Successful professional musicians have many things in common

1. They are confident and adventurous enough to dive into their music careers headfirst.

This applies to musicians playing in an orchestra or playing gigs on weekends. There are countless stories of musicians not having any alternate plans for success. You don’t have to sleep in a car for weeks to be successful, but the fact that you’d be willing to says it all

2. They don’t mind doing things in addition to performing to make their living.

Most musicians don’t sign record labels, ever. There are some that do and become very wealthy, but most do not. Many musicians become teachers of private students or even group workshops because they have bills to pay between performances. It’s always okay to dream big, but if the only reason you want to be a musician is because you think it will make you rich, you’ll quickly get weeded out of this business.

3. They have a patient, persistent can-do attitude.

This might be the most important out of the entire list. A music career does not appear overnight, and especially not one in any of the arts. Instead of becoming preoccupied with trying to get a “big break,” the most successful musicians focus on growing their careers gradually.

4. They’re willing to work very hard on their craft every day.

No matter which type of musician you want to be, it’s essential to practice your craft every day. By doing this, you will continue to improve while others stagnate, eventually being better than most others at what you do. It is a very competitive musical world, so it’s important to be on top of your game always and be consistently raising the bar for yourself.  You will have to learn to really enjoy the process of improving and practicing as well.  If you don’t want to put in time to practice, then you will never become a professional musician.

Whether you are a fan of Ralph Moore, Willie Jones III or Terell Stafford, professional musicians all share these traits. If you are interested in learning more about these successful musicians, feel free to contact Kathy Salem!

Great Bands Require Great Teamwork

At Night is Alive, we recognize that one of the biggest elements of success in any band is to show respect for your band-mates. Great bands require great teamwork, which means that everyone can’t be the leader, but all have vital roles to play in the band’s success. Being willing to show up to rehearsals on time and in tune is one of the first steps to achieving band greatness.

You need to truly listen to the input of your other bandmates and then have one person in the band who is the executive decision maker. On a basketball team you wouldn’t have 3-point guards all calling out different plays; same goes for a band, pick a leader and they ultimately make game time plays. One person will be responsible for making the ultimate decision after listening to others’ input. These can be simple decisions like how long a song intro should go or more complex ones regarding the tempo or key that a song should be played in.

Everyone should have a chance to contribute ideas to improve the sound of the band and the quality of the performance. Everyone should be able to try ideas, especially during practice, that might result in a better sound.

All band members have critical support roles to the overall team success. It isn’t just the playing of the music that will determine the band’s ultimate destiny. Someone in the band also must be the booking agent and the collections/money distribution person. These aren’t always the same person in a band, but the band does have to agree on who will do these functions, since without a gig being booked none of the magical performances can ever happen.

A fantastic example of teamwork and band performance can be seen with Ralph Moore‘s West Coast Band and Willie Jones III‘s WJ3 All-Star Band. Both groups travel the world together, selling out venues and attracting their loyal fan bases. They never could have got to this level of jazz stardom if it wasn’t for their exceptional teamwork and communicating skills.

The Mind Behind Music

We all know based on our own anecdotal observations that musicians’ brains seem to function a little differently than everyone else’s. Well, it seems that research, in fact, does confirm that to be true. According to multiple studies, playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum — the bridge between the two hemispheres — allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes.

It is suspected that this is what allows musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively than most other people. Playing music, it seems, is extremely beneficial to higher brain function. Playing an instrument involves almost every area of the brain at once — specifically the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. And, as with any other workout, we get stronger as we repeat the same workout exercising the same muscle or our brains.

Playing music also involves creating and understanding its emotional content and message.  Therefore, musicians also have higher levels of executive function — a category of interlinked tasks that include planningstrategizing, and attention to detail, and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects. According to the Journal of American Medicine, most non-musicians do not generally have this combination of brain function.

Playing an instrument also has an impact on how our memory systems work. And, indeed, musicians exhibit enhanced memory functions — creating, storing, and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently. Studies have found that musicians appear to use their highly connected brains to give each memory multiple tags, such as a conceptual tag, an emotional tag, an audio tag, and a contextual tag — like a good internet search engine. This allows them to do things like being able to recall entire pieces of music that they may not have played for many years. Doesn’t it seem like they have an entire library in their minds when you make a special request and they know it perfectly without looking at sheet music? Part of this is because of those emotional tags that they seem to effortlessly access “that library” at will.

When it comes to playing music and instruments, Night is Alive represents several of the jazz industries greatest. Learn more here and feel free to contact Kathy Salem with any questions you have!

Why is Image So Important for Musicians?

There have been studies that suggest how a musician presents themselves visually is more important than their music. If you are a musician reading this, you’re probably a bit conflicted; you know that your music is an important form of expression to you, but at the same time I am sure you’ve seen other musicians who may not have your same level of skill behind their instrument and yet they seem to garner a lot more attention.

“Image is everything”, is a truism in any medium where you are going to present yourself to an audience. Even artists like Sia, who work hard to hide themselves from view, have cultivated an image (although perhaps unwittingly) that appeals to their audience.

But hey, this shouldn’t be news to anyone. Nearly every musical artist we’ve ever fallen in love with has their visual and auditory game on par with one another. So then, how do you go about sowing a strong image and reaping the benefits?

First, understand who your audience is and then play up to that. Ever notice that grunge bands all sort of looked and sounded the same? Coincidence? Nah, not at all. It was a popular movement that was defined by flannel shirts and Dr. Martens as much as static guitars and raspy vocals. Take a moment, look at your audience and cultivate a look that’s in line with your music and their ears.

Second, jump right into social media. People want a back-stage pass to your life and you should deliver whenever appropriate. Let them peer in on your day-to-day goings on. Let them meet your pets, introduce them to your favorite coffee shop, give them a world-first listen to your new riff, etc. Leverage your image by letting people experience life through your eyes.

Third, never stop branding yourself. Once you get a few likes and follows, don’t stop there, keep pushing! In a world where everyone wants to, “go viral”, you must be ready for the long haul. 99.995% of people do not become viral sensations within days. You need to be ready to work for every like and build your social media audience over time.

Forth, start marrying your music to your image. Music videos are the obvious solution here. You don’t need to craft the next award-winning motion picture – keep it simple at the start. Work with other artists in the area who are looking for exposure and see if you can form a mutually beneficial relationship.

Once you start thinking of your image as your brand you’ll soon be making better choices about to cultivate and nurture a following through the visual mediums.

From Ralph Moore to Terell Stafford, Night is Alive represents some of the industries highest ranking artists to date. To learn more, contact Kathy Salem!

Why We Like FAMU

If you don’t know by now, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, or FAMU, is an academic institution that is near and dear to Kathy Salem’s heart. Back in November, four talented jazz musicians from the school were inaugural recipients of the Kathy Salem Jazz Scholarship. Salem started the scholarship because she believes that it is important to foster the talents of the next generation of jazz musicians. The scholarship allows her to support the genre of music that she loves so much and enrich the lives of aspiring performers.

So, you’re probably wondering, “Out of all the schools that she could have supported, why FAMU?”

Allow us to share a few interesting things about this university.

Founded in 1887, FAMU is the fifth largest historically black university based on enrollment and the only public historically black university in Tallahassee, Florida. FAMU is also a land-grant university.

At its start, the school was known as the State Normal College for Colored Students. Four years later, the school became a land-grant university under the second Morrill Act and its name was changed to the State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students.

There were three Morrill Acts. One in 1862, one in 1890 and the last one in 1994. Under these acts, schools were designated to teach agriculture, military tactics, mechanic arts, and classical studies so the working class could obtain a liberal and practical education.

The second Morrill Act in 1890 was created to extend access to higher education by providing additional endowments for all land-grants, but prohibited the distribution of money to states that discriminated against students based on race. However, states that provided separate land-grant institutions for black people could receive funding.

While FAMU was eligible for the grant, it didn’t become an official learning institution until 1905. After a few more name and leadership changes, the school became known as Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in 1953.

Today, FAMU’s main campus has 156 buildings that are spread out over 422 acres of land. The university also has several satellite campuses in Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, and Tampa. FAMU enrolls around 11,000 students annually from the United States and more than 70 countries. The university offers 54 bachelor’s degree programs, 29 master’s degree programs, three professional degree programs, and 12 doctoral degree programs.

FAMU is also home to a nationally ranked Jazz Ensembles that is composed of eighteen musicians selected from approximately four hundred musicians in the university’s band program.  The Jazz Ensemble is noted for its diversity of styles and is often invited to perform at jazz festivals across the country.

These are just a few things that make FAMU special. You can read more about the school and its history, here.

A Little Bit About John William Coltrane

John William Coltrane (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967) was born in his family’s apartment in Hamlet, North Carolina. In 1938, most of his family died, and he ended up moving to Philadelphia in 1943.He was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and was later at the forefront of free jazz. He led at least fifty recording sessions during his career.

Coltrane played the clarinet and the alto horn in a community band before taking up the alto saxophone during high school. He had his first professional gigs in early to mid-1945 – a “cocktail lounge trio,” with piano and guitar. He was only 19 years old when playing in lounges.

As his career progressed, Coltrane and his music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension. Coltrane influenced innumerable musicians and remains one of the most significant saxophonists in music history. He received many posthumous awards and recognition’s, including canonization by the African Orthodox Church as Saint John William Coltrane and a special Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

To avoid being drafted by the Army, Coltrane enlisted in the Navy on August 6, 1945, the day the first U.S. atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. He was trained as an apprentice seaman at Sampson Naval Training Station in upstate New York before he was shipped to Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed at Manana Barracks, the largest posting of African-American servicemen in the world.

Coltrane became one of the few Navy men to serve as a musician without having been granted musicians rating when he joined the Melody Masters, the military base swing band. As the Melody Masters was an all-white band, however, Coltrane was treated merely as a guest performer to avoid alerting superior officers of his participation in the band.

In 1946, he was discharged from the military and returned to Philadelphia where he immersed himself in the jazz music scene. He was known as “Trane” throughout the jazz music world. He went on to famously become a member of groups led by several other famous musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Bostic and Johnny Hodges in the early to mid-1950s.

Trane is still inspiring musicians today and many try to replicate his sound. He will forever be associated with great early American Jazz Music.

Did you know Ralph Moore honored John Coltrane at the Lakeland Jazz Festival? Read about how the former Tonight Show saxophonists performed here!

4 Tips for taking care of your health while on tour

Touring takes planning and effort, and you’ll want to make sure everyone is firing on all cylinders when it comes time to perform. There’s a lot at stake, too, and you risk losing out on money and booking future gigs when you compromise your health on tour.

Eat healthy food

Just because you are on the road doesn’t mean that every meal should be fast food. You need to pack some healthy food and snacks, so you aren’t going to the only places open at 3 am. (None of them are healthy.) Bring a cooler so you have some fresh fruits to snack on throughout the day. Make the effort to go to a grocery store; not only will you save a lot of money, but also your body will thank you for the quality food.

Don’t drive for too long at one time

If you’re traveling with two or more people, be sure to switch drivers every few hours. Arriving safely at your gig and going to all the scheduled gigs on the tour should be the end goal of your drives. Staying awake and alert goes a long way for safety.

If you’re traveling alone in a car, you have fewer options. For more safety and less stress, you should take a break every two or three hours at least for a chance to rest your eyes, relax from the tension of the road, and stretch your legs.

Exercise when possible

Yes, you’ll be busy traveling around, but at some point, you will have some down time. Take a walk, even if it is just around the hotel property or to a nearby park. Most hotels have pools so pack a bathing suit and plan on taking a swim and unwinding in the hot tub. Exercise will help keep your mind engaged and your body functioning well, which will help to avoid getting sick.

20 minutes of walking once a day is great, if you can get more then you should.

Drink lots of water

Whether driving or on an airplane be sure to drink lots of water and stay hydrated.  Buy a bottle water and drink it during your flight.

Keep your blood circulating. Don’t sit in place for more than 3 hours whether driving or on a plane.

These rules may seem basic, but all of the musicians represented by Night is Alive follow them! How’s that for a #LushLife?

Learn more about our musicians and their schedules

What Makes Being a Musician So Great

Musicians are often the envy of the working world, and for good reason. Seriously, can you think of a more entertaining career? I doubt it. Here are a few solid reasons why music makers have the greatest jobs ever.

  1. Gratification and recognition. Your fans and peers express true interest and appreciation.
  2. Acceptance. Everyone wants to be accepted and have a sense of belonging somewhere in the world. Musicians are no exception and the music world is a very large and diverse place.
  3. Set your own hours. No punching a clock here. Just show up and do what you love every day.
  4. Day-to day variety. Not looking at the same cubicle’s interior every day. Something new every single day and this is how great memories are made.
  5. Meet and hang out with other cool musicians. Musicians are by far the most creative people on the planet. It is how their brains literally work and makes them exceptional at their craft.
  6. Inspire others. We all are looking for some inspiration at times and many times listening to a certain song or watching a performer can trigger some great inspiring life moments.

What about you? Why did you become a musician? Why do you think that being a musician is the greatest job ever? Have you had some great Gigs that you’d like to tell us about? Any tips you have for other aspiring musicians? Leave your most excellent comments below!

Where Did The Word “Gig” Even Come From?

Gig is slang for a live musical performance. Originally coined in the 1920s by jazz musicians, the term, short for the word “engagement”, now refers to any aspect of performing, such as assisting with and attending musical performance. More broadly, the term “gigging” means having paid work, being employed.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, the first documented use “gig” in this way appears in 1926: Melody Maker 7 September 1926, with the story byline stating, “One Popular Gig Band Makes Use of a Nicely Printed Booklet.”

Currently the term “gig” refers to a “set”, which is a term that comes from “set list,” which is a list of all the music that an individual or a band is going to play throughout the course of a performance.

In recent years, the term “gig” has been used in a broader context in the economy. Our new “Gig Economy” refers to the new reality that many people now work several jobs just to make ends meet.

Night is Alive books gigs for some of the highest-ranking jazz artists today. Learn how we can provide the right musician for your performance venue at our Contact page!

Top 5 Jazz Festivals for the Ultimate Jazz Lover

If “will travel for jazz” is your motto, you’re in the right place. We’re going to share some of the top jazz festivals from around the country, and the world,  that will probably be right up your alley. So, go get a good suitcase and make sure your passport is ready to go. We’re certain the urge to travel will be even stronger after you read this list.

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

Of course, we have to start with what has been ranked as the world’s largest jazz festival. The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal was started back in 1979 and its goal was to bring some of the world’s best musicians to the public. Since then, festivalgoers have been treated to performances from the likes of Ray Charles, Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Tony Bennett, Pat Metheny group, Wynton Marsalis, Madeline Peyroux, Aretha Franklin, Esperanza Spaulding, Diana Krall and many more. The festival runs for 10 days in downtown Montréal towards the end of June. This year marks the festival’s 40th year.

Montreux Jazz Festival

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Montreux Jazz Festival

Created in 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival takes place in Switzerland for two weeks in early July and it tends to draw more than 250,000 visitors each year. It’s been said to be one of Europe’s best-known events. While Montreux’s foundation was built on blues and jazz, many other genres have found a place at the festival as well. Montreux has seen historic performances by Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

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New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, or Jazz Fest, started in 1970 when George Wein, the jazz impresario behind the Newport Jazz Festival and the Newport Folk Festival was hired to design and produce a unique festival for New Orleans. Held during the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May, the festival has since turned into an epic event for the city and generates about $300 million dollars each year.

The Festival tends to blend a wide mix of well-known artists. Past performers include Dizzy Gillespie, Santana, Sarah Vaughan, Paul Simon, B.B. King, Dave Matthews Band, Tito Puente, Al Green, Lenny Kravitz, Abbey Lincoln, and Erykah Badu.

Newport Jazz Festival

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Newport Jazz Festival

The Newport Jazz Festival is held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island. It was established by socialite, Elaine Lorillard, back in 1954. It was the first outdoor music festival that was devoted entirely to jazz. Around 13,000 people attended the first festival. This year’s festival will be held August 2-4. Past performers include Roy Hargrove, Gregory Porter, Corinne Bailey Rae, Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock, Billie Holliday, Carmen McRae, Nina Simone, Muddy Waters, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Monterey Jazz Festival

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Monterey Jazz Festival

This year marks the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 62nd season. Founded in 1958, the festival has donated its proceeds to music education from the very start. Dave Brubeck was instrumental in getting city approval for the first festival. He even performed for the city council to persuade them to let it take place. He ended up performing at the Monterey Jazz Festival 14 times.

Five hundred top jazz artists perform on nine stages during the third weekend in September. In addition to the performances, the Monterey Jazz Festival features jazz conversations, panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions, clinics, and an international array of food, shopping, and festivities.

We know there are many more festivals out there for jazz lovers like you. Tell us. What are some of your favorite jazz festivals?