A Percussionist's Life: Beating The Drum For Gigs Full-time musicians typically have to have an entrepreneurial spirit, juggling multiple opportunities to make ends meet. That's the case for Ivan Trevino, a recent graduate of the Eastman School of Music, who plans to teach and perform to start paying back $60,000 in student loans.
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A Percussionist's Life: Beating The Drum For Gigs

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A Percussionist's Life: Beating The Drum For Gigs

A Percussionist's Life: Beating The Drum For Gigs

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And those with newly minted accounting degrees have one of the best chances of getting a job offer this year. Even then, it won't be easy. Imagine what it's like for a music grad hitting the job market.

In the latest story in our series Setting Out, Rachel Ward of member station WXXI in Rochester, New York meets a young man who wants to be a full-time percussionist.

RACHEL WARD: In the middle of finals, 26-year-old Ivan Trevino has a gig in New York City coming up - graduation just around the corner, and now he's gotten himself involved in this.

Mr. IVAN TREVINO (Student): I mean, there's another thing I have to practice. You know, I should've written a (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of music)

WARD: Ivan is a percussionist just finishing up his master's degree at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He wrote this piece for cello and marimba for two friends who are getting married, and he's only got two days before the wedding to get it down.

Mr. TREVINO: So, basically, the idea is that the marimba part and cello part are very different from each other. One's in a different meter. The phrasing is all different. But somehow, when they play together, it seems to make more sense than it does when they're apart. And that's kind of the same idea with my two friends who are getting married.

(Soundbite of music)

WARD: Ivan's used to pulling all the pieces together and making them work. He plays percussion in a cello rock band called Break of Reality. On top of touring and recording, they played South by Southwest this year, and they're in the running to do a film score.

Ivan did have time for conversation in the student lounge at the Eastman School. He says juggling all of this stuff is just how life is if you want to be a full-time musician and pay off your student loans.

Mr. TREVINO: You know, you got to be able to do a lot of things, play and do the music business thing, too. So you have to make yourself as well-rounded as possible. I think that's the way to go.

WARD: It sounds like you have to be an entrepreneur.

Mr. TREVINO: Definitely. Without a doubt.

WARD: But Ivan doesn't have the luxury of going without making money for two years like most entrepreneurs do. Bills for $60,000 worth of student loans will start showing up in November. So stability is attractive to Ivan. He even briefly considered joining the National Guard band before deciding he didn't really want to go through basic training.

Mr. TREVINO: Hopefully, I'm not spreading myself too thin, but I don't think I am.

WARD: But it's not freaking you out.

Mr. TREVINO: No, I don't think so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TREVINO: I'm a percussionist, so we tend to be pretty laid back. I mean, if all else fails and I can't find a job, I'll just, you know, I'll have to get a normal job for the first time in my life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HEIDI SHIERHOLZ (Economist, Economic Policy Institute): We want people to be as productive and happy and interested in what they're doing as possible.

WARD: That's Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. She says when people like Ivan - someone who started drumming in his family's touring gospel band as a little kid - when someone like that follows their dreams, it's better for the economy.

Ms. SHIERHOLZ: There's no crystal ball. We don't know what's going to be the winner industry going forward. But what we do know is that, as an economy, if young people are going into things that they enjoy and that they're good at, that's how the economy will work best.

WARD: Shierholz acknowledges that some sectors, like health care and education, are more stable during recessions, and musicians might have to find refuge there during hard times. But for Ivan, who's already done the whole move to New York with the band after college, that's not actually a bad thing. He doesn't mind settling down in Rochester.

Mr. TREVINO: I love to teach, probably even more than playing. And I think what I need to do is let people know, almost annoy people with the fact that I'm going to be here and that I really want to help. So, yeah, I think by September, you know, I got to know what I'm doing for sure.

WARD: But if he doesn't know by the fall, he figures he'll find some gig, even if it's just a normal job. After all, musicians are used to improvising.

For NPR News, I'm Rachel Ward, in Rochester.

MONTAGNE: Tomorrow, we talk to an expert about who's got the best chance of finding a job and who will need the most patience.

Unidentified Man: For teachers, education majors, this was the weakest year we've seen in a long time. They actually fall at the very bottom of the majors list in terms of getting job offers.


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