It’s difficult to define what qualifies as professional experience for being a touring musician. The two foremost areas of prior experience would be my professional achievements in staying up all night and road tripping.
I wish I’d known that pursuing a career in the arts means simultaneously starting a small business. I always joke that deciding to be a traveling folk musician has required of me the most organization, responsibility, and administrative skills thus far in my life. Not only did I need to develop impeccable business practices (music is a very high-risk industry), but I also needed to learn to healthily manage those aspects of my life in order to protect the quality of my art. I found that if I spend too much time in my left brain, my creativity suffers.
"I wish I'd known that pursuing a career in the arts means simultaneously starting a small business."
PBA prepared me for the world of work by preparing me as a human being. Sometimes I am simply overwhelmed with gratitude for my time at PBA - especially for the relationships I developed with my professors. I stumbled into the honors program, which (without exaggeration) was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I learned not what I wanted to do and how to do it, but rather about who I am and the nature of the world. This formative growth made me a better person in every way, including my work. My concentrations in the English Department and the School of Ministry catalyzed my development intellectually, creatively, spiritually and relationally. This holistic experience prepared me for the multi-faceted demands of life in a band.
My advice is like a coin. I wish, upon graduating, I had this coin in my dress pocket under my gown to flip back and forth between my fingers and hold in my hand over these past five years. On one side is the knowledge of humiliation. Entering the professional world was more difficult than I ever imagined. Though I paid my way through college, worked side jobs for rent, and thought of myself as a down-to-earth regular old guy, the icy shock of moving to Nashville was a plunge in cold water for which I was unprepared. I quickly learned that establishing myself artistically and financially was going to take much longer than anticipated. I would assume, regardless of occupation, many exceptional students experience the same dousing upon entering their field for the first time and realizing the presence of many talented and experienced people.
The other side of the coin is pure tenacity. For too long I allowed the shock of humility to stifle my spirit, which I think is natural, but not a place to linger. Recently I’ve learned to reclaim self-affirmation - to be bold in my calling and place in the world. The determination and work ethic required to achieve professional goals are not mutually exclusive with the humility of newness and the fear of failure. I wish I would have been able to name these feelings and experiences better upon first pursuing a career in music, so that I could’ve more readily understood and managed them. I am still very small potatoes with a long way to go, but I am also confident and mobilized instead of fearful and floundering.
PBA’s Creative Writing professor David Athey has been a mentor to me since entering the workforce. Our daily work is different, but the spirit of our lifestyles are very similar. Professor Athey has been a great help to me in maintaining emotional and spiritual health through these years. I admire his commitment to Christ and the evidence of Christ’s love through Athey’s personhood, art, marriage, and service to his community. I dock my boat next to his because he always knows where the good water is.
Spotlight posted in April 2018. For more information about Hannah, visit her website www.forlornstrangers.com.