I was just wondering if you could offer any advice to me as an aspiring musician.
Many people have told me that jazz as a popular art form is dead. Some of my biggest influences are jazz guitarists, and I genuinely enjoy playing and listening to jazz. Do you think the skills and technique I learn as jazz guitar player will lend themselves readily to most jobs in the music business? In other words, is a degree in jazz guitar economically valuable outside of the jazz scene?
Generally speaking, a jazz guitar degree isn’t really worth much. How well you actually play , how original you are and how well you can write and arrange are worth a lot. Unless you want to teach in a college, degrees aren’t really important. Most of the opportunities you’ll get professionally, you’ll get from other musicians referring you and you referring them. In other words – NETWORKING. Look for every opportunity you can to jam or gig with other musicians. You learn most by doing it. Learn your theory, harmony, composition and arrangement while you’re in school and have access to the info. After that, as a guƒ¯tarist you need to try to be as versatile as possible so you can take advantage of more opportunities in pop music, rock, funk, R&B, etc and learn something about recording engineering. As a guitarist you’re an entrepreneur and you’ll need to create your own projects, write your own music, find great musicians to play with.
There’s wisdom in not getting too focussed just on jazz. In colleges and universities they tend to focus on jazz and classical almost exclusively and I’ve always felt it was a kind of dead-end trap and an academic exercise. Those restricted genres tend to foster anti-pop bias and snobbery that keeps musicians from freely exploring all styles of music including world music. It’s a global business and you grow most by copping styles, grooves and licks from Ska, African High-Life, Middle Eastern artists, Hip-Hop, country, etc.. We’re blessed with the Net where there’s access to every kind of music. USC just instituted the first pop music department in a state university in the country and they’re swamped with applications. The problem in most colleges is that most faculty comes from jazz and classical and they’re making THEIR living teaching. They rarely really know how to teach you how to make a living as a professional musician and the many opportunities that are available if you’re versatile.