Students Self Promote Performances Outside Conservatory

The Oberlin Conservatory, with over 540 students and 42 private areas of study has trained many notable alumni. With over 500 performances a year, Conservatory students have frequent chances to perform throughout their years here at Oberlin, but many students also perform independently and promote their own music to make connections in the professional world. 

Double-degree fifth-year Kamran Curlin, who is majoring in Double Bass Performance, believes a musician’s way of promoting themselves is how they set themselves apart within the industry. Exploring different ways of showcasing and promoting art builds a musician’s resume and matures them as an artist as it gives them the experience they need to set themselves apart from competitors.

“I think those initial years after you graduate music school are the most consequential and foundational for building the other half of being a professional musician, which is the professional part, not the musician part,”  Curlin said. “There are tons of great professionals who can’t play but are really successful. And there’s a ton of great, great musicians that are just super unprofessional and don’t know how to do that side of things.”

Conservatory fourth-year Kurton Harrison III echoed Curlin’s thoughts on self promotion. 

“I self promote myself through posting my instrumental beats from [Logic Pro X] to my SoundCloud” Harrison said. “I also promote myself through social media, as well. I’m trying to expand my horizon, not just as a jazz composer, but just as a music composer in general. I can learn more about things like recording, mixing, mastering asset sound engineer, you know, … just growing as a musician and music producer and composer.” 

Self promotion is an opportunity for musicians to showcase their music publicly and likely increase their success in the long run. Though students have Conservatory-run opportunities to perform throughout the year, self promotion for performances in events or venues not sponsored by the Conservatory allows students to gain access to connections and opportunities outside of Oberlin. 

“I have a little gig in front … of Ben Franklin’s every Saturday,” Nash McBride, third-year Conservatory pianist, said. “[It] is a connection in town, an Oberlin alum. So I’m trying to do more work outside of the Conservatory to try and find just a place to start.”

MNGLW, pronounced “moon glow,” is another example of a group of Conservatory students promoting themselves outside of their own programs. MNGLW has promoted itself by performing at spaces in and outside of the College. The group recently performed at the jazz club Nublu in New York City and has an upcoming performance at the Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Delaware. 

“In terms of promotion, a lot of it is kind of like a double-edged sword, and in some ways it’s hard because you have no idea what you’re doing,” double-degree third-year Nathaniel Coben, a member of MNGLW, said. “I’m just trying random stuff out, but it’s also fun because at this point, you can just experiment and just try stuff out. So it’s all word of mouth and maybe a few things with social media here and there.” 

While studying at the Conservatory, students are able to train with alumni and make connections through their professors and other ensembles, but a lot of the work is student driven when it comes to getting the word out about their own music and finding opportunities to pursue it. 

“Opportunities exist, but it is really up to the initiative of the individual student to go seek them out,” Curlin said. “And to some extent, the reality of a professional setting is different than that of an institution where you learn music and how to be a musician. I think the Conservatory does a good job of making great musicians, but to be a professional is something that takes a lot of individualized will and drive to seek out.”

Students in the Conservatory are able to train to become musicians and to hone their intellectual and artistic passions. Self promotion helps students develop their careers and use the skills they acquire to become leaders in their field and to express their musicianship during and after their time at Oberlin.