Musical Networking Online
By Michael Ross
This article was published by ComputorEdge, issue #2546, 2007-11-16, as a feature article, in both their print edition (on pages 16-17) and their website.
When budding musicians have spent the time and effort learning at least the basics of their respective musical instruments, they often would like to hook up with other musicians, for many possible reasons: to gain personal guidance and tips, to learn new pieces, to receive greater motivation for practicing, to begin participating in public or private performances, or simply to make some new like-minded friends. But how does one go about locating such groups?
During the past few decades, almost every genre of music has been significantly affected by technology — from electric pianos and guitars, to affordable multitrack recorders. Thus it should come as no surprise that the ultimate technological platform, the Internet, can be an excellent resource for connecting with other musicians, as well as people who may not necessarily play musical instruments themselves, but could be of assistance if you want to take your music playing to the next level — such as instrument technicians, and engineers at modest recording studios in your area.
But before you get to the point of being ready to cut your first single, you will want to hone your musical proficiency and repertoire. One of the best ways to do that is to play in a musical group of some sort, such as a band, a chamber group, an instrumental choir, a symphony, or any other group that would be a good match. Naturally, the type of group that you seek depends upon what type of music you play, and your current skill level.
Liszt and Lists
Whether you want to team up with other musicians to play the classical works of Franz Liszt, or the dance rock of Franz Ferdinand, one place to start is the world of e-mail lists. While forums, newsgroups, and collaborative blogs have certainly put a huge dent in the popularity of e-mail lists, the latter have not disappeared. In fact, it's been more a case of the strongest e-mail lists surviving and thriving, while the weaker ones disappear.
The fastest way to find the most active e-mail lists for your chosen instrument, is to use a search engine, such as Google. For almost every well-known instrument, your search will quickly turn up at least a handful of general e-mail lists, with thousands of subscribers, at all levels of proficiency and list participation. The only requirements for your participation in one or more such lists, are a valid e-mail address, and a willingness to respect the rules of each list. Most if not all such lists are free, and typically hosted by large universities with the computer and bandwidth resources needed to run a list server.
When you subscribe to a musical list, you will receive a welcome message that explains how to manage your subscription (such as choosing a daily digest of all messages, instead of individual ones), how to post messages of your own, and how to unsubscribe, if that particular list does not match what you're looking for. If you post a message asking if anyone knows of musical groups in your area that would welcome someone with your skill level, you will likely receive many helpful suggestions.
The Community Connection
Local resources such as community colleges and libraries, will always have a strong brick-and-mortar presence. But discovering what those local resources have to offer, is typically done most efficiently online, by searching their websites.
Yet that is not to say that their websites will necessarily have all of the information that would be valuable to you in your search for musical companionship. For instance, the website of your county library might mention a workshop being hosted by a well-respected musician, but you would probably learn far more by simply calling the library and asking one of the reference librarians if they know of any local music groups. If they don't know of any, they can surely offer suggestions as to other places to look.
Some of the most promising resources would be the music departments of the schools in your area, at the junior high school level and above. First start with the website of your local community college(s), which more often than not will have the e-mail addresses for the head of the music department and his or her administrative assistant. I have found these people to be quite helpful and knowledgeable — partly because the most active musicians in your region are frequently taking courses at the college, and organizing new groups.
The instructors and administrators working in such music departments will oftentimes know the leading music teachers in the area, for your particular instrument. Those independent teachers, in turn, will usually be quite familiar with all of the local music groups — particularly those who would be willing if not delighted to let you join in. In fact, such teachers may have already formed their own music groups, and allow your participation whether or not you choose to take paid classes from them.
These teachers will also be familiar with community bands and orchestras within the city, if you play a wind or string instrument that would fit into such an organization. But bear in mind that these groups tend to be filled with extremely adept and experienced players; if you are at the beginning level, it can be rather intimidating. On the other hand, learning and playing the challenging pieces, even if you are sitting in the "last chair", can be exceptionally motivating.
Don't neglect resources that are not necessarily online, such as local churches, coffee houses, and a variety of civic organizations. In addition, there's always the good old-fashioned bulletin boards at your local music stores.
Returning to lists, but in name only, be sure to try the craigslist site for your nearest metropolis. Music group leaders will oftentimes use it to announce that they are organizing a new group. In addition, you can freely post your own message, asking if anyone knows of whatever particular type of group you are looking for.
Locating the aspiring musicians in your area will probably require some digital detective work, but it could prove to be well worth the effort — and the Internet resources discussed here will be the best ways to get started on your search.
Copyright © 2007 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved.