The Life of a Student Performer

By Graciela Juarez

The life of a performer is a tough one says Claire Garvais, a senior at UC Santa Barbara.

Always depending on people to notice the skill and passion that is poured into a song or composition can be a risk and brings no real sense of security.

“I know that it’s not very practical to be a performer. That’s a hard life because you’re just gigging all the time,” Garvais said during a  recent interview over coffee at UC Santa Barbara. “I never wanted that for myself, but I also wanted to stay in music.”

Garvais recently declared a double major in Global Studies and Music Studies. Though it may seem unlikely for a musician, she majored in economics her freshman year then switched her major to global studies only to realize by junior year that she wanted to participate more fully in the university’s music scene.

“There’s no one else in my family that does music. I’m the only one,” said Garvais, who picked up her first instrument in elementary school. “I’ve always been in music.”

That first instrument was the flute in the 5th grade, when she fell in love  not only with the instrument but also with the incredible group of friends she made in band. 

“I got really into having a big group of friends and just playing music together,” Garvais said. Since those days in elementary school, she has picked up the saxophone, guitar and ukulele. Currently, she plays the bassoon.

Looking back on that time now, Garvais says the people were as important as music to her. “The biggest part of music to me is the camaraderie aspect, working with musicians. That’s my favorite part.”

Claire Garvais poses with her bassoon at UC Santa Barbara. (Photo provided by Claire Garvais)

Claire Garvais poses with her bassoon at UC Santa Barbara. (Photo provided by Claire Garvais)

But, as many other students may understand, her parents had more than a few concerns about whether her educaitonal pursuits would lead to a viable career.

Garvais agrees that being a performer isn’t practical, but she isn’t ready to give up on her love of music just yet. Although she had been pursuing music since she arrived at UC Santa Barbara, her main career focus is global studies.

Applying for a scholarship that required being enrolled in the music program helped Garvais convince her parents to allow her to pursue a major in music. So she declared herself a double major in that and Global Studies halfway into her junior year.

Still, she does not intend to become a professional performer after graduation. Instead, she plans to attend graduate school and study public policy and hopes eventually to work for the National Endowment for the Arts to try to keep funding for the arts going.

“I’d still be in music and I’d be helping people in music with some of the experiences I’ve had,” she said. “But I’d also be using a lot of the tools I’ve learned in the Global Studies major, which is really cool.”

As a Music Studies major, Garvais is only required to do one senior recital at the end of the year. But she says not many bassoonists come around so with the encouragement of a few professors, she is performing two recitals. In November, she played her first solo recital.

Garvais holds her bassoon in a poster for her solo recital in November 2017. (Photo provided by Claire Garvais)

Garvais holds her bassoon in a poster for her solo recital in November 2017. (Photo provided by Claire Garvais)

“This was something I’d been working really hard on and the recital is me demonstrating the things I’ve picked up since being here,” she said.

Garvais feels those who come to see a recital often overlook all the work that goes into putting the entire show together with so many “moving parts” and coordination that is “crazy.”

“Part of why the Music Department makes you do things like this is to make sure that in the real world, you know how to throw something together because you have to advertise for yourself,” Garvais said. “It’s also great for helping with stage fright and confidence.”

She notes that everyone faces criticism, but performance events like these can bring in the most. She says it's important to remember a person’s worst critic is themselves. So “don’t be so critical about yourself,” Garvais advises other young musicians.

Graciela Juarez is a UCSB Senior, majoring in English. 

(Photo by Catherine Marshall)

(Photo by Catherine Marshall)