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Around The Arts

June 9, 2012

Music is an important part of all aspects of life

How important is music to you? Do you play an instrument, and if so, do you think the skill you've developed can be helpful in your life, even if you haven't reached a professional level of musical performance?

Many of the young people in the Oneonta area may be asking themselves the same question as they contemplate careers that involve music, either as performers or as managers, publishers, record company executives or audio engineers.

In recent months, some music department professors at the State University College at Oneonta have been trying to determine a good balance of required courses in the department's music industry program.

How much music performance does a student need to go into the business side of music, rather than seeking a career as a performer?

The professors had many dedicated, interesting and lengthy discussions about this topic.

Since we offer a music industry degree, should some students take less music and more business? How important is it for a student to be able to play an instrument or to be part of a vocal group?

My colleagues did a very effective job of discussing these important questions and seeking guidance by looking at music programs at other schools, as well as considering their own experience in the business.

I tried to help by asking professionals who are in the business of music how important it is to be able to play an instrument, even if their main source of income was produced as a music business professional. Their answers to that question were remarkably similar.

A successful music business lawyer easily named many of his colleagues who play instruments, He said, "Look at all the lawyers who play music. I'm in a group that meets every Friday as part of a jazz performance group. Elliot Hoffman (a partner in a law firm) is a good jazz piano player, and Fred Koenigsberg plays classic rock. I understand Lee Philips is a pianist, and of course, Jay Cooper played with Woody Herman. Peter Thall plays pretty good classic piano and the list goes on and on. It definitely creates a different dimension for relating to clients and understanding their art. One of the lawyers in my jazz group and I are on our way to Germany next week to meet with German lawyer-jazz pianist Steven Reich to lecture and perform the music of Thelonious Monk at the Jazzahead conference in Bremen, a club in Berlin and a school in Leipzig. There will be recordings and videos. So I'm definitely for performance for these people. In fact, I know very few good attorneys in this business who don't have some passing experience with performing."

The vice president of one of the largest artist management firms in the country said, "Wow _ what a question. You know, I feel strongly that any person working in the field should have direct knowledge and understanding of music and performance and add to that production. They don't need to be musicologists; however, they do need to have an understanding for the mechanics of what an artist must go through and it helps that they have the unnerving experience of standing in front of an audience. Furthermore, they should have some context in order to provide productive artistic insight. The only thing I regret not doing in college is learning more instruments (sax and brass would've been fun) and not going back to the first instrument I ever played _ the cello."

What can we learn in Otsego and Delaware counties from the advice of music biz execs?

Playing music is part of a successful life. Spend some time learning how to play well and have a good time during that process.

Your musical skills will help you no matter how you choose to make a living or what path you follow in life. Playing music, and hearing others perform, are part of a human communication process that we all need.

Dr. Janet Nepkie is a member of the music industry faculty in the music department of the State University College at Oneonta. Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/musicbeat.

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