Two Lives: A College Student and a Traveling Musician

P1110924Everyone has that side of their life that’s separated from the mainstream “What do you do for a living?” part that normally is the core of our personal definition. I believe it’s the same with college students.

We all can’t be studying for tests and writing papers all the time. We need to have some kind of escape from all of that, and maybe that escape isn’t exactly well known to people other than yourself.

Over the last four years of my time at college, a lot of people have come to me and said “I didn’t know you sang!” and “I didn’t know you were in a band.” Well, I am. I’m a traveling musician and singer/songwriter with two different bands, and that’s my other life.

I’ve been doing it since I was 18. I’ve played in front of many different audiences in many different places. I’ve traveled almost 15,000 miles, from Canada to North Carolina, and lots of places in between, playing and singing for people. It’s a lot of fun, I’ve met a lot of great people doing it, I have lots of great stories to tell from it, and the money I get from it pays for my textbooks.

Which leads to a question I get often regarding it: What’s it like being a traveling musician and college student at the same time?

It sure isn’t easy at times. When I announced I was going to college, a lot of people actually assumed that I was going to school for music. But I’m not, and I’ve never taken a single music course. I’m here to make a career.

Luckily, most of my shows are during the summer so college never really gets in the way. There have been a number of times though where I’ve missed a few classes to leave early for long journeys or have gotten back to Oswego at 2 a.m. after riding back from Virginia, and then work on an assignment that was due for my 8 a.m. class. Yeah, that was fun.

The routes I've taken to get to shows during the 2014 season

The routes I’ve taken to get to shows during the 2014 season

This past summer was quite a challenge. I was doing an internship in Albany for three months and would often have to make a three hour trip back home, then a multi-hour trip somewhere to play, and then somehow make it back to Albany by Monday morning. This resulted in hitching rides with a lot of people, running to counters at train stations as the last one was leaving, spending all night in bus stations, and I even slept on a bench one night because I had nowhere to stay and my bandmates weren’t in town until the next day.

One weekend turned out to be difficult, but quite an adventure. I was scheduled to play just outside of Ottawa, Canada on a Friday and Saturday night with one band, and then had to be in State College, Pennsylvania by noon on Sunday to play with the other band. I rented a car in Albany and drove home Thursday night, carpooled with my bandmates to Canada Friday morning, got off stage Saturday night at about 11:30, rode five hours back to Syracuse, got back to Syracuse just before the sun rose, then jumped in my rental car and drove another five hours to State College. I made it and played a show with my other band, then drove another six hours back to Albany, getting there just in time to go to work Monday morning. Yeah, I was awake for two and a half days. I know it was very stupid and dangerous and did I say stupid to drive 700 miles without sleeping for that long amount of time, but it’s the sacrifices I have to make if I want to build a career and play music at the same time.

10171258_715095891861036_5649387597495818077_nNow I, of course, have always put my schooling first. I’m still highly involved and I still make the Dean’s List every semester. I stayed in Oswego to take my Spanish final instead of going to Tennessee. And my bands have turned down offers to play in Georgia, Florida, and on several cruises to the Bahamas because it would require too much time away. Writing is my career and music will be always be just a strong hobby—not a lifestyle.

I understand that eventually at some point, I will come to a crossroads where I will have to leave my music and focus solely on my career. People ask me all the time when that will be. The answer is simple. I always respond with, “Well, so far I’ve been able to make it work between the two. Whenever I can’t make it work any longer, that’s when it will end.”

I love college and my goals, ambitions, and dreams in college are my top priority. Although I have been able to squeeze music into college itself, like playing at Open Mic Night or my songwriting seminar I put on once a semester in a poetry class. But that’s it.

It’s my other life—and that’s where I would like it to stay.


About the Author

Luke Parsnow is a senior, double majoring in Journalism and Creative Writing and minoring in History with a concentration in American. He is the News Editor and weekly writer for The Oswegonian, the student newspaper of SUNY Oswego, as well as a Student Blogger for the school's website. He has interned at The Legislative Gazette in Albany and The OSWEGO Alumni Magazine. He is currently interning for WRVO Public Media. Luke is also a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter and travels with two bands to play venues from central New York and Canada to western Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
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