Lansing musicians attempt to gain exposure through networking

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By Haywood Liggett
Listen Up, Lansing staff reporter

Local church musicians are working to build a strong network amongst each in order to increase familiarity with the Lansing music scene as a whole.

Self-promotion is key when attempting to climb the ladder in any industry. When it comes to being a musician, how much advertisement is too much? How much can others contribute?

Austin Tipton, a drummer at The Tabernacle of David Church, has been gaining an increased amount of buzz around the city. After solely playing drums at The Tabernacle of David for 12 years, he now plays keyboard at Union Missionary Baptist Church , and the grand piano at the evening mass for St. Gerard Catholic Church .

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Austin Tipton warms up before service begins at Union Missionary Baptist Church.

After money started getting tight around the house, Tipton knew he needed to start playing other places to earn money. After a lot of “no’s” from numerous churches, he decided to go back to the drawing board.

He considered how people outside the music business get jobs and it didn’t take him long to come up with the answer. Networking.

“I just started talking to people. The people who brought me up told me that the cats over us on the local music scene didn’t connect with each other very well. It was every man for himself,” he said. “I got that vibe too when I would do gigs with them. They were unwilling to help guys like me out; I pretty much had to learn on my own in a lot of situations. I don’t want it to be like that anymore.”

Tipton is working with bandmates at his church, as well as other musicians he meets in Lansing to build a network that promotes each other’s talents. One of the people he met and now plays every Sunday at St. Gerard with is Kate Baumer.

Baumer, a local singer and guitarist for numerous churches in Lansing and around Michigan, believes the new talent pool in Lansing is progressing; not only musically but as a collective network.

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Kate Baumer leads rehearsal on a Saturday afternoon.

“A lot of musicians in the Lansing area really support each other. There are some really talented yet down-to-earth people who really work at supporting other musicians,” she said. “I see a lot of young musicians make a consorted effort to connect with each other, and supporting each other in their strengths and their weaknesses”

Baumer said that those who choose not to collaborate and network get left behind.

“The musicians who choose not to make an effort in this end up on the sidelines anyway because their talent can’t hide their arrogance.”

Some musicians in the area have crossed over into other arenas in music. Shaquille Brown, a keyboard player at The Bread House Church, has also been producing hip-hop songs for local rap and R&B artists. After being present on both scenes for more than ten years, Brown has a good grasp on the pulse of local artists.

“I think the younger musicians do help each other out getting gigs. It’s gotten a lot better now that the musicians 25 and under are starting to take over most of the gigs around the city,” he said. “Most of us hated how the guys older than us made it more about competition than having fun just making music together. So we said, ‘Let’s change this.’”

“I’ve learned that knowing and connecting with a lot of musicians is always good. They can cosign you. Truthfully it’s all about who you know.”

Ron Newman, a professor of music theory at Michigan State University College of Music echoed Brown’s sentiments.

“Networking is the primary way to get gigs in any field. Having personal knowledge of someone is a major way to get in the door. The person who has some association with the people hiring will usually get the gig, all things being equal,” he said. “Others have to know your abilities, your work habits, your availability, personality, etc. It is through networking that this information is passed along.”

Deron Riddle, a former keyboard player at World Harvest Church and an up-and-coming rap artist, believes that the talent is here, but the approach those that choose not to connect with each other are taking is boxing people in.

“Lansing rappers and musicians have a nice talent pool, but what we need to understand is that our city is too small on the map and supporting each other on the most basic level of respect doesn’t really push each others product. That’s the only way anyone will make it out. We have to be each other’s biggest fans”

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John-Paul Cherniawski solos during a Sunday morning Mass at St. Gerard Catholic Church.

Not all musicians share Riddle’s view. John-Paul Cherniawski, a local violinist at St. Gerard Catholic Church doesn’t believe it’s necessary to support other local musicians but admits he values the connections that may come with meeting other musicians on a gig.

“I don’t support very many local musicians but I do believe there is a lot of value in knowing them. It tends to mean you are well established, or heading in the right direction.”

Newman also affirmed Cherniawski statements. He said in order to work as a musician on a regular basis, it’s important to meet and get to know others.

“There are, often, numerous talented people trying for the same gigs. The person who has some association with the people hiring will usually get the gig, all things being equal. One may be talented, but it is necessary to put yourself out there.”

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