Nice work if you can get it: Percussionist

This is one of of our many intriguing interviews with friends of mine who have fascinating, ency-inducing jobs. David and I actually hail from the same tiny, one-stop light town of 2,000. He was one of my dad’s students and I was one of his dad’s patients. He was a band superstar from fifth grade on and the object of every band girl’s desires. Pity that there wasn’t any band camp. David no longer play snare drum in the Aitkin High School Band, but lives in New York and travels the world, engaging in all sorts of percussion.
So what’s the deal? What do you do?
I’m a professional classical percussionist in New York City who recently fell into his first day job. For the last year my title has been ‘Promotion Executive’ for Boosey & Hawkes, a music publishing company based in New York, London, and Berlin. It’s my job to talk conservative orchestras and opera companies into playing music by the company’s roster of living composers. Essentially, I’m a salesman for strange new music.
When I’m wearing my other hat, I’m a professional performer of contemporary solo and small ensemble music. I no longer freelance, but play artistic projects of my choosing. And I have to say, this is quite nice. Primarily I work with a group which I helped to found called the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). Other projects include a bass clarinet/percussion duo called Ensemble Breekbaar, a yet untitled trio consisting of one pianist and two percussionists (if any of your readers have any genius ideas, please have them email me – at the moment we have gigs scheduled but no name), and a collaboration with the JACK string quartet. In all of these situations I play music composed by living (or relatively recently deceased) composers. I haven’t played an orchestra gig since I took my day job – part of me misses it, the rest is just fine.
Tell us about an average day in life of your job.
Average day: Get up at 7am, feed the dog and drink a lot of coffee, spend some time with my wife. Get to the office around 9:30 and act like a ‘Promotion Executive’ until about 4:30 (without a lunch break so I can leave earlier). Jump on the subway down to my practice studio in deep Brooklyn and practice for somewhere between 1 and 2 hours, which is really all I can cram in at this point, then head either home or to a bar. Sleep, repeat next day.
I feel like I should also say that the less average (but not uncommon) day/week involves flying to places like Chicago, DC, London, Paris, Helsinki, etc to play concerts with ICE or one of my other groups. I typically like those days better. Come to think of it, the going to a bar part mentioned above stays the same…
Did you go to school for this? Or get any special training?
I’ve got degrees in Music Performance from the Oberlin Conservatory, The Yale School of Music, and SUNY Stony Brook. For better or worse, it’s about as specialized as you can get.
How did you get into this line of work?
I’ve wanted to be a profession musician for as long as I can remember. Then, while in college I became interested in contemporary and experimental music. After college I went on for a Masters degree, which is fairly standard practice for a classically trained performer these days, then moved to New York City. From there it turned into the wild, unpredictable ride that living in New York always is, and somehow I find myself here.
Are there any drawbacks to working in music?
Mostly what you would expect: the conflict between doing what you would like to do artistically but doesn’t pay enough and doing what the market wants you to do, but will pay much more and sometimes even give you health insurance. The problem, of course, of course is finding a balance between the two where you do just enough of one to support the other, without it taking up all of your time. Also, the older I get, the less ok I am with being broke all the time. Maybe its me…
Also, of course, when I say ‘will pay much more’ I am not talking about a lot of money. No one makes a fortune in my little niche industry, even by ‘selling out’.
What are the highlights?
The music – there is nothing like rehearsing and performing music you love. Also, I like the randomness of the travel. For instance, I’m going to Finland in 2 weeks. It’s not a place that I would have planned a trip to if I didn’t have a gig to take me there. I’ve gotten to go to some unexpected places that way.
What suggestions would you give to people interested in becoming a professional musician?
Well, my experience and knowledge is pretty specific – there are so many different ways to go about it. I would say, however, if you’re an instrumentalist you must practice as much as you can as early in life as possible. I’m seriously still coasting on the skills I built by practicing 6-9 hours a day for four years in college. That time goes away immediately upon leaving an academic institution. That’s probably true with any field.Any drummers out there dreaming of making it a career? Ask Dave some questions!

Thoughts on Dreaming Big

Liz Adventure writes for the chronically awesome ABC Adventures. If you are bored and listless on an overcast Sunday afternoon, Liz is the girl with a plan. I suspect she is the friend we all have who has the guts to actually do the thing the rest of us just talk about doing.


Dream big, babies, dream as big as you can. Then bring yourself back down to earth and try to figure out how to make your dreams a reality, BUT NEVER EVER FORGET TO DREAM BIG.
It is so, so important.


Try not to be jealous of others. I’ll admit it’s hard, especially when you hear about someone who seems to have everything handed to them. I knew a boy whose father owned a multi-million dollar company, and in the summer, his dad sent him on a three week long, all expenses paid trip to Uruguay! Imagine my envy… but I talked myself out of it. Time spent being envious and jealous is time wasted. That very same summer, I ended up going to Ecuador for a month, but I paid my way, and let me tell you, paying your own way is so empowering! It really helped me confirm the fact that I want/NEED to travel and it is something in which I am willing to devote myself and my assets to the greatest possible degree.


But, as I said, try not to be jealous. I know that sometimes it’s tough, but try to waste as little of your time on it as possible. Use it as fuel to get yourself motivated to get out into that big wide world! Because babies, it’s huge, and it’s calling your name.One of the most important steps here is to always be your own advocate.


Figure out how you want to live your life, and get out there and make it happen. In my case, and Sarah’s as well, this means traveling to our hearts’ content, and forever chasing that setting sun. I’ve made myself a list of things I’d like to do/achieve before I die, and I look at it regularly. I go down the list, crossing off the things I’ve done, highlighting the things I’m going to do in the next year, and devising plans in my head about how to make the rest of them realities.


Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have the things you want. Prove them wrong and never give up on yourself.No one is going to hand you the life you want on a silver platter. That’s just how things work, but personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way because it’s the journey that you will forever cherish. Know what you want, figure it out and demand it from life. Don’t stop until you’re where you want to be, then figure out what comes next.


Life is one adventure after the next, if that’s how you choose to look at things. Remember this, and life will be so full. Babies, you are doing so well and there is so much good to come.

Nice work if you can get it: Editor

This is part of the Yes and Yes work interview series in which I talk to friends of mine about their fantastic, enviable jobs. Erin is one of my favorite internet girl friends and not just because we were both be-sparkled competitive dancers in high school. She’s a talented and funny writer and mother to The Cutest Baby Ever. And she’s a travel writer! Stop living my dream life, Erin. Seriously.So what’s the deal? What do you do?
I am a custom publishing editor for a travel industry newspaper. When I tell people that, they usually nod and throw in an I’m-trying-to-be-interested-but-don’t-know-what-that-means “Oh!” Basically, our sales team contracts with the Travel Bureaus and Convention and Visitors Bureaus in cities and countries around the world, and my team and I work with them to create publications about those destinations that are then distributed to our readers.

Tell us about an average day in editorial world.
Most of the day-to-day excitement of this job comes from interacting with my coworkers (everyone in my office is in their 20s). I do a lot of online research of reputable websites (i.e. official ones, although for non-work-related information I’m a google, wikipedia and imdb JUNKIE). I exchange the occasional email with a correspondent or freelancer, and edit any stories that come in. Sometimes I have a conference call to talk with our clients and hammer out the vision for their publication. I often proofread and edit our publications during the client approval process. On a daily basis, I work with a project manager and a graphic designer. I also help out our newspaper’s marketing team (we share an office) by proofreading surveys and coming up with brilliant copy for publisher’s letters, conferences, awards shows, and other marketing materials. Apparently, I’m adept at taking up the mantle of a middle-aged man through the written word.

Did you go to school for this? Or get any special training?
Sort of. I got the generic English degree, because reading/writing has been my shtick since I was little. Of course, now I don’t illustrate my own stories, mainly because the stories I write for work don’t feature pioneer families in multilevel wooden houses riddled with secret passageways like they did when I was 8. As far as special training goes, I’ve had some stellar on-the-job mentors who clued me in to how newspapers and magazines really work. I’ve also actually just started taking a couple graduate-level classes through the University of North Carolina, specifically geared toward writing and editing. On a separate note, my personal travel experience helped me get this particular job, although I wouldn’t say that traveling is a big part of what I do.

How did you get into this line of work?
It all started in a small apartment (that was probably really nice when it was built in 1974) on an old computer (that ran really fast when it was bought in the year 2000), where a passionate yet skeptical recent college grad (me) searched job websites for anything relating to writing and editing. I found a listing for an entry-level editing position at the local paper, applied, went through a terrifying process of interviews and proofreading tests, and got the job as Celebrations Editor (read: weddings, births and anniversaries, although I had more than one request to post a divorce announcement in the weekly celebrations section). Then, through sheer awesomeness (the sorry state of newspapers had nothing to do with it), I quickly rose in the ranks and serendipitously became involved with the ground-up launch of two magazines on a team of highly experienced, fantastic individuals. Invaluable experience.

Are there any drawbacks to working in writing?
Simply, yes. Although writing is ultimately a creative function, it’s hard to convey the creative process to non-writers and non-editors. It’s also difficult when I have to write about a subject I don’t know much about. But then, that’s also the fun of it–getting myself to the point at which I actually do know something. On the editing front, it’s difficult to be able to read the same text through several different finely tuned lenses–copy editing, content editing, proofreading–with limited resources. I currently work on a very small team, whereas before I worked with a much larger one with multiple editors. Also on the drawbacks list: Burnout.

What are the highlights?
I’ve gotten to travel to interesting places for the job I have now (mostly to New Jersey. I know, very exotic). But there’s always the possibility of more travel to cool destinations. With writing for publication, I’m always meeting new and interesting people. When I wrote announcements for the local paper, I actually wrote announcements for a fairly famous online entrepreneur as well as an NBA star. Once, the paper’s Washington Bureau Chief stopped by to visit me when she was in town because of an admiring email I sent her. Now, it’s not uncommon for me to exchange emails or conference calls with someone in London or Paris or South America, not to mention various places around the U.S. And when I first started getting paid to write, I would drive around town wondering how many people that I encountered had read something I had written: a fascinating and empowering but also terrifying thing to do, particularly as a novice writer. Now my stuff is distributed across the country (though to a select group of travel professionals). Seeing my name in print is always a bit of a thrill.

Are there any misconceptions about working at a magazine?
Unfortunately, it’s almost never as glamorous as one might think (unless, I assume, you’re a writer or an editor for a fashion magazine).

What suggestions would you give to people interested in getting into this?
I’ll say what that Bureau Chief (who, incidentally, also started her career writing wedding announcements in a small town) told me: Don’t stop writing. Keep doing it, always trying to improve your craft, and you’ll go places. Other than perhaps the hope/dream of writing a book one day or writing for a big-time magazine, it takes far more grit than luck to have a successful writing career. Also, carry around a Moleskine notebook. It’s imperative to jot down thoughts as you have them, because the more you write down your thoughts, the more thoughts you’ll have worth writing down. Plus you’ll look cool and feel a little like Hemingway. Oh, and one other thing: Know the rules–thoroughly–before you break them. That way you’ll always write with purpose, and can defend your creative choices intelligently

I know there are heaps of wanna be editors out there! Ask Erin some questions!

In Praise of Schmoopy Style

Some things that are impossible:

Eating just one spoonful of Hagen Das coffee-flavored ice cream
Turning off the TV in the middle of The Office
Finding an outfit that is simultaneously fashionable, flattering and comfortable

But wait, dear friends! Though I will never be capable of pushing the power button mid Jim/Dwight squabble, I think there might just be hope for numero three. Really! We can have have our cake and eat it, too! Or perhaps, more accurately, have our cake and still fit into our clubbing clothes.I completely support fashion´s current infatuation with ruching. And knit wear. And the balloon hem. Because all of these gorgeous tactics make for lovely clothes! And possibly more importantly, comfortable clothes. Because I am all over being fashionable. But I am also all over eating a one pound burrito for lunch. And I don´t think those two things have to be mutually exclusive!I´ve dubbed this ruched, ballooned, knit wear fashion Schmoopy Style. Because you might feel a little bit like you´re wearing your sweats, but you still look like a million bucks. The ground rules of Schmoopy Style are

  1. At least one piece of your outfit is non-binding, allowing for much cupcake eating, running through streets or rolling down hills.
  2. Said outfit could possibly be washed in the washing machine (!)
  3. There is little fear of panty lines or bra-band bulges

So! What does Schmoopy Style look like? Let´s see it in action!

Schmoopy work

Schmoopy WorkLook at that fantastically cosy sweater! Perfect for cuddling on the couch, watching 30 Rock. But if you pair it with a sexy pencil skirt and these leprocaun-worthy shoes you won´t be getting any stern talkings-to about dress code. So go ahead! Help yourself to that birthday cake someone left in the lunch room!

schmoopy clubbing
Schmoopy Clubbing
This dress is ridiculously forgiving. If you´ve got a great pair, you could maybe even go braless! And forget about that painful thong you usually have to pull out for club nights. You can go ahead and wear your comfy cotten day-of-the-week panties under this number. And when you´re dining out with your girls before you hit the clubs you needn´t limit yourself to tapas. Order the lasagna, dude.
Schmoopy Casual
Schmoopy Weekend
The last thing you want to worry about on a Saturday afternoon is if your muffin top is hanging out of the top of your skinny jeans, or if how you can manage to sit on the grass in your tiny skirt. These harem pants are great for tree climbing, frisbee playing and wrestling your lover to the ground and smothering them with kisses. Now you can´t do that your silk mini dress, can you?

Would you ever consider going the way of Schmoopy Style? Or are you already there?

Why Every Woman Should Learn to Say “Scarf” in French

I think it is universally acknowledged that we’re all half in love with Winona of Daddy Likey. She’s wicked funny, she’s really nice, she’s got hair as good as mine and she’s written for National Geographic, y’all! I’m lucky enough to count her among my internet girlfriends – we’re working on a plan for 2012 to blog our way across Russia on the Transiberian Railroad. Consider yourselves warned!Pretty much everyone on earth agrees that French women always look effortlessly chic and perfectly pulled together. So what’s their big secret? Good genes? Nope. Magical La Mer skin cream? Well, yeah, that probably helps, but it’s not the big secret. OK, do you really want to know?


Seriously, look closer at any photo of a stunning French woman, and you’ll see she’s wearing her Michigan State sweats and an old t-shirt from the Hanes 3-pack. It’s both empowering and terrifying to realize it, but the only difference between you and a stylish French woman is that she has a gorgeous scarf around her neck.

Scarves and hats are very similar in that they take very little effort—extend arm, grab scarf and/or hat, and put it on— but have the power to upgrade or transform a whole look. No matter your hurry or mood, there’s no excuse to not throw on a pretty scarf

To make things even easier, there is really no such thing as a bad scarf, so the details here are up to you. Wide scarves, skinny scarves, warm scarves, printed scarves, solid scarves, sequined scarves, cheap scarves, expensive scarves—I love and own them all. You could make one designer silk scarf your signature look or could wear a different scarf every day. Either way, you’ll look amazing. Here are a few of my current favorite scarf finds.

Tie any of these gorgeous options, or an old scarf of your own, around your neck nonchalantly, practice saying “Oui, oui!” and just try to walk to the corner store without getting mobbed by street style photographers. They won’t even notice that stain on your Michigan State sweats.

Are you a scarf fanatic? And, more importantly, when you wear them – do people think you’re French?