Right around the same time every spring, I get approached by at least one or two college percussionists, asking for a few minutes of my time. I’ve come to believe that they must be completing an end-of-the-year assignment given to them in some sort of Music Business class. Meet with, and interview, someone in your chosen field who is doing the work you would like to be doing.
I am truly honored that anyone would think enough of me and my work to want to hear my thoughts, and am more than willing to share anything I possibly can. I’m also a firm believer that inquiring with those you look up to is a fantastic method of gathering advice, insight and inspiration. But the questions are always the same, as if letter-for-letter, exactly what the professor suggested.
How do I find gigs? How do I start teaching private lessons? How does one go about writing and submitting articles to magazines?
My answer is always the same, as well. Cliché as the Nike slogan may have become, “just DO it.”
If teaching lessons is your goal, post an ad on CRAIGSLIST, make fliers and drop them off with every single band director in town, ask if the local music store has any studios available to rent and teach out of.
Want gigs? Post another CRAIGSLIST ad. Hit every single jam session in the area; sit-in on a few songs with the band (no matter how nervous you are); introduce yourself to everyone and hand them a business card; TELL them you are looking to play and how much you would love for them to consider you for anything that pops up. Record, edit and post a YouTube demo video that you can direct people to.
Would you like to see your name in print, on the pages of your favorite music magazine? Well, they most likely won’t pay you to write for them before they can see some other work that you’ve already done. Have you written anything? If not, just get something out into the universe. Pump out a handful of 500-1,000 word articles and submit to some free online webzines (which won’t pay) or post them on your own blog or website. Once you’ve accumulated some content and other writing ‘credits,’ then you might have a leg to stand on when approaching the big boys. You’ll be able to provide them with prior work to check out.
Make Yourself Known
Along the same lines, I’m reminded of a conversation I recently had with a local musician. He has mentioned to me several times that he really wishes that he could get into teaching in group situations. He’s been particularly interested in working at a popular music camp that some friends are involved with. However, a list of “but”s and “what-if”s keep him from taking action until, alas, camp is over for another year and he’s missed the boat yet again. On top of it, there’s part of him that remains disappointed because he’s waiting, in vain, expecting that, if they want him to teach there, they’ll be contacting him.
I explained to him that, having never taught in a setting such as that before, nobody even knows he’s interested in doing so. And they won’t know, until he makes it clearly known that he is. Of course he’ll never get that phone call. It’s absolutely imperative, not only in music or teaching, to get out there and let people know you exist! My suggestion to him, since he seems scared to “sell” himself to the organization (which, I admit, can be terrifying), was to simply call one of his friends that teach at the camp and ask to come by one day and observe what they do. What’s the harm in that? Chances are, that will be met with an enthusiastic, “heck yeah, swing over tomorrow and check it out!” Once there, it’s quite likely that an opportunity might arise for him to throw his two-cents in about a topic or musical passage being discussed. Then, all of a sudden, students get an experience with him, others get to see him in action and, ohmigosh, he’s doing it! The foot is in the door . . . please sign here on the dotted line.
If there are things in your life that you really want to be doing or pursuing, starting right now take a Ready, Fire, Aim approach, make sure that people know what your intentions are, and do it!
I’d love to hear them below!