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.
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)
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.