Majoring in Jazz Performance to maximize potential as an artist

Nathan RauscherMajoring in Jazz Performance meant overcoming fear. When I began planning for college, I didn’t know what to study. Music was my passion, but the whole starving artist image terrified me. I doubted I could make it as a performer, but performing was all I wanted to do. For a while, I considered studying health care like my parents and maybe playing in a band on the side. Although I never had much enthusiasm for that idea. I wanted to attend a college with a good school for my major, but without a major I was stuck. No way forward.

Even with my parents’ help, I couldn’t make a decision. Spring of junior year I was still stuck. Then my mom asked me, “Nathan, where do you see yourself in ten years?” And I thought it over. All the years learning music and all the joy of performing. My accomplishments and my potential. The terror of the starving artist faded away. I saw myself ten years down the line. A musician.

Jazz Performance is more than playing music. Teaching, marketing, and group leading have all been vital to my success as a performer. When I became the leader of a jazz combo called Groove Atlas, there were only a few experienced players available to me. I had to quickly create an extremely efficient method to teach the younger musicians how to play jazz. We performed together all year.

Leadership is as challenging in music as in any other discipline. Booking gigs. Organizing rehearsals. Providing sheet music for everyone. It is an exercise in patience as well as time management. Biting a saxophonist’s head off for missing rehearsal is a sure-fire way to lose a saxophonist. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. The pianist was very young. Not ready for a certain performance we had planned. As much as I wanted to keep the band together, I had to take her off the roster that day and call in a more experienced player. I felt awful, but it has prepared me to face similar dilemmas in the future.

Learning to advertise the brand is imperative. If nobody knows about the gig, nobody comes, and nobody gets paid. I had a wake-up call. Groove Atlas was performing regularly at a restaurant called Talayna’s, and the owner wanted us to bring more people. Social media became a valuable tool for advertising. I even dealt with other artists, promoting their shows in exchange for help promoting mine. Friends of mine offered services like flyer design and recording that gave me more content to spread around.

Jazz Performance means having the skills to work on a bandstand. In my case, it also means adopting these additional skills to maximize my potential as an artist. Jazz Performance is working with others, leading, and listening. When I graduate, I will be fully fledged Jazz Performer. A musician.

We are proud to announce Nathan Rauscher is one of the current JustJobs Scholarship finalists. Vote for his essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘heart’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

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