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Student musicians search for venues

The room is packed, with many kids standing on chairs to get a better view. They have come for one purpose …to hear music, something that many young adults have a passion for. Most of them have musical aspirations themselves, and seeing someone else on stage playing awakens a particular look in their eyes. Tyler is a growing city, and this includes the developing music scene populated by youth, including many TJC students. Whether for money or for artistic growth, students are hungry to find venues and places to be heard. “East Texas is a difficult place to find gigs, and most musicians want to move to a bigger city,” student-musician Caden Crawford said.Numerals, a band of six including two current TJC students and two former TJC students, recently finished a small tour that led them southwards to Austin, and then into Arkansas and Missouri. Numerals did it without expecting a solid fan base, considering they are a new band that has only played a few shows in its hometown.”In Arkansas, we played to a completely empty floor,” said singer Matt Butler. “But we made fans there who didn’t know us beforehand, and we made our money back selling merch. In the end it was completely worth the trip.”Numerals plays rock music that is made to fill up a room and be played loud, but Tyler’s main attraction is what music professor Kerry Baham calls “the coffee-shop crowd.”For instance, Java Jams, a venue inside the Brookshires on Shiloh and Broadway, pays $100 to acoustic players. Musicians get booked there by showing demos to the Java Jam’s owner. Crawford, who has played at Java Jams, said it can help someone get gigs if they have a “professionally recorded demo.”One group of student-musicians attempting to make a name for itself is located directly in the music department and TJC band, most of whom play either classical or jazz music. “It’s harder for classical and jazz musicians to find gigs in Tyler,” Baham said. “Never the less, there are exceptions who have found niches because of their talent and drive. Classical guitarist Tony Borkman has used his talent to play weddings, restaurants, and high paying casino gigs in Shreveport.”Many students believe that they could make it big if only given the opportunity. “I think I can make a career out of playing classical guitar. I get paid well enough by the casinos…Shreveport is a good place for jazz and classical musicians,” said Borkman. Obviously, it takes a certain amount of talent to get gigs in far-reaching places such as Shreveport casinos and to make enough money to possibly build a career out of playing gigs, but as much as talent is important, what may be more important is work ethic. Band teacher Tom Mensch was very clear that it’s not something that comes to you, you have to work for it like anything else, especially when playing classical or jazz”With a band instrument, you have to pay your dues,” Mensch said. “There is not a major market for my genre of music in Tyler…if you want to make a career out of it, you have to get out of here and work hard, and that includes playing every day. If you want to make an income you have to work like it’s your job.”Tyler may not be a place for musicians to find a solid career, but it is a place to get started and a place where musicians can find avenues for their art. The people who do find both money and fans in Tyler should be an inspiration to every one who is aspiring to play music in front of a crowd.

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