Former Emirates high-flier pursues her passion to land new role as a piano teacher

Argentinean Mercedes Basutto has followed her dream after losing her 12-year airline career during the pandemic

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A long-serving member of Emirates cabin crew bounced back from the low of redundancy to hit a high note with a new musical career.

Mercedes Basutto was determined to land on her feet after losing her job in June last year because of the financial fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Basutto, 36, recently became a travel consultant in Dubai but as the holiday industry is still in recovery mode, she began teaching piano to supplement her income.

The former professional volleyball player said job security was never a concern before the Covid-19 outbreak.

No matter where I have been in the world I have never given up on my hobbies of volleyball and piano

“Back in April 2019 we never saw redundancy coming, like many I was taken off guard as most of the world was shutting down,” she said.

“There would usually be more options to move forward, but there was nothing.

“Everyone was struggling and we did not know the best way to face the issue, many of my colleagues were forced to move home to live with their parents.

“It was overwhelming.”

As one of seven children, competition growing up in Argentina was fierce.

That helped her hone volleyball skills that led to a professional career in Iceland, and tournament representation for Emirates.

Happy to face the music

Former cabin crew Mercedes Basutto was made redundant and has now switched careers as a piano teacher in Dubai on June 22nd, 2021. Chris Whiteoak / The National. 
Reporter: N/A for News

She also found the time to develop her passion for music.

Ms Basutto started playing the piano as an eight-year-old, and inspired by her grandfather, an orchestra conductor, dreamed of one day becoming a full-time musician.

She specialised in music initiation with classical music in piano, and is now passing that on to children and young adults in her neighbourhood, Al Barari.

“I had to think what my talents were and what I could give to get back my connection with people,” said Ms Basutto.

“My experiences helped reorganise my thoughts and consider my options.

“I sat for hours to look at my possibilities. Most people were telling me to go home and there was a lot of negativity.

“Music has been constant in my life. The piano was the first thing I bought when I arrived in Dubai 12 years ago."

“So if I had a choice, then why not choose to do something I loved?”

To get the ball rolling, Ms Basutto started out by putting self-made flyers up in supermarkets and handing out business cards.

It took a few weeks before she found her first pupil, Hannah, a seven-year-old girl.

“There are piano schools elsewhere, but not in Al Barari so people wanted to give me a chance,” said Ms Basutto.

“I was so excited when I got my first student.

“I was not prepared to walk away from Dubai. Being cabin crew takes you away from the experience of living here as you are always travelling.

“I would fly more than 100 hours a month so I would not be able to socialise here or build community links like most others. I wanted to experience that."

She has found that people in Dubai are more than willing to help one another, especially in these difficult times.

"I have been pleasantly surprised by how supportive people have been.

"A lot of people were open minded and prepared to give me a chance. The expat community is big so we have something in common, but you must deliver with integrity and be good at what you do.”

Ms Basutto now has eight students, each practicing for two hours a week.

She has prepared one student to take international music exams for a future university entry.

Following passions key to success

Former cabin crew Mercedes Basutto with student Hannah aged 8 was made redundant and has now switched careers as a piano teacher in Dubai on June 22nd, 2021. Chris Whiteoak / The National. 
Reporter: N/A for News

Teaching piano has changed her life, supported her income and allowed her to be self-sufficient once more.

“No matter where I have been in the world, I have never given up on my hobbies of volleyball and piano,” she said.

“All the things that made me happy helped me face my redundancy.

“The old way of submitting a CV and hoping for the best will not always work in the new world, you must be brave and try new things.

“I am in a privileged position to be able to do that."