Anton Schwartz took a circuitous path to become a professional jazz musician. He studied math and philosophy at Harvard, then clocked five years in a Stanford Ph.D program, where he specialized in artificial intelligence. At that point, the academic life started to wear on him, and Schwartz got a weird hankering to pick up his sax and leave. It was an odd shift, career-wise, but Schwartz said the horn helped him find peace of mind. Not to mention he could parlay his math-geek rationalism to the music industry.
Lack of experience made Schwartz see things differently than other musicians, and probably improved his chance of success. "There's long been this attitude in the music industry of 'Us versus the Man,'" Schwartz explained. "It used to be that the only way you could be successful was by getting discovered and signed by a record label. The record labels had some pretty undesirable business tactics, and the musicians all got bitter. That mentality persisted long after its applicability."
In reality, though, there are much better ways for musicians to function, especially with the advent of cheap CD production and digital networking. Schwartz contends that you no longer need the imprimatur of a record label these days, and a lot of musicians do better by themselves anyway. Now, he's showing other folks how to go the DIY route. On Sunday, March 21, he'll lead a seminar at the Jazzschool (2087 Addison St., Berkeley) called Get Your Music Career on Track! How to Build Your Career as an Independent Artist. Mixing practical tips with anecdotes about his own experience, the saxophonist and bandleader will attempt to dispel the notion that every musician's aim is to score a record deal. Apparently that advice pays dividends: Schwartz does music full-time, and he's now recorded four albums as a leader. The workshop runs 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (with a lunch break) and costs $75 for Jazzschool students, $90 for everyone else. Jazzschool.com
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