This is a new format for me; writing, blogging, sharing thoughts, etc. I figured the best topic to start with was a summary of my experiences being a musician in New York City so far. Rarely a month goes by where I don’t get a call, email or just run into someone from my past who is thinking of moving to NYC. I’ll have been here for 3 years in August, and I have to admit my love for this city grows the longer I am here. Music aside, the energy in the street is something I feel that I can feed on for years to come. The food, the people, the art, the grit, the subway, it’s all what I imagined it would be.
The first year, however, was not a walk in the park (not that it is necessarily is now, but i’ll get to that). Aside from a few personal situations that arrived very quickly after moving here, I had to come to terms with the fact that while I had an undergraduate and master’s degree in music as well as a load of performance/ teaching experience, I really had nothing to distinguish myself from the pack. Basically, I was qualified to serve coffee at minimum wage, which is what i did for my first 8 months. Everyone tells you about what a nightmare moving to NYC can be, but actually experiencing that as a reality was humbling to say the least.
Things got to the point where I seriously questioned my career in music, and if it weren’t for a few opportune phone calls where friends gave my name to some other musicians in the city, I may have moved out of NYC or thought about doing something else as a career. I feel like that first year is something everyone has to go through; the doubt and uncertainty. But the thing about New York is when you do taste success, whether its a great show or just having the bread to go out for a nice dinner with friends, it feels like you're on top of the world.
What I realized, over that first year, was that I was not cut out then to be primarily a freelance jazz guitarist for the moment. It wasn’t because I couldn’t as a guitarist, but because my heart wasn’t in it as much as I thought it would be. To most people who knew me in Miami, this was a huge shock. I wanted to follow Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel’s footsteps. I wanted to play Small’s and the Village Vanguard. However, after meeting many musicians and staying out for late jams, I decided it might be time to try something else.
I was very fortunate to live with two musicians, who were able to turn me on to other types of music besides from Jazz. They showed me wonderful indie bands like Grizzly Bear and we went to go see people in the city like Becca Stevens. There were amazing musicians playing music at such a high level and non-musicians were paying attention. I still love and play Jazz, but to play different styles has been a huge awakening to me as a musician.
I feel so lucky to have fallen into the situation that I currently am in. Playing and recording with both Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings and Glass Elephant has been a blast, and the creativity that I have been able to express was makes me feel like i did when I was in my first garage band in high school. While learning so much in music school, I lost a lot of innocence and sense of discovery that I once had. I will take the blame for that; I had a very closed mind and my focus may have been slightly too singular. While still not that that far off from struggling in NYC , I am more excited and motivated than ever to move forward as a musician and to help the groups I am in achieve more success.