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Profiles / Justin Marx Continued:

New York University

I'm now studying Jazz Instrumental Performance in the School of Education at NYU. My playing schedule is a lot more manageable here, and I'm getting the serious academics that I was looking for. I have found the musical atmosphere at NYU to be a lot more supportive, which in turn creates a better creative environment. I've found that when I'm in situations in which I constantly need to prove my basic musicianship, such as I was in at Berklee, I am less likely to take risks in my music. And I believe that an artist who does not take risks in his craft runs the danger of becoming creatively stagnant. But let me focus again on some of my experiences at Berklee…

The carpal tunnel syndrome and tendentious that I developed as a result of playing the bass was both a drag and a blessing. On the one hand, I'm often unable to play my bass as much I want to, which is of course a drag. Unfortunately, the only real way to keep my hands healthy is to limit my playing time, and I'm now faced with the reality that I may never be able to keep up the playing schedule required to play music professionally. But, as I said, there is a positive side to that. When I started to reduce the amount of time spent playing music, I was able to spend some of that time focusing my creative efforts in other areas.

More Than Music

For years the only thing I concerned myself with was playing jazz. From the time I first started playing, I lived, breathed, ate, and slept jazz. Although I kept up with and enjoyed my studies in high school, the only thing that I was truly concerned with was learning how to swing. It wasn't until I was fully immersed in music that I realized there were other things out there than music. When I finally got what I wanted — 24 hours a day to play music — I started to burn out on music both mentally and physically. So as a way to keep my interest going in music, and to try to keep my hands healthy, I started paying attention to other things besides music. An art history class my freshman year lured me into Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, a Steinbeck novel got me hooked on twentieth-century authors, and designing a CD cover for a demo got me curious about graphic design and web design. I rekindled my interest in photography, which I had studied in high school, and I also became interested in the possibilities of combining my love of computers with my love of music through MIDI and digital audio.

Digital Design

I was so interested in graphic design and digital audio that my roommate (an extremely talented computer programmer) and I started an Internet-based company to create digital audio soundtracks for web use, and called the company Flat Nine Media (www.flat9media.com). It was a great way to explore digital audio and graphic design in a legitimate setting, while also exercising the skills I was learning as a business major. We eventually increased our scope to include general web design, and my first experiences in web design were on-the-job.

I'm attracted to design for a number of reasons. First of all, it's a nice diversion from music, which I sometimes find unfulfilling, and oftentimes find frustrating. Design is another outlet for my creative urges (I'm happiest when I'm creating something original, from scratch.) I'm also drawn to the practical aspect of design. As far as I can tell — and, I assure you, I'm no expert — design differs from fine art in that it has a commercial purpose (in other words, design is to Pablo Picasso as jingles are to John Coltrane!) Design sells products or services, and so in addition to being beautiful, it must be focused towards its target consumer. In this respect, I see design as challenging not just my artistic side, but also my pragmatic side.

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