By Brandon Summers | March 2016
Many friends and family members (as well as casual observers) believe that I ended up being a full-time musician because I made a courageous decision to “pursue my dreams”. That’s very poetic. It’s also not true.
I’ve had a talent for covering pop tunes on violin since the age of 13. Honest curiosity got me on this path. I wasn’t really intrigued with the violin or classical music, but it was something I had to do until I finished high school. I just happened to be really good and I’m naturally competitive. I know I sound ungrateful for the violin lessons and the natural talent, but the truth is I don’t care for the violin all that much. It is an instrument that is hard to keep in tune, it is not contemporary, and it’s uncomfortable for my build. What I enjoy is music, playing music (especially with others), and external gratification. The violin is just my vessel into this world.
My talent for the violin and having a good ear followed me to Fort Valley State University. I decided to do the talent show, and I won. I was then given the opportunity to go on a paid recruitment tour with the school president and a handful of classmates. I was in demand for playing at step shows and school functions. When shit hit the fan in 2009, I came home knowing that my graduation would be delayed. I was in a bind financially and I couldn’t find a job over winter break. A good friend of mine suggested that I go street perform on the Las Vegas Strip. I was low on options for generating income, so that’s what I did. I went on the bridge between Planet Hollywood and Cosmopolitan Hotel (which was under construction at the time) and played pop tunes. It worked.
At the conclusion of my four years at Fort Valley, I came home and street performed full-time. It paid the bills. It paid for school. It paid for my first car and my first vacation to New York. It was fun and challenging, and often unpredictable. It also gave me the flexibility to take classes whenever I needed to. I never intended to street perform long term, but school dragged on. I started getting gigs— out of town gigs (LA, SF, NYC). Who knew there was a market for violinists covering pop tunes?! Years later, here I am.
By the end of 2012, I had a consistent (and predictable) amount of gigs . Lots of weddings and a handful of corporate gigs. My brother handled the correspondence with potential clients. A year later, we started D Smooth Management. As of March 2016, we’ve been going strong for two years now.
(This story is very compressed. I left out a lot of details for the sake of simplicity. My career playing music for a living has had a lot of phases too. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up post.)
Maybe I’ll do a comprehensive FAQ at a later date.