Updated: Nov 16
By Clay Zimmerman
Considering a full time career as a performing artist? Coming from an aspiring drummer, this is some of the best advice I’ve received over the years from teachers and my own personal musical heroes:
Keep An Open Mind
Get Out There And PERFORM
Being versatile in as many different styles, genres, and eras as you can simply opens the door to more gig opportunities. It's hard enough keeping a steady work schedule as a full time performing artist, so don't make your life more difficult by limiting yourself to only one aspect. Even if you've come to master it.
Use each style you learn as an opportunity to increase your technical capabilities and stretch your chops. Embrace being in unfamiliar situations in order to get a bigger picture of how your part fits into the whole.
Playing jazz did both for me. My dynamic range increased, my pocket deepened, and I began to fully realize how my instrument connects and interacts with the rest of the band.
Keeping an open mind about your art form and all its aspects deepens your artistic voice and vision, even if you end up specializing in a particular area. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Explore, create new experiences for yourself, and see what's possible!
My roots as a drummer are in classic hard rock. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, and Rush were some of my favorite bands growing up and their drummers were huge early influences on me. Although my interest in that style of music expanded to many more artists and groups, I still had a narrow perspective overall and shrugged off anything outside of the rock and metal world that wasn’t produced pre-2000s.
My time as a college student really helped widen my perspective through performing in different ensembles, taking lessons and classes from multiple professors, and meeting a lot of new people with varying tastes in music. I kept myself open to it all at the time and welcomed each new musical situation.
From that I was able to discover my love for jazz, Brazilian, folk, R&B, fusion, and funk music!
Just Get Out There and PERFORM
Perform! Do it. In any way you can. Start by being a part of whatever opportunities are currently available to you.
For younger artists, middle and high schools offer a lot in the way of extra-curricular activities in the performing arts. College just further expands on that. For those out of school though, research community ensembles in your area and find as many like-minded individuals you can who are on the same path as you.
As a percussionist, it was always very easy for me to find ensembles to be a part of because most genres of music were bound to have some sort of percussive element!
Concert/symphonic band, marching band, jazz ensemble, percussion ensemble, choir, musical theater; by the time I was a senior, anyone who needed a drummer knew who to go to.
I also gained something new with each experience. Symphonic band helped my reading and precision, marching band expanded my rudimental prowess, jazz ensemble taught me limb independence and how to lead a band as a drummer.
Plus, the more live performance experience you have under your belt, the less nervous you’ll be about performing in front of a crowd! Eventually those feelings won't affect you as much and you'll get used to dealing with that pressure.
Overall just continue to be a student of your craft even after you’ve found some success as an artist or graduated with a college degree.
Musicians like Jaco Pastorius re-invented how people approach the bass guitar because he let his deep appreciation of all styles of music flow through his playing and compositions.
Discovering and practicing as many different styles and eras as you can not only opens the door to more gig opportunities, but deepens your understanding about your art form.
Looking for more opportunities to perform live? VIBE Performing Arts endeavors to help all students experience excitement and dedication necessary to help them succeed in life as well as on stage. For more information on SING WITH CONFIDENCE or VIBE, visit vibescv.com or call 661-255-7464.