Not your typical education

Brenna McNamara

Mike DeCarlo, sophomore education major, who plays bass for the band Stiletto, and Mike Robinson, sophomore marketing major, who plays percussion in the band Baby Bear make time to perform with their groups in between classes and course work. Heather Staw

Credit: Ron Soltys

Cram sessions and jam sessions may be more similar than one would think.

For many musicians, lessons are taught not by professors but by tours and an endless balancing act. Which brings about a question many musicians ask: is it possible to give your all to school and to music?

Brandon Edmond says no.

This 21-year-old lives at his girlfriend’s apartment in Kent and after one semester at school, gave up his track scholarship from Myers University to dedicate his time to singing for An Awkward Silence.

Edmond said he always knew if he had the chance to do something better than school, he would do it.

“I’m young and can go back,” he said. “School just didn’t do it for me.”

Unlike Edmond, John Byerly, sophomore music performance major, said he holds education and music equally.

Already signed to a label and having toured with Sound Tribe Sector 9, Byerly still holds firm that getting a degree is important.

“I’d just concentrate on music, but the way the world is, you can’t be successful without a degree,” he said. “You just can’t play music and work at Walgreens and be okay for life.”

Michael DeCarlo, sophomore exploratory major at the Kent Geauga campus, is like-minded.

“Music used to be my top priority. Now it’s school. It’d be great if I had enough time to practice, write, record, but everyone has to work and go to school,” he said. “It sucks.”

Being successful hinges on a scheduling tango between work, school and his band, Stiletto, he said, explaining that his band often resorts to practicing late at night.

“We’ve been practicing without a singer lately because we just can’t get everyone together,” he said.

His roommate, sophomore marketing major Michael Robinson, feels his pain. Robinson drums for Baby Bear and felt the academic sting after he failed a class last semester while on tour for a month.

“Bad idea,” he said.

Robinson set up a deal with professors to send quizzes and assignments via e-mail. Although he returned for finals and got a broadband card in order to work on the four-hour van rides, his absence outweighed his work.

Touring is something Edmond’s girlfriend, Abby Turza, junior exercise physiology major, said she is all too familiar with.

“If I was passionate about something like Brandon, I would do it and he’d be supportive,” she said. “But the difference is it wouldn’t require traveling all over.”

For the musicians, these days, sometimes months, on the road are strenuous but reap lessons that can’t be taught in a lecture hall.

“Through my touring, I am getting prepared for the future by interacting with all different types of people — the same thing college prepares you for,” Edmond said.

Touring allowed Robinson a sneak peek into what his marketing major will bring.

“It taught me to look at things differently. You have to make people care. You have to have some sort of gimmick to market yourself,” he said, “like marketing.”

Although Robinson dislikes his marketing major, he said he plans on using it to promote music in the future — if playing music doesn’t bring a comfortable lifestyle.

“I don’t blame people for thinking music is a dead end,” he said.

Although living from note to note seems easy, a heavy cloud of reality lingers.

Hoping to teach music if nothing else, DeCarlo said, “When I was younger I had the ‘wanna be a rockstar’ attitude — like Nickelback. But it’s improbable.”

Edmond said he understands people get older and less attractive, which is why he should pursue music now.

Byerly said he holds education as his first priority.

“Not opening up to anything non-musically related is wrong. It sounds silly, but knowing about physics and astronomy, for example, makes you a smarter person and more true to your music,” said Byerly, who said he respects his parents too much to leave school to tour.

The general consensus from these musicians seems to be a combination of “go big or go home” attitude and one of attention to balance.

The risk of ignoring school and ending up without a career is scary.

The risk of losing hope in a dream and ending up with an office job might be scarier.

“All I know is if I didn’t know what a life with music was like, then I’d be fine having it,” Robinson said. “But now that I know what it’s like, it ruins any hope of having a career that doesn’t involve music.”

Contact features reporter Brenna McNamara at [email protected].