#32: Make a Living Following Your Passion for Music with David van Ooijen

Can you make money while following your passions and doing what you love?

Welcome to The Creator's Adventure where we interview creators from around the world, hearing their stories about growing a business.

Today we talked with David van Ooijen about how he prioritizes what makes him happy and how you can do the same with your work, without feeling like you have to jump onto every marketing trend you hear about.

David van Ooijen is a guitar, ukulele, and shamisen player. After touring the world and performing in different countries, David now teaches guitar in person and online, and he is known by his pupils as Meester David.

Learn More About David van Ooijen: https://meesterdavidgitaar.wordpress.com/


Bryan McAnulty: Welcome to the Creator's Adventure, where we interview Creator's from around the world, hearing their stories about growing a business. Today, I'm talking with a creator. Who's learned how to prioritizes. And about how you can do the same with your work without feeling that you have to jump into every single marketing trend you hear about.

My name is Bryan McAnulty. I'm the founder of Heights Platform. Let's get into the show.

Hey everyone. We're here today with David Van Ooijen, a guitar ukulele and shamisen player after touring the world and performing in different countries. David now teaches guitar in person and online, and he is known by his pupils as Master David, welcome to the show.

David Van Ooijen: Thanks Bryan.

Bryan McAnulty: So my first question for you, David, is what would you say is the biggest thing that you did or that you are doing that has helped you achieve the freedom to do the things that you enjoy?

David Van Ooijen: Practice as a musician, that's a very simple answer. I enjoy playing, but yeah, I can only play if I practice. So I practice every day and that makes me do what I want to do.

Bryan McAnulty: Awesome. Yeah, just being very dedicated to your craft. So how long have you been playing

David Van Ooijen: I'm 56 and I started around six or eight years old. I'm not sure.

Where I live in, in the Netherlands. When I was young, I went to music school. I learned about around six or eight years old. I learned about notes and about rhythm and about melody. They gave me an instrument when I was very young ukulele, and I learned a bit on that. And then finally, finally, and I think that's when I was eight years old, they gave me a guitar and I never looked back as they say.

So from then on I I just played guitar.

Bryan McAnulty: So, what would you say, like drew you to, to these specific instruments? Was it just that that's what you were exposed to very early?

David Van Ooijen: I'm not sure to be honest. I knew I wanted to play guitar. When we were very young at the music school, you had the option of either play a recorder or this ukulele thing.

And of course there was not going to play recorder. Come on. And so it was ukulele because I knew I was going to play guitar anyway, mile, the brother played guitar, but I'm not sure that was deciding factor, but then and I enjoy playing guitars and that is fine. When I was around 11, we, we moved, we moved city.

So I moved a guitar teacher. And that's when my career, if you like really started, cuz he took an interest in me just a as a, as a, as a person, person to person. He said when I was 12 and David, what would you like to be later when you grow up? I said, well, I wanna be a guitar teacher. Cause what you are doing.

Is really fun. I mean, for me, he was like another father. He was enjoying his job and teaching me and taking me seriously in what I was learning. So he said, okay, then we'll have to work from now on. And that's what we did.

Bryan McAnulty: Awesome. So can you share a little bit about, like, how did that journey turn your passion into a career and I guess How, how that led you to end up performing around the world?

David Van Ooijen: After music school and after high school, I went to conservatory.

I studied classical guitar during my studies of classical guitar. I also took up the loo and I went to another conservatory conservatory where I studied loot. So I did two studies. Loot players are pretty rare and I. Good at what I do. I accompany singers a lot. And so I travel with them around the world.

I like. Teach or I do workshops and I'm interested in history. So I do historical programs where, you know, the Dutch, they have a history of occupying other countries in the 16th or 17 or 18 centuries. And I visited many of those countries. With my loot, the period instruments to make programs with the people from those countries, with music from that period, they play their music on their instruments.

I play my music on my instrument and that makes for added value if you like or a lot more fun. Cause I can play my Dutch music on the loop. Guitar, which is good and that's that's okay. But if they play their music on their instruments and then we make music together as if we were 300 years ago, oh, that's a lot of fun.

I can learn from them. They can learn from me and they can learn from their own history as well. And that's how people meet, I mean, over the, over the century. So that's what I did in, in India and China and Japan. And that's

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, that's really interesting. So yeah, we saw that you spent some time in Japan and you learned how to play the the Shaan.

So for those who are not familiar with that, can you describe the instrument a little bit?

David Van Ooijen: I should have taken it out. I didn't Shaan is a bunch of type of instrument. Another word for Shaan in Japanese is sun gun and sun means three and gun means string. So it's a three string Buno type of instruments, guitars, and loads.

They. Freden does. You can play different styles of music on it, sort of folk music, Japanese folk music, or the teahouse music girls, the GEHA in the teahouse. They play Shaan or you can play it's called Japanese classical music together with Koto, such a big hub, like instrument and. Wind instrument.

I was in Japan in 2000, in 2000 Japan and Holland celebrated their 400 years relations business relations in 1600, the first touch ship strand in Japan. And we came, became business parties. And I was there in 2000. So 400 years later as part of cultural exchange. I had to give for a month and they had to give to me, I had to receive as well.

I came with a loot and a guitar, and I brought a music from four years ago and I did workshop grownups musical with, from the local school in a small village, the tight community. And one of the things they gave to me was Shaan lessons. Cause in the village was was an elderly. And she became my teacher for a month.

I would go there every morning and I would sit on the and practice my SHA until my legs. I couldn't feel my legs. So I would roll over. Teacher would laugh and say, now it's time for tea. Well, She didn't speak English. Well, three words and my Japanese was three words so that we could communicate. And that was how I learned to play the, and after one in Japan, things are slightly different than well in Western societies, she was a bit skeptical at first, when I came, cause come on, you don't learn Japanese traditional instruments in one month.

You don't do. But this was part of the cultural exchange and her son was in the committee. So she had to do this mm-hmm he was polite but reserved, but I practiced a bit beforehand. Cause again, practice is what you have to do as a musician. We know we have to study. So I practiced beforehand and knew how to read and knew how to tune.

And I was prepared and she saw my preparedness and she saw that every day I practiced and I come to the lesson next day I was growing. So. So I was welcoming the house every day I could come, just enter the house and she was ready for the lesson. And then after one month she said to me, well, her son had to do the translating.

We had to sit down cup of tea. And she said to me you studied. You worked hard, you go back to Holland, but you don't have an instrument. Cause I borrowed one of her instruments for the time being. So she sets the repairment is coming here. I play lefthanded, then they all play right-handed. So he's fixing one of my instruments for you by those she gave to me one of her instruments and that is as a teacher to a pupil.

Like I said, my guitar teacher, when I was 11 or 12, he gave to me the gift of, of, of. Music and enjoyment of, of teaching. And this teacher gave to me an instrument. I mean, that's part of yourself. I don't part with my instruments so easily. I mean, it's, it's a very personal thing. It's like giving away one of your babies.

It's like when your daughter grows up and she goes to marry, that's part of life, but it's not easy. So that was very, very good moment in my life.

Bryan McAnulty: Wow. Yeah, that, that sounds incredible. That sounds like an incredible experience. So, I guess, for anyone out there listening that maybe they haven't quite found this passion like you have, do you know if like you can point to anything that helped you really realize that this was what you wanted to do at such an early age?

David Van Ooijen: I don't think I realized at such an early age, my philosophy is life is that you must do what makes you happy? I think I'm a happy person, whatever I do it, I'm, I'm, I'm happy. So that's in me, but I started to realize later on and that you can, you can choose, you can choose the things that make you happy and you should get rid of the things that don't make you happy in your life.

I gave you the example beforehand of the television. We all had a television at home and we watch, and these days people do Netflix or whatever it is. I don't do. I used to have a television and late at night, I would, before going to bed, I would switch on the tally and we have like 30 channels here and I would go from channel to channel and I would think, does any of this make me happy?

Does any of this make me a better person, a more happy person, a more fulfilled life? No. So I ditched the television. So I ditched many things in my life and it's the small things in life. I mean, a television are not, it doesn't matter. It's okay. You have a television.

If. The value to all the small things in your life that makes you happy or not, and ditch the ones that don't really make you happy. They don't add to your happiness that have no added value. If you ditch them, you end up with so much space and timing your life to do really does make you happy.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. I think that's a great outlook.

I think that. Many people may not even realize all the things that they, they keep around them material or otherwise that occupy this space in your mind. Yeah, for myself, a kind of similar realization like that was so before, right before I turned 21 I went to go travel and I ended up being out of the us for about 13 months traveling the world, going to these different countries.

During that period, usually I didn't have a TV. I kind of completely ignored the news and all that. And I already, I guess, thought to myself that news didn't necessarily have too much value to me. As most of the, most of what you see on the news is just meant to alarm or stress you out. So you pay attention to it.

And I found that when I got back and even along the, the process of being in touch with my parents, my family, I didn't really miss anything at all from not watching or listening to the news for that over a year period. And so now I just never pay attention or, or listen to any news like that.

David Van Ooijen: I think. I think so, but just enough to make sure you vote for the right party when every four years that's all .

Bryan McAnulty: Exactly. So today you offer these music lessons, both in person and online. Why did you decide to start bringing some of your training online and how do you structure your lessons?

David Van Ooijen: I teach in person at the music school and at. A little bit for those who really want my pupils at music school, I learned of course from sheet music. And this is how I get the music to meet pupils less and less learned from sheet music. Yes, they need it. but they wanna hear the song. They don't know the song.

They say they cannot play it. So what I start doing to help them is make YouTube videos of the pieces they are playing. I make a lot of arrangements. This is what I enjoy doing arrangements of the songs they want to play often pop songs lots of classical music. Cause it, my music and I play my arrangements for them on your YouTube or from the lesson book, I play the pieces for.

On the lesson book. So this is how I started on YouTube. I think something like 10 years ago and my pupils enjoy this. I hope most do. And. Gradually, I found it attracts a lot of attention from other people who studying guitar, either with a teacher or without a teacher. Cause they wanna learn the pieces I give to my pupils.

They wanna play the same thing. They want to learn what I have to teach to my pupils. So gradually I found that I'm not only teaching my own pupils that I see on a weekly basis every two weeks, but also lots of other people from all over the world. Join my classes, if you like that, watch my lessons on YouTube and Instagram these days.

Bryan McAnulty: So what would you say that you've done to kind of best ensure that you're creating a good learning experience like to eliminate maybe if possible, some of the challenges that come with teaching online versus in person,

David Van Ooijen: it can never replace the. On online is in addition to the in person lessons for me, what I do try to do.

Cause when I just play the arrangements for them, when I play that online, it's not a lesson. It's just showing them how it should, how it can be done, how I do it. It's not a lesson in that sense. I make short lessons, short video lessons tutorials. If you like with things on screen fingers on screen and instruments clearly on screen playing it slowly explaining about the fingers and explaining about this hand on the guitar or on the, I have another channel specifically for loot lessons.

It's called loot lessons. Cause that makes sense. And that's popular. Loot playing images where teachers are bit more rare. So on the L channel, I do more tutorial kind of things because loot images tend to have more trouble finding a. Real life teachers while guitar teachers. I mean, there are an off around, if you cannot find a guitar teacher, look again.

Bryan McAnulty: Cause I think they're, would you recommend to all of your students then if they, if they're learning from you online now and they don't have a teacher in person, would you recommend for them to try to also find. Someone to instruct him in person. Absolutely.

David Van Ooijen: Absolutely. People often ask me online. Oh, will you be my teacher?

Can I have your lessons? They say, well, find a teacher in the neighborhood. Cause he can hold your hands and put it right there. The other side of online is so troublesome Corona here as you had over there and I had to teach. On and off two years online to my regular students, this was so difficult for me and for them.

And I'm glad I didn't have any new students in that period. Cause if you start out with only online lessons, it's cool world, you have to see other

Bryan McAnulty: interesting. So we noticed on your website that people can buy arrangements from you. But we also noticed that you're not asking for like a specific price.

Instead you're telling people they can just choose to send the amount of money that they want. So can you share a little bit about their reasoning behind this choice?

David Van Ooijen: I used to give it away, but I have an accountant who said you shouldn't do that cause you get into trouble copyright things. So now it's part of my.

and I have rich people who buy my lessons who have enough money, but I have also little kids in Vietnam or Philippines or wherever, and they're not so rich. So if I, I mean, a usual price for an arrangement on any website is around five, six, I think. For me, it's a minimum of two because I have to pay my taxes and there's some administration involved and PayPal asks a lot, which is how the world works.

So if that minimum is reached for me, and if it's safe tax wise, then whatever you want to do, if you feel you wanna pay three Euro, a dollar or $30, it's up to you, whatever it's makes you happy, you should do. I have. Normal income. I do my concepts. I do my teaching. So yes, it adds, it helps this income, but I mean, never do something for the money.

Bryan McAnulty: Even before we started recording we spoke a little bit and You mentioned that you're, you're definitely not motivated by the money and how you're motivated about just kind of enjoying what you do. I kind of wanna use that to go into the next question where, like we found you because you're very popular on YouTube and Instagram.

I think on Instagram you have over a hundred thousand followers on your one account on YouTube, something like 50,000 on your one account. So I'm guessing that this is pretty much the, the way that most people find you now, is that correct?

David Van Ooijen: On the internet. Yeah. Yeah. They find me whatever YouTube or, or Instagram.

Yeah. Okay.

Bryan McAnulty: But so for everyone else listening out there, if you haven't seen David's channel. So what I thought was interesting is I didn't really find too many videos. I don't know if I saw any at all of you actually talking to the camera, you just turn the camera on and you start playing the arrangement of whatever song you're teaching.

And I thought this was really interesting because. I do feel that there is Creator's out there who are thinking about, well, I kind of wanna share this thing with people, but I don't feel comfortable in front of the camera. I don't wanna make a video. I don't wanna talk to people. I just wanna do what it is I enjoy.

And I feel you're such a great example of that because that's really what you're doing.

David Van Ooijen: I can talk, I make a few videos where I talk there's some where I do a voiceover sort of very element. Elementary guitar lesson where I, where need some sort of verbal instructions where I explain what I'm doing.

I'm sitting down, I'm holding my left hand and my right hand mm-hmm . So that's a sort of voiceover thing. And occasionally people ask me, how do you make these arrangements? Can you explain to me. And then I talk them through an arrangement. I made a video like that couple of years ago for somebody, a guy in India, I do Bollywood some arrangements they're quite popular in India, Pakistan.

And I made this video for him where I talk through the arrangement and I thought I get lots of requests about how do you make your arrangements? So I put that on online, but just, just me talking. I don't like talking hat on the YouTube or Instagram. When I see them, I switch off I'm about guitar playing.

So if somebody's playing guitar, I wanna see that or talking, playing loot. I wanna see that, but I wanna see it. They don't wanna see it talking out. I mean, yeah,

Bryan McAnulty: I think I saw you mention somewhere that you're, you don't do something just because it's necessarily popular in in what people would say for business or to promote yourself.

So, so yeah. How is that, how you made that decision to say, well, I just, what I enjoy is watching people just play. So my video I'm just gonna play and upload it like that.

David Van Ooijen: Yeah. I'm happy with the guitar in my hands. So if I can share that happiness, this is what I share. And if people like that. Sure.

They're welcome. If they wanna see talking ads go well, here, voice is fine. Yeah.

Bryan McAnulty: Awesome. So what would you say to somebody out there who wants to pursue their passion for music? And turn it into a source of income or something that they can do just as you are,

David Van Ooijen: Always make the choice that stay close to yourself.

So I get lots of these, these, these business requests. Can you do this for us? Cause you're popular on Instagram. YouTube. Can you please? Play this instrument or sell these things. That's not me. I'm not selling jewelry or watches. I don't wear a watch. Why won't do companies want me to sell their watches?

That's not me. So always stay close to yourself. Do what you wanna do and what makes you happy and regularly check for yourself? Am I still doing what really makes me happy? And I am I still doing what is me and not? What is popular? Of course I can make a silly video and it'll be popular. I made a video the other day with Thibo.

That's like a two meter long instrument together with a little baby like this, and it's a lot of fun, but I'm having fun and it's okay. And I guess it's popular the video, but it's because I I'm having fun with it. And that's the point. And not the point now I'm going to make something that goes viral or whatever the word is.

It's not.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, I think that's great advice. Focus on doing what you enjoy and what's fun for you. Not what just other people would consider is, oh, this is something to be popular. Cause even what, what happens if it, if you get popular from that than what do you do next? It's better to it's better to be known for being yourself rather than doing something you don't enjoy.

David Van Ooijen: Absolutely. Yeah. Do I have. Copy my own video, the most popular video. No, I make the next one. Cause I grow, I don't do the same concepts I did. 10 years ago. I grow, I hopefully become a better player. So I, hopefully my next video is more fun for me. I do something else. Yeah. If you like it, you're welcome. If you don't.

It's okay. There will be another guy or girl who awesome. Is more popular.

Bryan McAnulty: So, what we like to do on this show is have every guest ask a question to our audience. If you could ask our audience anything, what would that be?

David Van Ooijen: Well, if you listen to me, you kind of guessed it. So my question would be, you should ask yourself the question.

What are you doing now? Does it make you happy? If not ditch it?

Bryan McAnulty: awesome. Yeah, great. Great advice. Really interesting. I, I really enjoy that. I think, I think there's, I guess a balance for some people, some people really enjoy a business side of things and that, that makes them happy in a way. And that's great.

But I think you're an excellent example of someone who is truly just doing what they enjoy and, and really putting that above all else. And proving that you can still, you can do that. You can do that and you can live a happy life doing that.

David Van Ooijen: Absolutely. Yeah. I have a friend of mine. He's he's a bit into advertisement and he tells me all the things I should do to get more money for my business.

I'm boring, boring boarding, boring, boring, boring. I'm not . I'm just, yeah, that's what it is.

Bryan McAnulty: Great. Well, that is all the questions that I had for you today. But before we get going, where can people find you online?

David Van Ooijen: Me, which is David and which is very awkward for sales. Outside of Holland cause master is built in a Dutch way.

David is fine enough. My guitar is not built like a guitar in English, but if you type in master David's guitar, I'm sure you'll end up with me anyway.

Bryan McAnulty: And how about your your Instagram? What is that? Okay, great. All right. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show, David.

David Van Ooijen: You're welcome Bryan.

Nice talking.

Bryan McAnulty: If you enjoyed this interview and won the chance to ask questions to our guests live tune in on Tuesdays when new episodes premiere on the Heights Platform, Facebook page, to learn more about the show and get notified when new episodes release, check out the Creator's Adventure dot com until then keep learning and I'll see you in the next episode.

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About the Host

Bryan McAnulty is the founder of Heights Platform: all-in-one online course creation software that allows creators to monetize their knowledge.

His entrepreneurial journey began in 2009, when he founded Velora, a digital product design studio, developing products and websites used by millions worldwide. Stemming from an early obsession with Legos and graphic design programs, Bryan is a designer, developer, musician, and truly a creator at heart. With a passion for discovery, Bryan has traveled to more than 30 countries and 100+ cities meeting creators along the way.

As the founder of Heights Platform, Bryan is in constant contact with creators from all over the world and has learned to recognize their unique needs and goals.

Creating a business from scratch as a solopreneur is not an easy task, and it can feel quite lonely without appropriate support and mentorship.

The show The Creator’s Adventure was born to address this need: to build an online community of creative minds and assist new entrepreneurs with strategies to create a successful online business from their passions.

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