Keeping it Jazzy in a COVID World with JONATHAN SARAGA

Jonathan Saraga CD cover
Advice and tidbits on how to keep your music and your brand on track.

Today’s inspiration comes from trumpet player Jonathan Saraga.

How are you getting gigs, whether performing or teaching?

I’m not getting any performance gigs…right now, but I am going to start working on it. I have been observing how people have set up online tip jars, and links to their PayPal or Venmo accounts when they do a streaming performance. I just haven’t gotten into it myself… YET. I have been making sure to apply for as many grant and relief fund opportunities as I can, as early on as I can. I’ve already secured funding from one organization, which is very fortunate. It seemed like the right thing to do—to take care of these applications first, before delving into the new world of performance streaming. I’ve worked my butt off on those and have an organized plan of attack for what’s next.

Even though I have not been paid for a performance since March 15th, I am currently still on payroll for an organization I teach for. The checks I get every month from that organization cover about 4/5 of my rent. This is extremely fortunate for me, and I know many, if not most, are not fortunate to still have steady income coming in. In addition to that, I have several private students who are taking weekly lessons with me (and who seem to want to continue!). Between these two things, I’m not losing a terrible amount of money per month. It could be worse. Hopefully, the stimulus check and the funds from the relief organization will come soon.

Now that I’ve cleared the space to do creative work, I am going to start making a plan of attack, and work on integrating online pay systems with streaming videos and other video presentations that I will be making. I’m looking forward to getting involved in that right away.

How are you keeping your brand alive?

Over the past 4 weeks, I have spent a lot of time on my brand: getting organized with my press materials, bios, products and services; making sure my online presence, both on teaching platforms and my artist webpages, are up-to-date. Additionally, I have been applying to jazz studies professorship jobs as they’ve come up (there’s been like 3 or 4), so I’ve taken a lot of time to refine and create materials for those types of applications (artist and research statements, online catalogs of my work, both recorded and written, etc.). To me, all of that is brand-building… it’s making the products, services, and information that I’ve created and available for people to see online, better.

I’ve also been learning from others about how to optimize home recording quality, and let’s not forget the new networking opportunities we are seeing, some that may have not begun to exist if it weren’t for this crisis. This time away from the hustle outside of our homes that all jazz musicians are accustomed to—that grind of traveling hours to and from sessions, gigs, rehearsals and teaching, is now gone, and has been replaced by…. the internet, pretty much exclusively. There is no excuse now, to not work on our brands, and work on creating, and sharing. 

What other tips do you have for your fellow musicians in these very challenging times?

I don’t need to say all the negative and sad things about what is happening right now. We all know that. But, we don’t have to think about it all the time. We have to do the things we can for ourselves and our loved ones, from sharing research, to financial assistance, to making time to connect. We can then feel good about our efforts to do our part in minimizing the spread of the virus. If we feel good about our efforts there, we can totally pour ourselves into our crafts, which we should be doing. It’s what we do: music, art, creating things… and we can integrate our strength, caring, vulnerability, sadness, hope, despair, joy and appreciation for what others do into our music, just like we always have. 

We have to keep practicing. We have to keep playing our instruments. Keep making music, and keep being inventive. We shouldn’t let fear stop us from trying an idea that we don’t know will be accepted. We have to keep in touch with people. Reach out to people you haven’t spoken to in a while. Take this opportunity to keep adding positivity, and to keep raising our vibrations. That will actually help this planet recover, collectively. Each day is clearly precious and not guaranteed. Stay safe, and be healthy. Eat healthy. Exercise. Meditate too, because we need to regulate our minds. Staying inside or within close quarters is not what we are used to, and the mind doesn’t like things we are not used to. We have to strengthen the mind. We can do that by strengthening the body. They go hand in hand.

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Photos courtesy of and with permission of Jonathan Saraga. Top image (c) Tayla Nebesky.
(c) Debbie Burke 2020

COATNEY 6x9 front cover FINAL

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