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

Searching for a voice: Music Historian’s first year

Early in life, finding my own voice proved a challenge. English was not my first language. When I attended school in the early nineties, ESL programs had yet to reach momentum in inner-city schools, especially in the kindergarten where I was enrolled. Then, a few months later, my parents would move my little sister and me out to the suburbs of Long Island. Somewhere here, a seasoned professional with a Ph.D. in education saw my potential. After providing me with a few tests, she evaluated my results decided that I could continue my education with peers in my age group. At this new public elementary school, I attended an ESL program that brought me up to speed. I learned English properly and had fun in the process.

I parallel this life story to learning the language of blogging. While I knew very well what a blog was before starting Music Historian on the WordPress platform, I still searched for my writer’s voice. The only posts I published in 2010 involved a funny but rather superfluous criticism of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner,” and then a critique of choral pieces – something which I could personally relate to. It then became clear that I had a voice, but what exactly held me back from expressing it fully? Reflecting after 10 years of blogging, I can say it was the following: 1) Being an authoritative voice on music in a world saturated with music critics who thought of themselves as experts; 2) Trying to understand my blog’s unique value proposition – what could I bring to the world of music blogging that was different from others; and 3) Uncovering a way to bring readers to the site – getting them genuinely excited.

Just like my language development, I had to reach these three milestones. Of course, this did not happen in a day. It takes nine months to a year and sometimes even longer to bring a successful idea to fruition. The key to doing this was consistency, which I touch upon tomorrow in my reflective journey.