The road ahead: Music Historian’s perspective

Photo taken by me at Mt. Washington, NH, Sept. 25th 2020

Life is changing not just for bloggers but also for musicians. Live performances might not be permitted in public until Fall 2021, depending on Coronavirus cases’ status. The shutdown earlier in the year greatly affected the promotional plans for many performers ready to release a new record.

Luckily, many musicians had taken to social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to showcase live performances to their fanbases. Some have even found the opportunity to record new music and work towards putting out a new record. Then, significant events, such as the general elections 2020, inspired creative and civic organizations to put together virtual performances to encourage citizens to vote. An example included Harmony on the Horizons, a filmed music series recorded at The Caverns, a cave system-turned-concert venue in Pelham, Tennessee. (Read more about it in Event Diary). Such events helped musicians increase their exposure among new audiences and become involved in a worthwhile cause.

As we continue to experience the abrupt halt’s residual economic effects caused by the shutdown in March 2020, the road ahead might look brighter. The United States, although not the first country to do so, has already started distributing vaccines for select workers. Also, the U.S. has a new president-elect to help govern the country for the next four years. I certainly hope that over time these developments will create a positive ripple effect, both socially and economically, that will reach everyone in our country.

For now, I will do my best to create valuable content that my cherished readers and interview subjects can appreciate. Thank you, musicians, for sharing your experiences, your world, and your thoughts about why you make music. To my readers, thank you for stopping by, and please be sure to show your support by liking content, following the blog on Facebook, or following it on WordPress.com. Keep calm and write on!

Challenging the Status Quo: Music Historian’s 10th Year

Image by Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏 from Pixabay

Here we are, close to the end of December 2020. Penning that the Coronavirus has changed the world might feel overused. Then, how do I describe the pandemic that caused so much destruction in nine months? People worldwide went into social isolation, became more vigilant about their own health and the physical well-being of their own family members, lost jobs, and entered periods of financial hardships. Many experienced the premature loss of loved ones. If you are reading this, I predict that you have experienced at least one of the events I described above.

When we experience hardships in our lives, it truly helps to have constant or many constants. Those constants can exist in the form of a person or a group of people. Then, there will always be one constant that will stay with us until our very last breath – ourselves.

In my own naivety, I had thought that my blog, Music Historian, would always be my constant. In reality, if I did not jump head-first into creating a blog, Music Historian would not exist today. Music Historian is not the continuous keeping me going; I am the constant keeping it going. Now that I realize this, where do I go from here?

Challenge the status quo that I have created for Music Historian over the years, of course. What do I mean by this? Besides continuing the thoughtful interviews that I eventually transform into quality articles, I explore the op-ed. Check out the article, “Choir Interrupted: An Op-Ed.” Then, I took a creative risk in making video interviews, teaching myself video editing with available software. Finally, 2020 was the year I shared with the world what I learned from being a music blogger and why this blog is so unique to me. I certainly hope you, as the reader, understand it too.

I still thoroughly enjoy the craft of interviewing and writing. Please do not think that I will throw away the long-form interview article. I will always publish such stories, but they won’t be the only prose styles on the site. Expect video interviews, shorter prose, and hopefully, where time and opportunity permits, more.

Accepting Limitations: Music Historian’s 9th Year

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

The year 2019 for Music Historian started with me making amends. I had been delayed in publishing a few interview articles for artists—one of the reasons being that life really got in the way. I even let it consume me.

By the time I came back around to completing these delayed projects, I had spent three weeks on bed rest from a significant and much-needed operation. Besides taking the time to complete work for my day-job from home, while I healed, I decided to dedicate my free time to completing outstanding projects for Music Historian; they included interview articles with Kim Ware and Gypsy George.

Rather than wallowing in self-pity, I focused on gratitude. I had been in the company of interview subjects who displayed kindness and understanding for some of the difficult times I had experienced. In return, I produced quality articles, something which I would like to think has become a staple for Music Historian.

Luckily, I had time in 2019 for one more interview article. That was with MC Frontalot about his new record, Net Split. The rest of 2019 would turn out to be a crazy year filled with significant changes, including uphill battles, healing from physical complications, a break-up, and relocating. Life is hard, life will bring you down, and it is crucial to accept limitations. My barriers for 2019 meant that I would not be able to publish as much content on my blog. Nevertheless, I fed the fire in my belly to continue attentively listening to music and nurturing the art of a great interview would feed the passion behind the content on Music Historian.

Completing a cycle: Music Historian’s 8th year

Eight, to me, as a number, holds a unique meaning. Draw it, and you will see that it loops both up and down. The number eight in the west numerical system, to me, resembles a cycle. How did I come to this conclusion? Consider this: the year 2017 marked eight years since I finished my undergraduate degree in Music History; and the eighth year of the Music Historian blog.

As I dedicated my time to a full-time job at the time, I still had found time to sing in front of small audiences (some solos and as part of a choir). I also completed ethnographic interviews with musicians such as Marla Mase and Nathan Bell. I learned about these two artists from a boutique PR firm, Baby Robot Media. I would eventually meet the Baby Robot Media crew later in 2017 at a showcase they were doing at Pianos in the Lower East Side. In the same place, in 2012, I saw Imagine Dragons perform. (Do you know what I mean by cycles?)

What is so essential about completing a cycle? It allows you to see how far you have come in your endeavors, whether that be a project, a career, a family, anything. “Putting Faces to Names, and Coverage on Performances: Baby Robot Media’s Set at Pianos” is an article that helped mark the completion of one cycle.
What happens when a cycle comes to an end? Naturally, another begins. In the article I just mentioned in the last paragraph, the conclusion I wrote really helps sum up my hopes for the beginning of a new cycle. I hope you take a little time to read my blog on this Monday afternoon in December. If you have already done this and are a loyal reader, thank you for stopping by.

Quality not Quantity: Music Historian’s 7th Year

This photo is by me, Patricia Trutescu

In 2016, I only published two posts on Music Historian. This first was an article in January, of the most read posts in 2015. In October, I published an interview article that happened to come out at the right place and the right time (the election) titled “A Love Shaken by War: Becky Warren returns to music with a solo record that tells a fictional story inspired by real-life events.”

The opportunity to write about Becky Warren’s record War Surplus humbled me. The Nashville-based singer-songwriter was getting ready to promote her album on the road as the opening act for the Indigo Girls. Further, this record is near and dear to the artist’s heart. If you want to know why, please read the article. 

While my blog did not get a lot of love this year – mostly because I was well into my first full-time permanent position and did not have a lot of free time to dedicate to interviewing and writing – I experienced moments of gratitude. I felt grateful as I reminded myself of all the people I had met and all the connections I made throughout the years I managed Music Historian. For me, it is quality, not quantity, that makes a music blog one worth reading. Of course, I understand that not every blogger would agree with my thoughts, but these opinions are mine. Feel free to take what works, and leave the rest behind.  

Remember your Connections: Music Historian’s Sixth Year

This pic is provided by Pixabay
This is a photo provided by Pixabay

Much like starting your career, a professional has an easier time networking after building a foundation for themselves. The same holds for a blog. Years of consistent writing and publishing help create a repository of stories and, hopefully, to some degree, a level of expertise.

In early 2015, I went to a party held by my piano teacher, Isabella. Community members who knew her through Opera Night and took lessons with her stopped by to play music together and to mingle. At this party, I met someone who had a connection to Arlen Roth, the guitar player who has influenced and taught many. That connection led me to an interview with Arlen.

A couple of years prior, I also started to incorporate Question and Answer styled interviews onto Music Historian. The first story which had this format was my interview with Daylle Deanna Schwartz, NYC’s first white-female rapper. Through Daylle’s family, I met Julie Coulter, a seasoned insurance broker and consultant for musicians.

If you had read my post from yesterday about how I got acquainted with Workman Group PR, that professional relationship continued. In 2015, through Workman Group PR, I would be invited to cover the SESAC Pop Music Awards, which celebrated publishers and songwriters who contributed to the hits that year. Later that year, through the same PR firm, I would hear about the opportunity to cover the Northside Festival.

At that moment, I was living—an event such as the Northside Festival was a place to learn and network. Interviewing Femi Kuti, the son of Fela Kuti, for a full-length article on Music Historian, I learned a lot about how the artist used Afrobeat to address some of the unmet needs of African citizens; including more stabilized journalism and reporting by Africans for Africans, and better economic conditions. Talking with Gypsy George for a full-length interview article, I learned about the entrepreneurial mindset and spirit required of a musician to make it in today’s creative business. That article with Gypsy George helped lay the foundation for a professional connection. Years later, I would invite him back to Music Historian to do a video interview.

Each professional will provide their thoughts about how to nurture a network. In my experience, some connections I have kept in touch with much more quickly than others. Most importantly, never forget who you meet because that contact may help you open the door to your next opportunity, whether creative or professional.

Work and play: Music Historian’s Fifth year

Image by Claudia Alejandra Sanchez Vega from Pixabay
Image by Claudia Alejandra Sanchez Vega from Pixabay 

Throughout 2014, my schedule was rigorous. I was in the middle of pursuing my Masters in Marketing at Baruch College full time. For part of the year, I was working 30 to 35 hours a week while attending school. I managed to also include Music Historian in this regimen.

Some of the most-read articles from that year included interviews with Kim Logan, The Blackfoot Gypsies, Yuzima, Juicebox, and The Dirty Gems. Four out of these five subjects I met at the New Music Seminar. This experience introduced me to the idea that a blogger could learn serious business and play.

During my busy Spring semester, Alyson Greenfield sent me an email to ask me whether I would be interested in a press pass to the New Music Seminar. I learned that she was hired by the boutique PR agency, Workman PR, to help promote the event. I said yes to her invitation.

The day came when I had to attend the first day of the three-day conference. I went to Webster Hall in NYC to pick up my badge and see the opening day, where I would have plenty of photo opportunities. When I went to pick up my badge from the stand run by Workman Group PR, I met a representative who asked me for my name. I told him what it was, and he responded, “Music Historian.” In addition to getting the opportunity to pick from a roster of musicians to interview who were invited to perform as part of this conference, I still had to write about some of the business-portions.

I captured several wonderful red carpet moments, including Alyson, along with the Workman Group PR team, the creator of NMS, Tom Silverman, and plenty of the bands, not excluding those who were up for the Artist on the Verge Award in photos. The highlight of the first day involved enjoying Meg Myers performing an electrifying set along with Alyson. The second day mostly consisted of panels to attend, interviews to be held with the artists I chose to write about and visiting the different exhibits on the floor.

I wrote about the following panels, The A&R Movement: Where music is headed, Music XRAY Presents A&R Live – Music Critique and Sound Selector Sessions, and Online Media Music Discovery. My review about these panels and opening day is all in this article, “Dive into the minds of industry players.” These panels provided sound advice to musicians, music publicists, and industry professionals who wanted to understand more about the music business trends.

More importantly, I wrote about the bands which I mentioned earlier in the article. Please don’t wait – read them now, and enjoy the conversations and the images, some of which I personally took. Happy Reading!

The Events Worth Sharing: Music Historian’s 4th Year

In 2013, Music Historian hosted interview articles with musicians from various genres, including the myth rock trio, Apollo Run; the collaborative that blends gangster hip-hop and bluegrass, Gangstagrass; and Christopher Seaman, the classical music conductor, just to name a few. While these subjects differed in genres and styles, they shared one commonality—they brought crowds to their performances.

I realized that it was not just enough to write about skilled instrumentalists, singer-songwriters, rappers, producers, and vocalists who had talent; I had to write about acts people perceived as special. The only metric for “special,” in my mind, would be a sold-out show. Then thought, what if I could have a hand in helping an artist put on a show that brought in a crowd of listeners?

In the summer of 2012, I had learned about the Make Music New York (MMNY) Festival-a city-wide public event which brought outdoor concerts to all five boroughs for free, all on June 21st and December 21st. That year, Avi Wisnia hosted his 6th Annual Brooklyn BBQ Block Party – a series of performances put on by bands he either knew or had met via the MMNY events. He put on a set at a Williamsburg venue called the Cyn Lounge. While it drew a lot of attention, I could not help but notice how the little alcove of a cement-paved space closed off by a tall iron fence placed a noticeable and unsettling barrier between audiences and the musical acts. I asked Avi if he wanted help in planning his next block concert for MMNY Festival 2013. I felt grateful that Avi accepted my help. In early 2013, Avi and I would start planning for the 7th Annual Brooklyn BBQ Block Party*.

Our greatest challenge was finding a venue that provided open space and located in a place where people could easily congregate. By April, Avi found Kinfolk Studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I felt happy to see that the area had the type of outdoor space we had hoped for – a storefront with an open sidewalk within a neighborhood where warehouses got converted into businesses and event venues.

After getting the space came the more difficult parts: finding the musical acts, organizing the schedule, scouting volunteers to help with the merchandise table, customers, and signing-in bands who arrived 30 minutes before they went live. Being new to putting together an event of this magnitude next to a musician proved to be an educational and enjoyable experience. The greatest reward that day was watching how the mid-night hour’s closing act brought together the most massive crowd Avi had ever seen at one of his block parties.

This was the moment I decided that Music Historian needed a page called Event Diary. Avi’s block party was the first entry on that page. I had taken plenty of pictures capturing the moment of a riveting series of concerts. As of today, Event Diary has become the most visited page on Music Historian.

*To read about Avi Wisnia’s 7th Annual Brooklyn BBQ Block Party, scroll down to the bottom of the Event Diary page

Finding the talent: Music Historian’s Third Year

Photo made available by Pixabay

By 2012, I found my flow. Now, I had to discover new talent in the independent music scene. I give props to Baeble Music, a video content creator, which showed me the indie music scene’s vastness. By interning at this company for a month in 2011, I learned about the city-wide College Music Journal (CMJ) marathon. After purchasing a CMJ pass to get into all the shows for free, I had researched musical acts like Stephie Coplan and The Pedestrians. I even contacted the talent for an in-person meeting and an interview. 

On the same day, I watched Avi Wisnia perform at The Rockwood Music Hall. When I reviewed his set on my blog later that week, he contacted me. Soon, that led to a meeting for a feature interview article in January. 

After interviewing Avi at The Beatles Complete on Ukulele, I then met Alyson Greenfield (she was also performing at the show that night). Soon, I had another interview opportunity booked with Alyson for February. 

In later years, Alyson would introduce me to musicians she was promoting as part of her publicity agency at the time, Tinderbox Arts. I would also continue meeting other musical acts at shows which either Avi or Alyson headlined. This held true when I met Kamara Thomas of Kamara Thomas and the Ghost Gamblers; her group opened for Avi at The Living Room*.  

I also want to backtrack to March, when I aimed to interview Imagine Dragons. I learned about a show they were doing in the Lower East Side at Pianos. I arrived there early, paid my $10 admissions, bought my $7 Stella Artois, and got ready to watch the show. After the set, my plan was to introduce myself, which I later learned was not as easy as I had anticipated.

After the show, Daniel, the group’s singer, got down to the floor in front of the stage and shook hands with all the journalists and media reps from various press outlets. Feeling outnumbered, especially my prominent news reporters such as NY1, I took a different approach. I went to the band manager, who also happened to be Daniel’s brother. I told him that I was an independent blogger and that I was looking to interview one of the bandmembers for Music Historian. We shared our contact information with each other, and the next day, I sent him an email the next day to see whether the band would still be available and willing to interview. A few back-and-forth exchanges later, I secured an interview with the Imagine Dragon’s bassist, Ben McKee

Later in March, when I published the interview article, the post got only about two dozen views. The key was bringing attention to it again in September when the band released their debut LP, Night Visions. Then, the visits to Music Historian started becoming more frequent. By December 2012, my interview with Imagine Dragon’s Ben became the most read article on my blog.

*The Living Room was a venue on the Lower East Side which shut down many years ago.

Entering the Flow: Music Historian’s Second Year

I needed to find a way to get into a flow[1], or “the zone”[2] with my writing. The routine I sought to establish would enable me to easily exhibit my strengths and talents while also challenging myself to step outside of my comfort zone. 

I thought back to my undergrad years as a Music History student, specifically to a class called music critiquing and writing. Here, I learned how to write critically about music. The one area where I excelled was ethnographic writing, a style that involved interviewing musicians about their backgrounds, their music experiences, and where they wanted to take their music. I transformed those interviews into long prose, and by college standards, that was 4 pages double spaced and submitted the completed paper to my professor. I wanted to apply this to my blogging since I could take something that I truly owned and make it even better. 

My first ethnographically styled interview would be with my piano teacher from childhood, Isabella Eredita-Johnson. The story would be about the 7th anniversary of Opera Night, a.k.a. Opera Night, Long Island. Besides getting a great story for Music Historian, I also discovered that sharing the final draft of the article before publishing with my interview subjects created a sense of trust and confidence between the blogger and the interviewee. I decided to carry this practice throughout every exchange I would have with each person whose story I would share on my blog. 

The year 2011 is when I made a plan to find my flow

  1. contact the subject, invite them to an interview;
  2. Interview the person by phone, Google chat, in-person, whatever channel worked;
  3. take notes from that interview and transform it into an interview article;
  4. edit the story;
  5. have the subject review a final draft for accuracy and fact-checking purposes; and
  6. upon getting the final approval from the interviewee, publish the news on Music Historian.

I fully entered my flow in steps three and four. Five and six really proved to be a hit with some artists. One artist I interviewed that year enjoyed my story of their band and their music so much, they shared it with their network. You will find out who this artist is if you just follow my Music Historian page on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Most notably, this plan felt full proof for quite a while: I was now publishing one major full-length interview article each month.       

1-2 The definition of flow, or “The Zone,” refers to “The mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment” as described by American-Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Santos, L. (2018). Stuff that really makes us happy. . Retrieved from https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being/home/week/5

Works Cited

Santos, L. (2018). Stuff that really makes us happy. . Retrieved from https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being/home/week/5