Friday, October 14, 2011

College Musicians

(by musicteachers911 featured writer, Marina Salsbury)

College Musicians

One of the most common stereotypes among budding musicians is that of the starving artist, and nowhere is this stereotype more true than in college. Many college musicians find it a challenge to balance their music, college courses, family, and work, all while trying to maintain a social life and pay their bills. Juggling all these elements can become difficult, but it's very possible for college musicians to keep up with it all.

One of the biggest obstacles for college musicians are the costs involved with playing music. Professional instruments can reach into the thousands of dollars, traveling to and from gigs can be a heavy financial burden, and to top it all off most college musicians don't get paid much. The truth is many college musicians end up playing bars and coffeehouses, and these gigs typically pay either a percentage of the door or might just pay in free drinks. It's not until performers have built up a name for themselves that they can begin to expect to make any kind of real money, and this could take years to achieve. As a result, many college musicians end up taking part-time jobs on the side to help fund their ambitions.

College musicians also have to try to balance a social life with their aspirations, which can be difficult at times. Between practicing, performing, and writing music, a college musician may not have time to hang out with friends or go out. Thankfully, musicians often form friendships through their music, either with fans or with other performers, and so music becomes a social network unto itself. On the other hand, musicians who make these connections may still need to form and maintain friendships outside of tightly knit musical circles.

However, the biggest challenge most college musicians face is trying to keep up with their studies. All too often, a student musician may develop dreams of quitting school and becoming a superstar, leading to lessened attention in classes, slipping grades, or worse, dropping out of college altogether. Musicians faced with this problem need to remember they can still continue to follow their musical dreams while remaining in college, and that completing their studies could prove crucially important in the long run. It can be difficult to strike a balance between believing in your dream and living in the real world, but by finishing their degrees musicians stand better chances of succeeding in the future, whether in music or in another discipline.

So what's a musician to do in college? The short answer: get grit. There's no easy fix, and no way around the fact that being a serious musician and a college student at the same time is just tough. If you're going to make it work, you have to buckle down and focus on what's important to you.

Knowing your priorities is key. On the broader level, if you've decided to keep up commitments to college and music, there's still some wiggle room in how much you put into each. It's a lot easier, for instance, to just keep up with practicing music while you're in college and maybe perform casually. Remember that you've got a finite amount of time and energy to go around, and that college is going to take a fair portion. Balancing what you spread out between your musical, social, and personal lives means thinking hard about how much each means to you.

If performing seriously really is your passion, recognize and accept the impact it'll have on other aspects of your college life. Know that equipment and performance expenses will mean finding part-time work until gig earnings at least let you break even. Know that practices and concerts will mean less time to hang out and party, at least with some friends. Know that playing late-night lounges and clubs may mean heading back to campus to sleep in front of the door of your first class in the morning to make sure you'll be on time.

If you can face all this and still know you're up for it, then you've got the resolution to do what it takes. If you find yourself cringing, that's OK. It just means you still need to spend some time getting your priorities straight.

College is supposed to be a time of learning and growth, and being a musician certainly affords those opportunities through meeting new people, performing in public, and learning about yourself through music and performance. By taking the time to really think about what's important right now, as well as what will be important later on, college musicians should be able to find ways to still pursue their dreams without forfeiting education.

Good giging!

Larry Marra

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Top Ten reasons how Steve Jobs accomplishments have changed Music Education.

I know that many of you mourn the passing of Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computers.

I would like to take just a moment to reflect on how his contributions to music education have affected Music Education over the last 30 years.

Here's what teaching music was like for me in 1976 (before computers).

1. I would write and arrange music by hand with an ink pen on staff paper.

2. I taught general music with chalk and record player.

3. I would have to wind the metronome before checking tempos

4. I created letters on a manual typewriter and used white-out instead of the delete key.

5. I carried a pocket calendar from the bank and a miniature golf pencil around for scheduling.

6. I carried dimes for making phone calls when I wasn't at home.

7. My class room had one electrical outlet for my entire music program.

8. I recorded my concerts via cassette tape

9. I carried a city map in my car's glove compartment.

10. There was enough money in the school budget so music teachers were continually hired , not let go.

good gigging!

Larry Marra