the off-season Ms. Major works two nights a week at Alchemy; this summer she’ll work four. She’s been at Alchemy for five years. In the meantime finding the right equilibrium is “tough” but having a family “has rounded that out.”
Sundays are sacred and include sleeping in until 8 a.m., snuggling with her two kids in bed, housework and grocery shopping, followed by an art project or a beach day with her children, and a big family meal.
“My goal by the time I’m 40 is to make enough money to have one job at a time,” she said. “It takes a toll on families and that’s something that’s really real . . . but you just do what you have to do for your family.”