What are your top tips for aspiring guitarists?
I assume all will get good doses of scales, repertoire, and all that, so I won’t beat that horse. Here are my suggestions:
- Do outreach, and lots of it – you’ll learn to play in some of the most ridiculous circumstances, and that will only make you a better player. You’ll also learn to interact with the audience, which will make your performance more memorable.
- Learn to manage your money, time, and taxes. Learn ways to self-promote, get students, get gigs, etc. I know it’s a tall order, but I’m sure someone at your school can help you, or at least give you leads.
- Less coffee.
- More exercise.
- Read a book.
You’ve recorded a few CDs (I’ll link to your discography page here), what’s the recording process like? More stressful than giving a live concert?
Recording is a process, while giving a concert is an event. The two have nothing to do with each other. Everyone should record: the process makes you a better player, and in the end you have a tangible product that you can use for promotion. A CD is like business card, and it’s just one more tool you need in your box to help you get gigs. Of course, remember that we’re really moving past CDs and MP3s. We need to be mindful of the newer technologies and trends. Simply put: YouTube.
You’re currently a DMA candidate at the New England Conservatory, what’s the plan after graduation?
Eliot always said that as students, we all need to have a plan for what we’re going to do while we’re in school, so that there isn’t a transitional dead space of a summer job right after graduation. If you think about all those 20-somethings with a masters who have to stumble around for a few months (or a few years) to figure out their career options after graduation, and then consider how much time and money it has cost (sometimes close to $200K), you realize how it’s criminal that our schools have no way of better preparing us for the uncertain road ahead.
I’ve been fortunate because I’ve had the opportunity to do a variety of things during my time as a DMA student—Boston GuitarFest, Boston Guitar Project, teach, perform, record—I’ll just continue to do what I’ve been doing for the last few years. It’s a quite a journey, and at every corner I’m just so thankful that people are so supportive and welcoming.
Any final thoughts?
I’m actually very optimistic about being an artist in today’s world. We all got into this thing because we love the guitar, but we should not be afraid of dwindling concert subscribers and falling classical music sales. Remembering that doors open when others close, I’m convinced that there are more audiences to tap into, more young minds to inspire, and more unconventional spaces to fill with our music.
Tanya Maggi, the outreach coordinator at NEC, said one of the goals of NEC’s outreach program is to help “students discover what it means to be a musician in the 21st century”. We live in a very different time from what our teachers grew up in. We can always learn from their models and examples, but it’s up to us to meet the challenges unique to our generation. We need to use every bit of our creative energy and passionate talent to develop 21st century solutions. Through our innovations, we’ll get our chance to shake things up a bit and to carve out our own futures.
Thanks, Steve, for the great interview!