Tips for Musicians From Music Alum Parris Fleming
Music Alum Parris Fleming ’14 — trumpet player, arranger, composer, and recording artist — recently stopped by Columbia to share his insights and experiences, answer questions, and jam with Columbia students.
Fleming first started touring during his freshman year at Columbia and has been a full-time touring musician since completing his Music degree at Columbia and is currently touring with Harry Styles. Over the years, he has played with numerous bands including Pretty Lights.
During his visit, Fleming shared memories of Columbia with Professor Scott Hall—who as coordinator of musicianship and jazz at Columbia moderated the discussion—and offered some practical advice to Columbia Music students.
Below are some of Fleming’s tips for musicians:
- Learn by playing along with the bands and music you love. “Whatever you're into, play along to it,” Fleming says. “Put it on and try to be a part of it.”
- Pay attention to what you like about your favorite songs, and it will reward you as a musician, arranger, and composer. “Is it the bass? The harmonies? The vocals? Is it how smooth it sounds? Pay attention to the elements of music that draw you into them,” Fleming says.
- Be part of the school and connect to students from other majors at Columbia, like the film and television majors. “Everybody needs music at some point.” And some day, they may need you.
- Remember to be easygoing and friendly when you’re on tour. When musicians are on the road, they spend one to two hours on stage and the remaining 22 to 23 hours of the day in close proximity of each other. “Nobody wants to go on the road with someone that’s hard to get along with, no matter how good they are at their instrument,” he says.
- Go to your bandmates’ hometowns when you first start touring. Then, at least one of you will know the local music scene and can book shows. And in hometowns, there’s always a place for the band to crash for free.
- Set realistic expectations when it comes to money. Gigs will not pay your bills at first. Fleming toured in college, but he also worked as a resident advisor and tour guide.
- “Whatever you are really into, don't be afraid of it,” Fleming says. “Lean into it, go harder into whatever makes you you. That’s the only way you're going to stand out.”
- Let go of insecurities and be bold with your music. Fleming once held back sharing music he had written. “I had never fully composed my own tunes. And when I started to do it, I was really shy just because there's a lot of great music out there. And yeah, we live in a very critical world. People like to criticize things,” he says. “But at the end of the day, don't worry about what anyone says. Do it for the people that root for you.”
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