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Gary Burton

Gary Burton

Hollywood, California -- 1995

Ten years after graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston, I got to hang out with vibraphonist and educator, Gary Burton, at the annual alumni brunch for graduates living in the Los Angeles area. Still a rather serious guy, his demeanor hadn't changed all that much from the days when he taught the Music Business course at Berklee.

As an inexperienced and eager young musician in his classroom, I soaked up his many words of wisdom like a sponge. Some of them are still vivid in my memory -- like his views on nepotism. He said if you are serious about your career, don't hire your brother to play in the band just because he's your brother. Always hire the best person for the job and maintain a level of integrity with the quality of musicianship.

-- and his views on artist management. He said that musicians, especially jazz musicians, don't need managers. They need agents. Managers tell you what to wear, who to hire, what kind of music to play. Any level headed, talented player ought to be able to figure out those things for herself. An agent gets you gigs, and that's something we all need!

-- and finally, his views on being a starving artist. Young musicians often have stars in their eyes and are seeking to become rich and famous. Others have a rebellious attitude. They want to play music for "art's sake" and are willing to live in a box under the freeway overpass to be true to their art. But Gary said that it is possible to be a middle class musician, to have a comfortable quality of life while still playing music. The key is to develop many musical skills -- put your musical eggs in a lot of baskets, so to speak, and to handle your business in a professional manner.

As you can see from my website, I took this serious man seriously!

For more about Gary Burton, go to www.garyburton.com.