Welcome to our first Instructor Spotlight!
At Arcadia Academy of Music, we want to celebrate all the great talent that make up the vibrant musical community at all our locations, from instructors to students, to alumni and special guests. We know that many of our community members are actively working as professionals in the music industry; as educators, performers, composers, recording engineers, and more. And so, over the course of the next year we will be hosting interviews with some of our most talented, as you will get a sneak peak into the lives of these musicians.
We encourage you to participate in the blog discussions through here or on our Facebook page, and let us know if you would also like to participate in writing your very own blog on music related topics! Up first, we have one of the guitar instructors from our Woodbridge location, Michael Murray, who was kind enough to share some insight into his busy life as an artist. Enjoy!
Director of Art, Media & Design
How did you first hear about Arcadia?
Through a Craigslist ad of all things. Was still relatively new to the GTA at the time and was completely unaware of any music schools around. When I was looking for a job Arcadia hired me. I’m glad they did, because where I grew up we had nothing near this level when it came to private music lessons, and the school board music programs were not even worth mentioning.
How did you first find out about the bands you’re now a part of?
In this case I was a founding member of both groups. Earth’s Yellow Sun started out as a student ensemble at Humber and grew into it’s own thing. The Groove Monks is a wedding band that plays various functions, I’m the main guitar chair but I sub out from time to time. Most groups I’m involved in these days I was part of from the beginning in some way, whether it be as a player as with the monks and EYS and Tayua, or a producer in the case of Ten Meter Band (now just the guitarist).
Are there any upcoming events for any of these bands?
Many! EYS will be making it’s on-stage debut on October 15th at the Hard Luck Bar in Toronto and various other shows in the GTA are happening soon after that. Groove Monks always has some wedding or baptism or what have you coming up. Snaggle just finished raising money to record an album in January to be released sometime next year and has many performances lined up in the coming months, and Tayua has various small events lined up, mostly Latin community events, and is planning a small Canadian tour next year.
What was it like working with industry-renowned musicians such as Ted Quinlan, Tony Zorzi, Emile D’eon, and Rob Bulger? Was there anything interesting about their work process?
Obviously the experience was great but not always in the way one might expect. A large part of studying with someone like that is getting into their thing as much as you can and deciding what you want to incorporate yourself and what you are not as interested in. It can be very easy as a student to fall into the trap of thinking your instructor is not right for you, or is not helping you with what you want to learn, especially at that level of education. A wise student will recognize the value in hearing out their teachers, and engage with the instructor for the period of study to try to learn everything they’re taught before deciding what is and isn’t worth their time. Which is also to address the second part of the question, as these guys all had such radically different approaches to playing and teaching that every year at the school was a whole new world of guitar for me.
What were some of your challenges as a Humber student? How steep is the learning curve for those who, like yourself, were relative latecomers in starting an instrument?
The greatest challenge as a Humber student was the same as seems to be the case with most of the students I’ve met at Arcadia: practicing. That might seem odd as it was a music program, but your time is devoured by essays, theory homework, transcriptions, rehearsals and performances (and rehearsals and performances are NOT practicing, make no mistake). The other big killer there is your own ego and the egos of others. There’s so much posturing and attitude, favoritism among the faculty, etc. that it can kill your desire to play music and otherwise just take a high personal and emotional toll. Learning to handle these things is an important skill to have if you want to be a musician. The learning curve was absurdly high for myself and others in the same boat as me who were new to jazz or just music in general, as the majority of people in my year had already had a lot of training and were at a much higher level than me going in. That said, if you can stick it out everyone tends to even out by the end of the program and everyone finds their area to shine in.
To succeed in a career in music, many people still live by the old adage of “practice, practice, practice”, which for many reasons still holds true, but in your experience, how important is it to make “connections, connections, connections?”
Both are very important, depending on what you want to do. You can have a lot of success as a totally middling player by knowing the right people. That said, if you know the people who do what you want to do but those people know you aren’t good enough to cover anything they might ask you to do then those opportunities won’t come. It’s important to practice as much as possible and maintain your product (your playing) that you’re selling, then take every chance you get to show it off. To complement that, you have to be known by the people who do what you want to do. If you’re good, and people know it, and they know you like what they do, then they will at some point throw opportunity your way. So I guess my answer is, practice til you can’t handle any more then go out and make friends in the world you want to be in.