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
B.M. in Jazz Studies, 2011
M.M. in Jazz Studies, 2013
What sort of work do you do?
I am a freelance musician, recording artist, composer, arranger, contractor, educator, and marketing coordinator.
What led to you doing this sort of work?
I studied violin and piano at an early age. After picking up the saxophone in 6th grade music naturally took over my life. My father's love of jazz gave me the desire to pursue music professionally. I had no idea at the time what a music career would actually entail.
How did you prepare for it?
Developing a career in music was a slow process for me. Almost all of my work blossomed from a seed planted in the past. One opportunity led to another over the years. As an Eagle Scout our motto was "Be Prepared," which is key considering the wide range of expectations put on musicians.
What's a typical day like?
On weekdays I typically do a fair amount of correspondence with different clients about gig details or what to record on their project. I teach at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts in downtown Dallas. I also work from home marketing for Lone Star Wind Orchestra, which involves managing their email newsletter, social media accounts, attending concerts, live streaming content, going to board meetings, etc. On weekends you can find me on stage in Dallas and a number of other cities throughout Texas or nationally performing at private parties, weddings, clubs, and other venues.
What do you find most rewarding about it?
Performing for people generally makes them happy, which is incredibly rewarding. I enjoy hiring my colleagues for gigs to keep them working and passing the torch, so to speak. My work with Lone Star Wind Orchestra is especially rewarding because they are a non-profit helping kids in need experience their first concert, awarding scholarships to high-school students, and impacting the community through music.
What do you find most challenging about it?
Balancing my time and saying no to work.
What role, if any, did your musical education at UNT play in preparing for this work?
My education at UNT helped me develop a solid network across the globe. It was also a reminder that achieving success in music does not mean being the best at music. I learned that musicians are replaceable and the ones who continue thriving offer more than musical talent alone.
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 focused on building relationships more than worrying about achieving success within the program. Juries, recitals and grades are extremely important in school, but students, including myself, might over-stress and lose sight of the big picture. School is the best time to make mistakes and learn from them!
What else would you like readers to know about your work?
I am currently working on my second album, entitled Patience. It will include various styles of music and a plethora of instruments including hand bells, opera choir, strings, timpani, and more. I love to share my knowledge and experience with others so if any readers would like advice on a career in music please do not hesitate to contact me. You can find me at www.SpenserLiszt.com and @SpenserLiszt on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.