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Tell me about your work is a new interview series published by the Division of Jazz Studies at UNT. We're interested in knowing more about the work life of our alumni, what role their musical education plays in the work they do, and what their musical lives are like now. Knowing this will give current students a broader sense of the career paths they could follow, and could suggest ways to prepare for them while they are still studying at UNT. --John Murphy

Alex Hahn releases "Emerging"

Saxophonist and Jazz Studies alumnus has released his new album "Emerging." This album consists of new original music featuring a septet with an eight-piece string section. The music is influenced by jazz, classical, pop, and cinema with an emphasis on strong/singable melodies.This video features the track "Song for Hope":

Alex's website is www.alexhahnmusic.com.

"Alex Hahn's recording, 'Emerging,' is brimming with ambitious and inventive writing for jazz ensemble and strings. The performances are bristling with energy and at times threaten to burst out of the speakers!"
- Russell Ferrante (Grammy Award Winning Pianist/Composer, Yellowjackets)

Rich DeRosa teaches in Rome

Rich DeRosa and the student big band he coached on an outdoor stage in Rome with trees behind it

Prof. Rich DeRosa spent a week in Rome, Italy to teach at the St. Louis College of Music. His primary responsibility was to work with the student big band to prepare a concert. The attached photo shows the band at their sound check. During the week, he also taught a 2-hour lecture on improvisation and a 2-hour lecture on composition.

The band performed DeRosa's composition "Perseverance" and his arrangement of 'A' Train. They also performed several of the charts that he created for the WDR band.

The St. Louis College of Music was founded in 1976 and is considered to be the best school in Italy for jazz. It is located in the heart of Rome. It is safe, quiet, and within walking distance to the Colosseum and other historic ruins.

Tell me about your work: Michal Garcia

Michal Garcia with his trumpet in front of an Airbus

What sort of work do you do?

I'm a two-trick pony. I currently work with an awesome photo & video crew in a studio where we produce still & moving images for Newage Products. I am originally from South Texas but I have relocated to Toronto after spending my early career in Hong Kong (recently married to a Canadian and had a baby girl). In Asia, I regularly played trumpet and DJ'd mostly with my original music project called The Anello, which is loosely a blend of R&B, hip-hop and electronic genres.

What led to you doing this sort of work?

I double-majored at UNT in music and Radio, TV & Film after spending my high school years constantly taking photos and playing music with our school's Concert, Jazz and Mariachi bands. I also attended the Jazz trumpet summer camp led by professor Mike Steinel and it was so influential (and fun) that I decided to attend North Texas based on the strength of its music program.

How did you prepare for it?

For photography work, I just went out and shot a lot. I was heavily inspired by informational videos by Hasselblad & Nikon master photographer Chase Jarvis and I won a trip to meet him and his staff in Seattle and see a very high level of work carried out over a number of days. I also had the opportunity to take courses with professor Harry Benshoff (RTVF) and professor Jack Sprague (Comm. Design) that respectively opened my eyes to dynamics within film and enabled me to get hands-on in the commercial photography scene in Dallas. The Denton/DFW scene also has a lot of opportunity with models, art students, and various clients that need work done for their businesses, projects, and portfolios so I made it a priority to make connections and start shooting as many paid or passion projects as I could. For my music work, I did music mostly academically until I graduated and I experienced some notable performances with the Jazz Repertory Ensemble in Colorado, UNT Jazz Singers (I play trumpet but I sing sometimes) in New York and a very eclectic vocal Jazz forum solo performance with instruments ranging from bass clarinet to trumpet mouthpiece solo and harp.

What's a typical day like?

A typical day is either a day of logistical planning and e-mails in front of a computer or our shoot days, which are morning to early evening at our studio or a location (often a private home) installing and uninstalling product, wrangling hired talent, and doing multiple takes of photo and video to make sure edits will flow together and the best composite images can be made.

What do you find most rewarding about it?

It's always a bit magical to see any project go from just an idea to a fully realized work of art--whether that is a photoshoot or a musical recording. Even simple ideas can bring so much joy to clients, yourself and others.

What do you find most challenging about it?

Paperwork and post-production. Just like when you play gigs, you need to shed and be ready to play proficiently (that's the fun part) but you also need to deal with many e-mails and logistics back and forth, even for straightforward performances and even when you aren't the booking agent or bandleader. Whether you are into film production or writing music, the learning curve can be steep for these applications and keeping up your editing skills can be time-consuming whether you are using Adobe's Creative Suite, Ableton, or Finale.

What role, if any, did your musical education at UNT play in preparing for this work?

I see the way musicians at North Texas effectively work together, respect each other, and take care of each other and I try to keep that level of care in other work I do. I also know what being the best sounds and looks like (just choose your favorite players from current UNT groups, professors or alumni), so I have paradigm for understanding when I am doing great work and when the level of work I am creating needs improvement.

What might you have done differently during your time at UNT if you knew you would be doing this sort of work now?

I'm now ten years out of college and many of the skills required for video and photo editing can be learned outside the classroom via Lynda.com [which UNT students have free access to] or creativelive.com and this would have allowed me much more time for practical experience such as gigging with fellow musicians at North Texas, more private lessons with professors and top players, working on more extracurricular projects with RTVF students and professors, DJing on KNTU FM 88.1 under professor Mark Lambert (FYI any student can become a KNTU DJ), as well as collaborating more with students in the Communication Design program. I knew to expect an extremely high standard from the North Texas music program coming into it, but I had no idea that the design students over in the art building were coming up with equally high-level work and have seen major career and industry-level success. I would love to see more interdisciplinary collaboration between students since that's where innovation, creativity and new business ideas are at their best.

Another thing I would have done as an extension to the actions above is to really get to know at least my local scene (Denton/Dallas), build a fanbase there and push hard to acquire resources to tour and get known in other cities. This exploration forces you to push the limits of your skills outside music and enables you to have a local fanbase anywhere. It can also greatly inform your decision whether to make that big move to New York, LA or even overseas after you graduate.

Michal Garcia on stage with cheering crowd

What presence does music have in your life now?

Incorporating music into my life after the amazing new dimension of having a child (and moving across the world for a second time) is a process I am doing slowly & deliberately. I still have occasional gigs, play a lot of music at home for my baby and myself, and I listen to a lot of music. I am slowly getting involved in the larger musical community in Toronto.

What other jobs have you had since leaving UNT?

International School Music Teacher (I did not study music education so this was difficult)
Magazine writer & photographer
On-screen talent for commercials
Business Development and creative jack-of-all-trades for a music company
Corporate Communications (managing photography and social media)
Mover

What else would you like readers to know about your work?
I am a good musician coming from a school with abundance of great musicians and my previous music project The Anello was lucrative, performed internationally, and was acclaimed by a number of publications (Yay!). I believe my successes, especially with that project, were due to cultivating a unique project and applying my other non-musical skills including photography, business development, communications, networking and truly engaging our audience on and off-stage. I bring this up because I have seen many highly skilled creative professionals that are very creatively-creative but often not very business-creative. They deserve wider recognition for their musical abilities but they are lacking additional peripheral (non-music) skills and perhaps do not network with people who could fill in those gaps and--propel them to greater success. I'm not referring to simply a PR push to be some one-hit wonder, but a full business-plan push with supporting professional people (management, accounting, design, recording, legal, and PR). Here is a list of skills that will serve you well in any industry (that I wish I worked toward cultivating much earlier on): ability to work and network effectively and kindly with others; knowing how to manage expenses/bills/taxes; ability to keep basic spreadsheets (Google docs is great and free) for useful info such as a client list; having a framework in place to independently research and learn new skills; updating your skills often and being grounded in the reality of what the level of your skillset is and what it is worth within a given market. A number of courses that teach these skills and others are available through the Career Development & Entrepreneurship in Music at UNT.

soundcloud.com/michalgarcia
www.michalgarcia.com

Tell me about your work: Lily Maase

Lily Maase

B.M. in Jazz Studies, 2004

Lily Maase playing guitar on stage

What sort of work do you do?

I am a guitarist by trade, which means I do quite a lot more than simply playing the guitar. I own a small guitar school that specializes in group lessons in a rehearsal studio, as well as private lessons on a housecall basis. I have had this business, in some form or another, since 2003, which means it moved with me from Texas to New York in 2005.

I also have a performance-based business that has two branches: I do freelance session work in and around New York that varies from sitting in pit orchestras on Broadway, playing private corporate events, and functioning as a musical director or lead guitarist in other people's projects. This means that I am often working on music in a number of different genres concurrently, and go from playing rock and roll clubs to wedding receptions to rooms like Birdland and 54 Below on an almost daily basis.

The other branch of my performance business is as musical director, road manager and front person for the Rocket Queens, a (mostly) female tribute to Guns N Roses in which I play lead guitar. Of all the gigs I manage on a weekly basis, this one requires the most precision, the highest level of physical endurance, and the most active engagement both emotionally and intellectually. The group requires quite a lot of me as an improviser and as a technician, and takes me all over the US and Canada on most weekends. I built the band from the ground up, so I also own the production company that books the group and am solely responsible for contract negotiations, staffing, travel and accommodations, managing our budget, choosing repertoire and running rehearsals. The band plays an average of 120-180 minutes a show.

What led to you doing this sort of work?

I have had a guitar in my hands since the age of 7 and don't intend to put it down any time soon. My father was a guitarist, and so as a result both of his daughters--my sister and myself--became guitarists. He always used to say, anything that kept a guitar in his hands beat doing pretty much anything else. I would tend to agree. What we do is very much a family business, and we have a very specific and measured approach to how we look at being musicians in a world where that term means many things to many people.

What I do now is something that has evolved over a number of years based on my skill set, but is also an open and honest reflection of who I am as a person and as an artist--I love to plan and execute projects, I love to figure out what makes music 'work,' and I love to be onstage. When I am onstage I feel often as if I am somehow helping people. I consider myself to be a part of the service industry, not a part of the entertainment industry, and this distinction has been one of the defining details of my adult life.

How did you prepare for it?

My father was a session guitarist and began showing me what he knew when I was still in elementary school. He was self-taught and had a highly detailed knowledge of just about every kind of guitar-based music. I was fortunate to have a University education that rounded out my fundamentals quite a bit in terms of being able to read and being exposed to and encouraged to explore music that wasn't necessarily built around the guitar. But most of what I do now as a player comes from the time I spent trying to figure it how to actually make a living as a player, which meant diversifying my musical interests to the point where my playing was of enough value to enough people to create a financial scaffolding for me to stand on.

The guitar is a relatively 'blue collar' instrument, so much of my knowledge I picked up by living it. I spent a lot of my 20s on the road with a country band and with a math rock project that I ran as a composer and instrumentalist. I spent even more time looking obsessively at guitarists whose playing, to me, typified 'mastery' in a given genre--lots and lots of days and nights spent transcribing and analyzing the techniques, note choices, thought processes, body language and harmonic structures that make any given style of music feel 'authentic.' Individual 'heroes' in these genres spend a lifetime perfecting their craft in just one style of playing! This commitment is not to be taken lightly by 'educated' players, just because we were lucky enough to learn about some things in school.

I moved to New York when I was 22, and most of my training since then has been 'on the job.' Failures that I explored until I found the reasons for them, and successes that were sometimes accidents that I studied and learned to reproduce. A lot of what I do is very 'old school' and very rooted in the tradition of the guitar, as opposed to specifically in the tradition of jazz and improvisation that I studied at UNT. At a certain point I realized that my father, who had been a quiet but forceful presence in the session business since the late 1950s, was a great and relatively untapped natural resource. I had studied with him from when I was 7 to 17. When I was 27 I showed up in New Mexico one afternoon and asked him to start showing me everything he knew. As a result I ended up doing most of my professional development in an apprenticeship as opposed to through academic means. I apprenticed with my father until it got to a point where we became business partners. We began to formulate a teaching method that belongs uniquely to us as a family, which has become a series of books that are about to make their way into the world. My apprenticeship lasted until my father passed away in 2016. I am still coming around to the idea that my education is formally over, and that I have probably gotten to be pretty good at what I do.

What's a typical day like?

Long! Most days I manage booking and scheduling emails, generate content for social media and a few magazines that I write for off and on, plan advertisements for students and events, teach between 3 and 7 lessons, and have a rehearsal or a gig. As I have gotten into my mid-30s and my career has become more demanding and required more travel, I have started to think of myself as an athlete. I have an Iyengar yoga practice that I take seriously, and I see an occupational therapist and chiropractor on a weekly basis as well. As a result, I very rarely have a full day off (I have about 10 days off a year, including weekends). I am largely okay with this, because my hobby is also my profession! Most of my days will include a bit of each of these things, unless I have a recording session or am traveling to play out of town. Neither of those things lend themselves to multitasking.

What do you find most rewarding about it?

I have wanted to be a session guitarist since I was 7 years old, and now I am one! I think this is pretty cool.

What do you find most challenging about it?

Nothing about being a musician is easy, but I find the industry's acceptance of gross gender inequities as status quo to be incredibly wearing. Dan Haerle also said to me, on the first day of my first year at UNT, that if I wanted to be a musician I should come to terms with the idea that I am going to be tired every day of my life, for the rest of my life. I have determined, through extensive self-research, that Mr. Haerle was quite correct.

What role, if any, did your musical education at UNT play in preparing for this work?

While a majority of my work requires me to transcribe and internalize music very quickly, my reading is at a level that makes it possible to step into a certain kind of gig without having to keep certain complex things in my 'memory bank.' This leaves room in my life for things that need to be played by rote, without limiting me to only doing a certain kind of gig. Every aspect of the trade requires the appropriate tool--just as charts are an incredibly inefficient way of articulating the ins and outs of rock and roll (an MD once handed me a 14-page lead sheet for Sweet Child O Mine), memorizing the complete book for a one-off cabaret show on short notice is an incredibly inefficient way of being a player-for-hire.

UNT also taught me how to properly prepare for and take an audition. I have a very internalized sense of what it feels like to be prepared, and more importantly what it feels like to be unprepared. I am consistently amazed by musicians who walk into a room thinking they can 'wing it' among other seasoned musicians, and that everyone will somehow think this is okay. The great players aren't winging it. They are studied enough, and prepared enough to what they do look easy as breathing, but this is because they get up and work after it every single day.

If I am unprepared, I have a pretty good sense of how much time it will take and what I will need to do to GET prepared. I am extremely grateful to UNT for allowing me to feel the absolute mortification that comes from being unprepared in public in a relatively closed environment. I watch my peers and people in my employ go through this occasionally and it's not a pretty experience for anyone. I have definitely learned how to ride the bike by falling off more than a few times, so to speak. I'm happy that a lot of this happened pretty early on, largely because at this point in my career I like to be able to eat.

What might you have done differently during your time at UNT if you knew you would be doing this sort of work now?

I have always planned to be doing exactly what I am doing now, because what I do now is what my family has done for as long as I have been alive. However, I emerged into the NY market with absolutely no idea that my gender would be such an issue for so many of my male peers, or that it would ultimately become a defining feature of who I am as a guitarist. I didn't think about myself as male or female really, until I got to college and it was pointed out that my presence in the guitar program was unusual to the point of being intrusive to the status quo. I would have begun articulating my rights as a female musician more clearly and searched for more allies both within the program and around the country, rather than shrinking away from these observations as if they were somehow relevant to the work my peers and I had at hand. There were more than a few small battles that I could have fought better and with more resolve, that would have prepared me for the considerable challenges that lay ahead. Sadly, managing the political conflicts that arise as the result of being a gender minority in this field continues to be a part of my professional life that I do not enjoy. The time spent advocating on my own behalf puts me at a disadvantage in comparison to my male colleagues simply because they have more hours and mental space available to navigate the challenges of the day. This is something that became apparent to me as I was studying in school, and in retrospect it would have been wise to begin speaking openly about these inequities much sooner than I did.

What else would you like readers to know about your work?

I have a very challenging, very exhausting life. But, I also believe I have the best job in the world. I have also never stopped writing, even though circumstances have conspired to keep me from releasing anything new for a little while yet. I look forward to sharing some new things soon, now that my playing has matured, but the deeper I dig into my roots as a musician and an improviser the less I am inclined to call my music 'jazz.'

What other jobs have you had since leaving UNT?

Everyone in NY works a bit while they are getting established as players because the field is so competitive and the cost of living here is so high. Some people maintain this balance their entire lives here in the city, and this doesn't diminish their value as players or their level of musicianship in any way. When I was getting started here I worked in the sample room at a textiles design firm and then later for a high-end kitchen designer based out of Berlin. I learned autoCAD in three days in order to be able to do the interview, at a time in which I was basically desperate for work. I credit my time at UNT for this one; I studied the software as if it were a saxophone solo and was able to figure out which parts I could work through intuitively, which parts I would be able to master after digging into some details, and which parts were better off skating over because they were beyond my ability at the time.

During the Great Recession I lost 90% of my students almost overnight because a large percentage of working adults lost their discretionary income when the banks crashed. I was fortunate to find a job in the publishing department of Alcoholics Anonymous and this kept me afloat while I waited for the economy to rebuild. I live in constant fear of having to go through this process again. Much as we hate to admit it, musicians in this country are heavily dependent on the financial well-being of those who make considerably more than we do in other fields.

Learn more about Lily Maase's work at www.lilymaase.com. She is currently publishing Music Theory You Can Use, based on her father Steve Maase's teaching.

New EP by Jordan Coffing

RHU, the project of 2014 Jazz Studies alumna Jordan Coffing, has released their debut EP Transitioning. Fellow alumni Ben McDonald, Ethan Stalbaum, Aaron Holthus, Connor Kent, and Spenser Liszt contributed to the EP.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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