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Tell me about your work: Tahira Clayton

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


Tahira Clayton

B.A. in Music, 2015

Tahira Clayton singing in a recording studio

Breaking news (June 2017): Tahira Clayton and the AMP Trio won the DC Jazz Prix at the Washington, D.C. Jazz Festival

What sort of work do you do?

I am a freelance musician (instrument: vocals) and early childhood educator.

What led to you doing this sort of work?

As a 16-year-old, I booked my first professional work with a corporate variety band as their lead singer. During my time at UNT, I started performing with my own groups as well as being a side-woman with other small groups throughout Denton and Dallas. Now based in New York City, I realized quickly that if I hustled hard enough and diversified myself, I would be able to sustain a living being a musician. The early childhood education came during my UNT years as well, sort of out of necessity. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed teaching younger kids until I started doing it and have stuck with it.

How did you prepare for it?

I don't know that I consciously prepared for life as a freelancer. I was fortunate enough to gain gig experience at an early age that undoubtedly prepared me for present day. Getting a degree in music certainly gave me skills I would need to be diverse as a musician and educator.

What's a typical day like?

Lots of travel! My time is spent a little differently every day, however a typical day for me right now involves teaching chorus at 2 public elementary schools in NYC, then heading to a music academy in Long Island where I teach private voice, piano, and early childhood classes, and usually ending the day with a gig (either my own or a private event type of deal) or a rehearsal of some kind. That being said, today I did none of those things and was in a recording studio for most of the day. A little different every day.

What do you find most rewarding about it?

I can go home knowing that I shared a little bit of the joy I have for music with someone else, whether it be a student, client, collaborator, or audience member. I get to see folks' reactions to a new original song, or old standard, and celebrate with a student or choir when they've learned something and applied it to their own music. That will always be cool to me.

What do you find most challenging about it?

Money is certainly the first thing that comes to mind, but even more so dealing with the personalities of different people in different situations.

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

Though I was playing before UNT, I didn't really know anything about music except for artists and songs I liked. The UNT environment shaped me up on theory, vocal technique, sight-reading--all things that help me do my work well. Also: a major shout-out to my jazz keys teacher and all my applied piano lessons teachers. I never knew I would be playing so much piano/sight-reading now!

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

I would have definitely take more pedagogy and music education courses.

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

Don't be timid to do music full time. It is possible. Diversify and conquer!

What other jobs have you had since leaving UNT?

I did have a brief stint at a neighborhood grocery store my first summer in New York City. Word got out to the customers that I was a vocalist, and I would sometimes sing for some of the older ladies when they came through my check-out line. That was a fun time.

Music can be found at my website: www.tahiraclayton.com.

Tell me about your work: Colin Hinton

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


Colin Hinton

BM – Jazz Studies - UNT (2006-2011, not completed)
BFA – Jazz Performance – City College of New York
MA – Music Performance – City College of New York

Colin Hinton playing drumset

What sort of work do you do?

I am a freelance musician, composer, bandleader, and educator.

What led to you doing this sort of work? How did you prepare for it?

I've been playing music since I was four years old. When I realized that I could do it professionally (around age 12-13), I made it my goal to achieve that dream. I prepared for this by studying and practicing intensely. I spent almost 10 years in college pursuing (and finishing) both an undergraduate and advanced degree in music. I spent many years of my life practicing 4+ hours a day with no days off. I still actively take private lessons in both drumming and composition. I plan to go back and pursue a DMA in composition in a few years.

What's a typical day like?

There's really not a typical day, but generally, I try to be up by 8 a.m. (this obviously is subject to change if I had a late gig the night before). By 9 a.m., I'm answering emails and figuring out what my goals need to be for the day, i.e. if I need to focus more on practicing, composing, organizing, promoting, etc. This can also change depending on my rehearsal/gig/teaching schedule for the day. If I have a night "off," I try to go out and hear musicians I'm either friends with or want to work with.

What do you find most rewarding about it?

I love creating work that I find valuable and portrays an accurate reflection of where I am in my life. I've done 9-5 jobs outside of music and I quickly realized it was not the path for me. I honestly don't know what other career path would have worked for me.

What do you find most challenging about it?

Surviving in NYC off a gig-based economy can be depressing at times, but I find the rewards outweigh the financial hardships. Teaching college students who seem to have no interest in the tradition of the music (not that I am a traditionalist--at all) can be incredibly trying, and I often find myself being needlessly frustrated due to this. However, teaching students that DO listen to your advice and hearing them grow exponentially as improvisers is incredibly rewarding.

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

Though I did not finish my degree at UNT (even though I was there for five years), my time at North Texas was invaluable. Studying with Ed Soph for five years was amazing. I owe Ed a great deal for helping me become the musician I am today, and I'm happy that him and I are still in touch. I also had the opportunity to play and work with Lynn Seaton, Fred Hamilton, Brad Leali, Stefan Karlsson, and John Murphy frequently throughout my time at UNT. Working with the faculty opened me up to all types of different ideologies behind improvising and showed me different ways to think about and listen to music. Prof. Murphy inspired me to become involved in ethnomusicology and is largely responsible for my branching out from the "jazz" world.

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

I think about this often. The music I am involved in now is drastically different from what I did at North Texas. However, my studies at North Texas gave me the foundation I needed to branch out and pursue a different path. I would have invested more time in composition and studying classical music. This was not an avenue I had much interest in during my time at North Texas, but as I became older, my interest (see: obsession) in the avant-garde, 20th century classical music, and the AACM became the focus of my musical world. This was the focus of my graduate studies.

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

I try to stay active as a performer/composer across multiple musical platforms. I still play "standard" gigs, but I'm also incredibly involved in Brooklyn's "new-music" scene. I'm also writing for classical ensembles now. I am having a few pieces premiered in Italy in July. I lead a band named Facehugger. We'll be recording our first record in the fall (this will also be my first record as a leader), and I hope to have it released this winter.

What other jobs have you had since leaving UNT?

Upon moving to NYC, I secured a job teaching at a small music school. I quickly left this job as the company was poorly organized and drastically underpaid their teachers. I've had loads of horrible day jobs. One summer in NYC I flipped burgers at an outdoor restaurant. That was the job that made me decide to go back to college to finish my undergraduate studies and continue to grad school. For about a year while finishing my undergrad I worked as an assistant manager at The Jazz Gallery in NYC. This was a great way for me to meet/hear musicians while still getting paid. I was fortunate to be a TA at City College for four of my five semesters as a grad student. I taught Jazz Rep III and IV (very similar to UNT's improv III and IV classes) under Steve Wilson.

What advice would you have for a current UNT student who is preparing to move to NYC? Try to form relationships with people who are already established in NYC, and visit the city as much as possible before moving. Probably the greatest thing I did while at North Texas to prepare me to move to NYC was sublet in Brooklyn most summers. I would come up for 1-3 months at a time, study with one or two people while visiting, and go to sessions/hangs/gigs every night. The biggest thing to be aware of when moving to NYC is that you must be patient. Even if you are a "first call" at North Texas, when you move to NYC you will be surrounded by everyone else who was a "first call" in their hometown, too. Be prepared to expand your musical horizons beyond what you already know, and take ANY gig you can. One of the best paying gigs I have is being the first call sub for a German polka/top 40 band!

Colin Hinton with Facehugger:

Colin Hinton with Ingrid Laubrock and Joe Hertenstein:

 

Tell me about your work: Matt Wigton

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


Matt Wigton

B.M. in Jazz Studies, 2003

You can hear Matt's music at app.soundstripe.com/artists/46.

Matt Wigton playing electric bass in a recording studio

What sort of work do you do?

I am a freelance touring/session bassist. I am also a staff composer/producer for Soundstripe, which is a micro licensing company. Both of these jobs are based out of Nashville, TN.

What led to you doing this sort of work?

I got into touring work as a bassist immediately upon graduating from UNT. I was based in NYC for 10 years and from there toured with indie-rock bands and jazz groups all over Europe, Canada, and Central/South America. Upon moving to Nashville (4 years ago) I landed tours with artists like Engelbert Humperdinck, Christopher Cross, and most recently Jo Dee Messina. The session work definitely picked up when I moved to Nashville as this is one of the things that makes this city what it is. Demos and records are made here all day long in thousands of studios scattered all around the area. As far as my life as a producer is concerned, that began up in NYC when I started ghost writing on TV spots for Yessian which is a large ad agency based out of Detroit. After relocating to Nashville I started working more in the TV/Sync world with a company called Resin8 Music Licensing and from there that led me to the world of micro licensing. I have been with Soundstripe since its inception and currently work from my home studio for them.

How did you prepare for it?

Not sure that I actually prepared for this. I just dove right in and absorbed and observed everything I could along the way. 20 years later here I am.

What's a typical day like?

Changes constantly. I could be in my home studio producing music starting around 8am and going to 5 or 6pm or I could be on a session recording on someone’s record which usually gets going around 10am and goes until around 6 or 7. I usually can’t remember what day of the week it is or where I am when I am touring. Schedules are all over the place.

What do you find most rewarding about it?

I love what I do and the fact that I get to make music for a living.

What do you find most challenging about it?

Inconsistencies with schedule, money, and dealing with challenging personalities in the various bands.

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

I had not been playing bass very long before I entered in at UNT. I had read a couple of theory books and listened to some records but didn’t know my a## from my head. UNT definitely helped give me a solid set of tools to help build my vocabulary on the instrument and to learn the history of the music.

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

Shadow an engineer and producer at a local studio every chance I could.

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

In addition to being a musician and producer, I am an avid gardener and supply produce from my garden to a fellow music producer here in Nashville who also happens to be a fantastic chef. He runs a Chinese comfort food 5 course dinner out of his house (2 seatings, once a month). The name of it is Angelhouse.

What other jobs have you had since leaving UNT?

When I moved to NYC I had all sorts of day jobs to help pay the rent, including handing out flyers, working for a contractor painting and demoing apartments, working for a catering company, web design, and doing data entry for a real estate company.

Tell me about your work: Patrick Carr

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
Chair, Division of Jazz Studies
UNT College of Music


Patrick Carr

B.M. in Jazz Studies, 2013; M.M. in Jazz Studies, 2015

Patrick Carr seated at his desk in a cubicle with ecommerce site on the computer monitor

What is your job?

I am a Front-End Web Developer for Sally Beauty’s digital commerce team.

How did you get it?

I found a listing for the position on indeed.com and submitted my resume and application online. I interviewed with my current boss and the Vice President of Ecommerce. After a few days I sent a follow up email with some of my thoughts on website improvements (one of the interview questions, which I felt I could have done a better job answering), and they offered me the job shortly after that. I later found out that the follow-up email is what made them decide to hire me; if I hadn’t sent that email, I probably would not have gotten the job.

How did you prepare for it?
I started out by learning the basic building blocks HTML and CSS on codecademy so I could build a website for our wedding announcement. I also found a free non-profit online bootcamp called Free Code Camp, which taught me more javascript and problem-solving through algorithms. By the end of the program I had built a few small example apps that demonstrated my skill set.

What’s a typical day like?

A typical day is mostly taking Photoshop mockups and converting them into live web assets. I also write scripts to automate repetitive tasks like resizing/compressing images.

What do you find most rewarding about it?

I really enjoy the problem-solving aspect of the job. Each project is a puzzle with many different possible approaches, and it is a lot of fun to try to create the best user experience possible while keeping page speed as high as possible.

What do you find most challenging about it?

I find that when working for a large company there is a lot of waiting involved. With so many moving pieces, large-scale changes are expensive and slow-coming, so it can be frustrating to deal with problems that exist for so long without being fixed because of these limitations.

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

I was told in the interview that without prior experience in this field my resume was not particularly impressive, but when they saw that I had a master’s in jazz it piqued their curiosity, so it effectively got me the interview. My music education also has taught me to be very self-managing, which has certainly helped me keep the job. My boss really appreciates that I can plan and work through entire projects without constantly asking for clarification or help, which is a valuable quality in an employee.

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

I might have used one of my electives on a computer science course to get a deeper understanding of the actual science behind everything.

What presence does music have in your life now?

I still perform regularly and teach lessons in the evenings. My gigs are mostly on the weekends. The trickiest part of this has been finding enough time to practice as much as I would like. I am still working on finding that perfect balance.

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

Don’t be afraid of these day jobs! It’s true that they limit the time you have during the day to devote to your projects, but I can say from personal experience that it has been very liberating to have a dependable paycheck that allows me to invest in my music and myself without feeling guilty.

What other jobs have you had since leaving UNT?

This is the first full-time job I have held since graduating.

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