by Brandon Summers | March 2016
Life after Fort Valley: Street Performing
Prior to my last semester of school, I discovered street performing (busking) during a winter break. I was unable to find a job during the break, and a friend encouraged me to play violin on the Las Vegas Strip. It worked. I earned good tips and I was able to refill my bank account before returning to school.
When my four years at Fort Valley State University ended, I came home and immediately began street performing full-time. For some reason, my mom was convinced that I was distracted from completing school; and even worse— that I was a self-saboteur. My parents had valid concerns about my safety on Las Vegas Blvd. Strangers, late hours, police— I had a lot of run-ins with cops during that summer.
Fall 2010 at UNLV
Fast forward to Fall 2010: I enrolled in four classes at UNLV as a non-degree seeking student. Two of those courses were required for my math program and the other two were just for fun. It didn’t take long before depression crept back in. I dropped all but one of my classes. I wasted a ton of money, and was now embarrassed and depressed.
Spring 2011 at FVSU
I decided that it would be prudent to return to Fort Valley in the Spring to complete the remaining four classes. I was convinced that this was it. Ego. Pure ego. I took out a student loan, my first ever, for $7,500 and took Abstract Algebra, Linear Algebra II, Advanced Calculus, and Circuits II. Again, it didn’t take long before depression got the best of me. I still didn’t have a handle on proofs, and struggled in all of these courses. I muscled through Abstract Algebra and Advanced Calculus, but did not make it out of Circuits II or Linear Algebra II. My depression became unbearable and I realized I needed help. I went to on-campus counseling, but they asked me a bunch of stupid questions. I got up and left. I felt like I was on my own. Thankfully, I had energetic roommates and a good friend who always invited me over for Sunday dinner with his family. The light never went dim.
Fall 2011 at UNR
Over the summer, I street performed once more. The depression I experienced during school vanished the moment I had my violin back in my hand on the street. A few months later, I had an opportunity to play at a trade show in Vegas and NYC for Hudson Jeans. This was my introduction to the corporate entertainment industry. I also made a connection with their go-to DJ, Mike, and we’ve been playing holiday parties for Nordstrom ever since.
However, when I saw another opportunity to finish school, I took it. I now had two classes left, and only one course was math. The University of Nevada Reno (UNR) was offering Linear Algebra II. I immediately signed up and began saving money to make it a reality. When the time came, I moved to Reno and took Linear Algebra II and Chemistry I. Piece of cake right? Once again, depression was there to greet me. I struggled to do homework and eventually struggled to get out of bed. I didn’t know anybody in Reno, so I kept to myself. I hit rock bottom mentally. My physical health was affected to. To be frank, I couldn’t shit right for most of 2012 (the doctors never figured out what was wrong). I ended up failing both of those courses. I decided to take a year off of school.
Part 4: State of Limbo (Continued) – The Best of Days. The worst of days.