Students balance making music, managing time

Students balance making music, managing time

By Liz Ratto

Musicians often dream of becoming household names and bona fide rock stars but, for students, a dedication to one’s craft is something not to be taken lightly.

Following that passion becomes a difficult balancing act between demanding school schedules and making music.

“It’s impossible,” said Kier Byrnes, a third-year business graduate student and lead singer of the Boston-based Three Day Threshold (3DT). “It feels like you’re going non-stop all the time, but what drives you is that you love doing it, so all that other stuff doesn’t matter.”

Blending rock, country and bluegrass, 3DT produces a sound that has won the band an array of awards, including a 2003 Boston Music Award for “Outstanding Roots Act.”

Even with all his musical success, Byrnes is taking his studies very seriously.

“Music is something that I enjoy,” he said. “But to be a realist, I don’t think that it’s going to be a career-making thing.”

Brynes treats his band much like an entrepreneur starting up his own company.

“The band is almost my co-op for business,” he said. “You have full control over your image and product from the ground up.”

Leon Janikian, an associate music professor and music industry department coordinator, said student musicians apply the knowledge they gain at Northeastern toward successful careers in the music business.

“There are some of our students who are top-notch musicians,” Janikian said. “But often these are people who are performers who want to learn to manage their careers better.”

Janikian added that while a music industry major has a demanding course load, the professors in the department appreciate students’ musical aspirations and try to help whenever possible.

“I would say that it’s sometimes hard for them, but we try to make it easier,” he said. “They have requirements, we can’t forgive that, but we can sometimes help with scheduling.”

Middler music industry major Justin Shapiro said he understands about grappling with the challenges of school responsibilities and musical projects.

“The music comes pretty naturally, so it’s really just a time management thing,” said Shapiro, drummer and vocalist for the band Freelance in the Ozarks and a solo artist under the name Sizewise. Like Byrnes, Shapiro said his interest in making music contributed to his study of the industry, instead of detracting from them.

“I enjoy making music as well as working with music in many other forms such as production and marketing,” Shapiro said. “So really the major allows me to explore all of those facets of the music industry.”

MK Fabila, a middler graphic design and multimedia major, is also applying what she’s learning in school to her musical endeavors as a singer and songwriter.

“I think that writing my own stuff and being able to mix sounds will really help with my career,” Fabila said. “It’s definitely something that will contribute.”

While she has confidence in her songs and is excited about her growing fan base, Fabila does have trouble managing a heavy course load and her music.

“It’s hard to find the time and inspiration to write because you’re just preoccupied with school,” she said.

Echoing her troubles is Johnny Mazcko, a senior music industry major and frontman of the Johnny Mazcko Band.

“It sucks because, as a musician, all you really want to do all the time is play music and write music,” said the guitarist. “It’s really good for your creativity when you’re not going on a crazy schedule from class to work to whatever else.”

Mazcko, whose band is preparing for a battle of the bands at the Middle East Downstairs on St. Patrick’s Day, said while he thinks the music industry program is solid, he’d still love to play music for a living and not have to fall back on his degree once he graduates in May.

“I’d rather do something that I love to do and just be happy about it than to do something that I don’t like as much just to make a living,” Mazcko said.

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