Whalen: Finding the face behind the local musician

Local artists have lives extending beyond music, including teaching and working desk jobs.

JaredWhalenWho are musicians when they’re not playing a gig?  

If you’ve grown up on Hollywood portrayals, you probably picture big hair, a big wallet and a Photoshopped jawline.

But if you’ve had the pleasure of living with a musician, you probably picture someone who thinks playing the drums at 11 p.m. is perfectly acceptable.

Point being, the world has concocted its ideas of musicians. Some imagine the VIP rock star wearing pants made out of God knows what, while others think of the starving artist playing outside of Starbucks. However, in reality, most do not fall into either of these categories.

For some, music is a career, a full-time job. They dedicate their lives to playing music, doing whatever is necessary to make it to the next show.

For most, however, music is not a full-time gig. Whether it’s the need of a steady paycheck or just another passion, most musicians have day jobs or spend their days in school. More likely than not, fans would not recognize the dude swinging the guitar around on stage if they saw him on the street.

Take Mike Armine, for example. Armine is the vocalist of Philadelphia metal band Rosetta. Formed in 2003, the band is still going strong. Rosetta released its latest album last year, toured Europe and Australia in 2012 and is now preparing for another international tour.

A Google search of Armine’s name reveals what you would expect of a heavy band’s vocalist: intense show photos, screaming crowds, and Armine’s arms covered in ink.

But that’s a narrow scope of who Armine actually is.

In fact, Rosetta only tours a fraction of the year. The majority of the time, Armine is in the Philadelphia area working his other job – teaching high school students.

Armine teaches Advanced Placement psychology and sociology at Haverford Senior High School in Havertown, Pa. These two separate worlds keep Armine in a constant state of work overload.

“There have been times where I’ve had to grade papers at the back of a venue,” Armine said. “Or [I] write lessons in the tour van just to keep things balanced. Conversely, there are times where I have to answer Rosetta emails or book tours during the school day. It’s very stressful when these worlds collide.”

While the workload can be overwhelming, Armine said the real balancing act is in identity management.

“Sometimes, students think that my love for f—-d up heavy music, tattoos and skateboarding makes me the ‘cool teacher who does not give a s—.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. Students are pretty shocked with I have to come down with a heavy hand and let them know that I have high expectations, standards and low threshold for bulls—.”

His students are not the only ones coming to conclusions, however.

“For the most part, my coworkers think I’m in one of those bands that paint their nails black and wear eyeliner,” Armine said. “I find this amusing. The best is when they ask, ‘Are you in one of those screamo bands?’ I always smile wide when I answer.”

For Armine, more pleasure comes from just playing music and not focusing on record labels and music sales.

“I’d rather contribute to the development of young people and play music on the side,” Armine said. “I can keep my sense of self while paying the bills at the same time.”

Another young professional who hits the Philly stage is Brian Walker. Walker, 25, has been writing music for the last eight years and fronts alternative band A Day Without Love. Outside of music, Walker works as a human resources specialist for Comcast.

Additionally, he is an academic, having earned a bachelor of arts in business psychology and a master of arts in industrial organizational psychology.

For Walker, playing music is the end goal.

“As someone who has written over 500 poems in the past 12 years and 115 songs, I really think I have the drive and motivation,” Walker said. “I really hope that I can become a full-time musician.”

Walker is like many local artists. Dreams of a career in music are measured against bills and the necessities of life. College graduates who play music know this song and dance well.

“It’s kind of a yin and yang, push and pull,” Walker said. “I really sometimes wish that my music life could make the finances my professional life does. Especially when it comes to loans.”

Walker has been actively pushing his music by consistently gigging in the tristate area and working on a new album.

“I really believe music is life, and it really is a goal of mine to become a name-worthy musician,” Walker said. “I don’t care about fame, I just desire sustainability.”

Both of these artists are different people with one actively persuing a career in music, while the other is content where he is. Both have day jobs, but they are different in nature and purpose.

But that’s the point, isn’t it?

The Philadelphia musician is not a stereotype. This city is filled with creative individuals of all walks of life – and are all walking different directions. But what connects them is their passion for music. And that passion keeps them going, regardless of where they want to end up.

Jared Whalen can be reached at jared.whalen@temple.edu.

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