Thursday, October 22, 2009


I realized: I can't do them.

I don't think I had blogged about this too much, but I had a band with my brother & 2 college friends: Max & Josh. We hadn't rehearsed in 3 weeks because I had this musical (which I think I still need to write up a post about). So Josh & Max had been writing stuff on their own & when I got in touch with them about scheduling rehearsals, they told me that based on the fact that my schedule didn't really match theirs & that they had been writing stuff together that had really been taking off, they wanted to do their own thing.

I am totally cool with that, and actually happy the band split, because it will free up my time slightly & it gives them the chance to do what they want creatively (because they really jelled with each other in a way that I don't with either of them - at least in that project). Also, I still have Pejoratively Yours with Josh and I'm still good friends with both of them. So this is for the better, and that makes me happy.

It also taught me something: I can't be in a band permanently. Possibly ever, but certainly not right now. I have spent almost all of the last 4 years developing as a freelancer & that has always been my goal and the way I've looked at and molded things. I just never realized what that meant in terms of commitment to something long-term. I'm able to do it with orchestra & chorus & teaching, but because I'm doing all those & because I do things like 3 week musicals and other gigs, I can't commit to a band - it's just too much. To really do a band, it would have to be my main thing, and while I enjoy it enough to do that, it doesn't do the things I need career-wise, so I can't ever make it into my main thing (or at least now I can't). That was a really important lesson to learn.

I've committed myself to being a freelancer - with all the crazy turns and inconsistent income and experiences that come with it ...

So much music to work on right now ... and I'm really behind on my solo album (but my playing has gone way up and is really improving!)

Busking Attempt #1 - Grade: C

So, today I tried busking in the subway in NYC for the first time. It's something I've wanted to do for a bit & a couple of folks encouraged me to, so I finally bit the bullet.

I tried playing in times square today. It took me a couple of tries to find a good spot. In terms of making money, it was a completely failure. I busked from 12:30-4:30. Over the course of the day, a few people took pictures of me, a few people talked to me about Apocalyptica (I was wearing their t-shirt) & I generally really got people's interest when I was playing double stops/droning against open strings. At the beginning of the day, I met Juan Castillo who is in an Andes Fusion band that busks (and is a member of MUNY) & we talked about maybe playing together. He was very encouraging and said I should join MUNY. While playing, somebody asked me about doing an R&B session & someone else asked me about writing/playing music for a film they were working on. I really hope those go through & I'm definitely going to try busking again - it's a lot of fun. I need to get a better stool to play on though - the one I have is too tall & this makes the whole thing very physically exhausting...

When I got home, I started looking to see if I could find leads for good spots/times to busk ... I haven't found much of use yet, but I did find this: It's a fun/interesting read.

I haven't written much about technical stuff lately ... I'm planning to start doing so again - I've been really making some good progress. I need to practice more though, and I'm behind on my solo tunes (that's not good!) & I really need to learn Brigadoon by sunday - kind of scary!

I also have started to apply for non-music jobs ... wish I didn't have to, but I really need reliable money.

That's all for now...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Breaking the Silence

I don't remember the last time I was under so much pressure/stress/fear. The last 2 months have been something of a nightmare in that sense. This almost all boils down to financial stress - I stopped driving taxis & was left with teaching as my only income - which seemed ok, but then I got some unexpected bills & it's just sorta set all the wheels of questioning & emotional turmoil in motion.

Now, I've added a new level to things. I started looking into Grad school audition requirements. There is basically 1 teacher I want to study with (that's Julia Lichten), which leaves me with two schools I'm applying to - SUNY Purchase & Manhattan School of Music. As of right now, I have zero confidence that I'm going to get in to either. I really just don't think it looks possible, and that's scary. But, that fear is really pushing me to practice and play seriously in a way that I've never done before & I'm starting to see the improvements already.

Despite the improvements though, this has been one of the most confusing and frustrating times in my life. I don't have a teacher, and consequently am struggling to give myself a direction & choose audition pieces & technical exercises and all that. Now add a timetable into this. Purchase pre-screens their auditions (I think MSM does too) & I have to have a cd ready by January 1st - Fuck! I seriously dropped the ball on this. I should have been preparing for this since Summit, working the way I am now. Looking back on things, I've dropped the ball with cello and practicing so many times already, I'm lucky to be where I am.

I also started looking at competitions and stuff like that & I realized how much I dropped the ball with even having the opportunity to do something like that (which ultimately I think is ok in the long run). I'm not really looking to do a traditional classical career, but having the option of entering these things would have been a good thing.

But, that's only 1 part of the whole picture of the last few months. I've been really busy with a lot of things. First of all, I bought the book "Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music" by Angela Myles Beeching. What an amazingly helpful, practical and well-written book. I've been learning from that & am getting some good ideas for building my music career from it. But, that of course takes time.

One thing I've started (as of 2 weeks ago) is writing a solo cello album. This kind of just clicked as something I needed to do. I was thinking about the things I'm good at & what I like to do, and thinking about improvisation & realized that I could make a bunch of improv. tracks to sell on Snocap (Myspace's music store). While that idea then turned into "hey, I'm going to write my own album", I'm still very partial to the idea of recording an improv track once a week and selling it on myspace. It's the type of thing that I don't really expect a lot of money to come out of, but maybe some would here & there & at the very least, it makes it look like I have something more to offer as an artist (there are some great examples in Beeching's book about CDs/Demos being used to further peoples' careers despite not paying for themselves in sales).

Which brings me to the next thing I'm planning to develop. Well things: 2 workshops. First, I'm going to develop a Youtube Improvisation series, which I can also make workshops out of. Next, I'm going to develop a Career Advice for Classical Musicians series, which will draw on my experience from the next two years & well everything after that. Beeching's book mentioned that people booking classical shows often are more likely to book artists offering workshops/lectures/etc.

Which brings me to a weak spot of mine: Prepared concert rep. This is getting solved right now by the following: I have to put together a Beethoven Quartet movement for Nov. 22, I have to prepare for Grad. auditions, I will be playing in a Piano Trio at the New Rochelle Public Library in the spring & I will most likely be playing at Beth El at a currently undetermined date in February. This is causing me to really work on all of this repertoire & actually have pieces prepared so that I can put concerts together. Also, I'm realizing that putting together this type of concert is so different than putting together a recital at school - much less academic/pedagogical & much more about the audience.

One of the big things holding me back right now from a career perspective is that I don't know where I can get booked for paying gigs/concerts or how or who to get in touch with. Slowly, but surely, I'm learning all of this & gaining new information bit by bit. I'm also planning to record Pejoratively Yours material in the near future & start marketing that to various clubs & whatever else I can.

So I have a lot of the big plans set up ... I just don't know how I'm going to pay my bills right now. Here are my current options:

1. Work at Barnes & Noble again as a seasonal employee - this is beginning to look tempting
2. Work at taxis - this is the last thing I want to do. I can be non-committal and only work 1 day a week & while that freedom's nice, I also will be lazy about working & thus not earn money. Plus, it's not the social circle I want to expand into.
3. Extra work - I keep seeing this advertised on Craigslist & am seriously considering it ... I could make somewhere around $100 a day or maybe more doing this & that sounds very worth it, even if it probably means giving up my whole day.
4. Temp Agency - this was recommended to me & I just don't know anything about getting involved with one, but am considering it
5. Find some kind of regular paying gig - like a church job. This is exactly the thing I don't know how to look for. Every church is looking for an organist/pianist & my piano skills are just not there.
6. Get 1-3 more students. - this is ideal & part of what's holding me back from doing this has been being lazy/not having much time & even if I put the work in, there's no telling how long it will take to get more students, not to mention that teaching can be a bit inconsistent (with students cancelling). I also would really like to find my own teaching space (I can use my apartment now, but honestly, it's a gross mess & I'd feel so much more professional in a set space somewhere).
7. Get a part time teaching gig - I would *love* this, but there just doesn't seem to be a lot out there & I haven't gotten a response from the little I've replied to. There does seem to be a lot of "In Home Lessons" & I would honestly really like to get out of that rather than get further into it, because it just does not pay as well & eats up a chunk of my time & always involves logging lessons, which is just frustrating.

Other recent activities include:
Playing shows with December's Fall - always fun
Creating a mailing list (if you'd like to be included on this, just email me your email at
Topsy Turvy Loves - a 3 wk off-off broadway musical (this merits a whole journal entry by itself & may get one if I can find the time, though I may also have to wait until the production ends this saturday.)
Brigadoon - A 1 wk. musical with Blue Hill Troupe that I'm doing at the end of the month

Current Regular activities include:
Sound Shore Chorale
St. Thomas Orchestra
Writing 1 tune a week (2 completed so far)

Alright ... that's just a slice of the pie so far, but all I'm gonna write for this moment.