Finding The Balance: Life As A Working Musician And Studying At Uni
By Mindy Davies
Every second Tuesday at the Coffee Cellar on the Gold Coast Campus there is a live lunchtime gig where you can catch the latest up and coming talent from the Bachelor of Popular Music program. This week I had the pleasure of having a chat to second year student Jennifer Sjaan about finding the balance between late nights at gigs, producing her own EP and getting to class on time.
What lead you to studying here at Griffith?
Well I’ve been singing in front of crowds since I was 7, I’m part of a country music club in Caboolture and I picked up a guitar and started playing when I was about thirteen, so it has been a kind of natural progression.
My brother also studied here and graduated from the course not long before I auditioned. So I came in when he was studying here and he took me through the studios to show what they do and told me all about the course. So I was lucky in that I had a little bit of insider knowledge.
What’s assessment time like for you, I imagine it’s a little different to other degrees?
We have 8 weeks where we don’t do that much assessment, a theory test or an assignment here or there. But then it gets to the last 4 weeks and everything hits the fan. Everything!
In the last two weeks we’ve had four or five assignments this week we’ve got two more to do and next week we have our folio, which is our final assessment. For this in first year you have to record 10 minutes of original material, second year 15 minutes and third year 20 minutes.
You really are learning how to create your own original music then!
Yeah exactly and it’s also really good because it doesn’t necessarily have to be all your music. It can be something you’ve worked on, so it can be another students music you have contributed to by playing guitar or drums. The program opens up a lot of collaboration, in first year for example in one of the classes you form a band and you do a half hour stage performance.
Who informs your creative process?
I’m personally a huge country music fan, as you could probably tell from my set. I’m a massive fan of The Eagles. They heavily influence what I do. The style is definitely from there, but I make it my own.
Who’s playing most on your iTunes this week?
Myself… Well I released an EP on the 2nd of May! But the other music I’m listening to is The Eagles like I said. Something a little different is Seja, they’re a rock band. My boyfriend’s in a rock band, so my playlist is a mixture between his rock music and my country music.
Can you tell us about an average day/night in your shoes?
Well it’s different for every student. For me personally, I want to be a performer. I write my own songs and record my own music. So it’s a lot of late nights and a lot of long hours. But then you have people who study the marketing and management side, and they are very much nine to five.
For me personally I wake up around midday and get to bed around 4am. I am always doing gigs, and going to other people’s gigs, networking and getting my name out there.
My performance name is Jennifer Sjaan. A lot of people have trouble pronouncing it properly.
Time management can be difficult, but it’s good because a lot of my assessments tie in with what I’m doing musically. I released my EP recently and I can use half of that for my assessments and my folio. But long hours, late nights, sleep-ins, and then classes at 9am can be a bit tough. It would be great if the course was completely nocturnal and if classes didn’t start till 9pm at night. That would be amazing!
So you’ve just released an EP, was that recorded here at Griffith?
Yeah there’s four studios we have access to A, B, C & D. In first year we are allowed to use C & D. In second year B, C & D and by third year, all four. When I got to second year I was allowed to use studio B which is a bit more complex, there’s more to play with and there’s a lot more equipment. So we recorded most of it in there, mixed it and mastered it in there and voila! I have an EP!
My boyfriend and I have a little home studio too, but its nowhere near as sophisticated. You come in here and you have everything you need to produce great music. It’s definitely a huge advantage having access to these studios.
Where to next for Jennifer Sjaan?
I have one more year of study, so I will be trying to find a balance in what I am doing between work and study.
I’m working as producer for one of the first years at the moment and I’m looking to find more people to work with in that aspect. I love the production and engineering side.
For me it’s about finding the right balance, because I need to keep my performances up as well. Over the next few years I’m planning on improving my home studio, doing more gigs, and following the music scene wherever it goes!
The next gig for me is June 19th at The Loft!
You can follow Jennifer Sjaan here: www.jennifersjaan.com
For the next Coffee Cellar gig keep an eye on this page: https://www.facebook.com/qcgu.popmusic
Writing and photography – Mindy Davies