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Wednesday, June 07, 2023

From classroom to stage, UF students, alum work tirelessly to make music a reality

Student musicians work 24/7 to balance classwork, jobs and music careers

For students who have chosen to pursue music, late-night gigs followed by early morning classes is part of the daily routine. 

Gainesville’s local music scene is filled with UF students and alum who are juggling a full course load, work and aspiring music careers. Aside from balancing different responsibilities, college musicians also grapple with the business aspect of their craft — creating digital advertisements, promoting social media content, finding venues for performances and handling music production. Essentially, they become their own manager, publicist and producer. 

Driptones guitarist Collin Fitzgerald, a 21-year-old UF advertising senior, is one of many who has traded the traditional college experience in for a career in music.

Most of Fitzgerald’s time as a student has been spent focusing on his band — promoting Driptones’ songs, recording new music and squeezing in schoolwork when possible, he said.

“We are legitimate business owners,” Fitzgerald said. “Putting merch together, selling merch, keeping track of it, rolling that money into new things — stickers, more merch or buying studio time.”

For many, these responsibilities can take a toll. 

Sebastian Lopez, a 22-year-old UF computer engineering senior and rising star in the Gainesville music scene, said he dealt with mental health struggles that arose during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through his passion for music, he overcame them.  

“I used music as a way to express my feelings and get myself out of that hole,” Lopez said. 

While a full-time UF student, Lopez simultaneously balanced three time-consuming loyalties: music, academics and part-time work. His jobs included time as a preschool teacher, audio engineer and Publix deli worker, where he sometimes worked 80 to 85 hours a week in order to support his music career.

Being in his twenties was one factor that allowed him to have the energy to manage the day-to-day of a working college musician — a lifestyle characterized by frequent sleepless nights and hours away from loved ones, Lopez said. 

“It’s rough mentally,” he said. “It’s definitely tough being alone a lot of the time.”

The key to balancing all these responsibilities is organization, he said, which can be achieved

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through acts as simple as journaling. 

Chase Ure — a guitarist and singer with influences from John Mayer, rock and grunge — is familiar with long, taxing days of classwork and gigs. Along with the stress and anxiety of being a student, he also acts as his own record label.

As a 21-year-old UF music junior pursuing a master’s degree in entrepreneurship, Ure said he spends a lot of time producing music and making his own cover art, which has created a new set of challenges as he begins to set release dates for songs.

“The time commitment is crazy,” Ure said. “Most people think you can write, record, mix, master pretty easily, but it definitely takes a lot of time in your schedule.”

Most college musicians promote their own music through TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms. They also make music pitches to Spotify playlist editors and bloggers in order to increase their audience — an additional element of the job that can be time consuming.

Clay Dixon, a 22-year-old UF mathematics senior, plays banjo and vocals in indie band Clay Dixon & the Piccadillies and occasionally plays bass with Shane Malone and keyboard with the Occasionals.

The struggles college musicians face are just part of the job, he said, but he embraces these  challenges because they bring him closer to his dream. 

“If it’s just scheduling issues or ‘Oh, someone dropped out of the show last minute,’ it doesn’t really matter,” Dixon said. “I’m still doing the music.” 

Thomas Allain, 23, graduated from UF in 2021 with a degree in marine science and a minor in jazz studies. Now, he works as a web designer in UF’s Department of Microbiology and Cell Science — all while being the lead singer of his band The Late Night Losers.  

During his senior year, Allain said he was playing two gigs a week while finishing his degrees and doing scientific research. Sometimes, he said, he would find himself going home after a gig at 2 a.m. — only to have to be up and ready for another one at 7 a.m. the next morning.

At times, multitasking between music and school became overwhelming, Allain said.

“The distractions were real,” Allain said, “I’m learning about statistics and bar coding, and, also, I swipe over to my other desktop, and I’m editing the graphic for that week.”  

Success as a college musician stems from live performing, Allain said, which gives bands the opportunity to expand their audience. By monitoring The Late Night Losers’ music streams, he found that the band also has an audience in Greece and the United Kingdom.

Still, Allain said the band is focused on building a fan base where it all started: Gainesville. 

“I think there’s a lot of people in town with a lot to offer,” he said. 

Contact Isabella at Follow her on Twitter @IsabellaMarzban.

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Isabella Marzban

Isabella Marzban is a fourth-year journalism major and an avenue reporter for The Alligator. You'll usually find her going on hikes, listening to classic rock on her record player, and doing yoga with her friends. 

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