Real Talk: I’m a Touring Musician and a Full-Time Student

By Chris Taranto


Exhibit A: diet

After being asked, I waited a week before I began writing this post, partially because I’m lazy and like sleeping late on my days off, but also because I wasn’t sure how to go about writing this topic. My name is Chris Taranto. I’m an undergraduate student in my final year at Hunter College, studying history and preparing to become a teacher. I’m also a musician on a very busy schedule.

I’m the lead guitarist and backing vocalist for a band called diet. I joined the group a little over a year ago and in our short time together, we’ve played 31 shows, recorded and released two EPs, changed lineups multiple times, ordered and sold out of merchandise, signed to a small record label, and booked a tour, which brought us through parts of the East Coast. Today I decided to begin writing after a long day spent in the studio, followed by searching Facebook for contacts in Washington, DC, to help book our next tour.

That’s a lot of work for a small local band… and it’s expensive, requiring me to have a job in addition to my hour-and-half commute to school. Starting with the songs, it usually costs about $200 for a 5-hour recording session, so completing an EP is roughly $800 spread out over a few months, plus an extra $100 to have the songs mastered. You need merch to go with your songs and with that comes $200 for CDs and $400 for t-shirts. The last essential is a tour van. We rented a van from Enterprise and for an 11-day rental, insurance and a relative discount included, we paid over $1000. From there, just add lots and lots of money for gas and cheap hotels.

Though I’m juggling a very busy band, a part-time job, and a lengthy commute to school, I can’t complain because it’s possible to handle. I don’t know how many other college students are in the exact same position, but I’m sure there’s someone out there with a hobby or jam-packed schedule that can relate to the art of time management. Here’s how to stay sane.

Don’t take on too many obligations. I’ve found that filling my schedule weeks or months in advance freaks me out and causes me to make poor decisions. In my Spring 2014 semester, we played a lot of weekend gigs and spent a lot of time in the studio recording our second EP. This caused me to look at my calendar and feel like I had way too many things to do, giving me anxiety. In past bands, I would either cancel shows or procrastinate schoolwork to relieve some of the stress. Not a good idea.

Be familiar with your syllabi. Most classes give you the syllabus at the beginning of a semester and it outlines every single assignment, exam, and due date. If you know your finals are around December 15th-18th, don’t book an important show on the 17th. If you know you have a paper due during the middle of November, maybe take some time away from your hobby at the top of the month so you can research your topic.

Hobby comes last. I love music and I love diet, but it isn’t the be-all end-all. School comes first and work comes second. I don’t expect to make a living from playing music– I expect to be a teacher. Get your priorities straight. Even though I put so much time and effort into being in a band, I will most likely be graduating this year with a GPA of 3.7 or higher, honors in history, and some sort of academic excellence (magna cum laude maybe). I know that I have to be responsible and pragmatic. My education is going to pave the way to a career that can support a family someday. And when I become a teacher, I plan to still be able to perform and travel the country. As long as it is still enjoyable, I’ll continue to do it.

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