In this series, we interview Musicians Insitute alumni across all of our programs, to get insight into their life and careers after graduation. In this blog we feature Barrett Wilson, a graduate of the Bachelor of Music in Guitar Performance program, who currently works as a guitar instructor at Fender Play. Interview by Jon Wang.
What is Fender Play?
Fender Play is the complete learning app where people can learn how to play guitar, bass and/or ukulele. With Fender Play, someone can go from purchasing their first instrument to playing their first song very quickly. The platform launched around 2017 and already has hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
What type of things do you do for Fender?
I do a variety of things for Fender Play, including being an instructor for guitar and ukulele, authoring curriculum, etc. When we are filming our video lessons, we have a director who is responsible for the quality of the look and feel of the product. For example, make sure the cameras get the right angles, and look and sound right. I’m responsible for the quality of the content of the lesson, ie: Is everything being said correct? Is it being explained well? Are they playing the right notes and rhythms that are being described? That sort of thing.
How did you become involved with fender after leaving Musicians Institute?
After leaving MI, I was playing guitar for a variety of artists but I was also doing a lot of one-on-one teaching both in-person and online. John Dreyer, who is a product specialist for Fender, saw my online teaching profile and asked if I was interested in teaching some lessons for them. From there I had a few interviews with him and others at Fender and went through a few auditions and the rest is history.
How did you learn to do all the things you do in your work with Fender Play?
I was fortunate to have the education I received from MI as well as some key experiences from a few other projects as a foundation by the time I got involved with Fender. The knowledge from MI and the experience of trying to apply it to different real-world projects really prepared me to get involved with what has now become Fender Play.
What is something you learned in your time at MI that you feel you use the most in your career?
I’d say the ability to scale back and focus on the extreme basic fundamentals of music and musicianship. Many musicians learn the basics and then they forget about them and move on quickly to intermediate and advanced things. Learning how to say more by playing less is so important in being musical. For example, being able to play something simple like a C chord for eight measures at a slow tempo and make it sound good and interesting is way more challenging than playing some cool lick at a fast tempo. I think a lot of people rush ahead, get frustrated that they’re not at a certain level, then quit and forget about the joy of just making music.
Was there any single experience at MI that you felt really shaped you as a musician?
The Bachelor program juries were quite the experience. [Editor note: Every MI Bachelor student must put together and lead a band in a series of performances in front of a panel of jurors.] They force you to confront a lot of information in a really short amount of time and it made me very aware of what I needed to know to be a professional musician. I quickly became aware of what I was good at and more importantly where I needed to improve.
Additionally, I’d say just being around a lot of amazing musicians, seeing all the people coming in to do workshops and hearing their stories, what they did to get where they were, that was all big for me as well. Overall, there was so much good information I was exposed to at MI. I’m still even now parsing through the knowledge and implementing it into what I do on a daily basis.
What would you tell a young musician who was thinking about enrolling at MI?
I would say it’s a great place to meet people and be influenced by their knowledge and experiences as well as a place to get involved with tons of projects you can use as opportunities to apply what you’re learning to the real world.
What advice would you offer to recent MI graduates trying to find their place in the world?
Two things come to mind. Firstly, keep practicing your instrument, that’s a big thing. Don’t let go of your guitar, keyboard, vocals, whatever it is. Practice as much as possible, as much as time will allow – hone your craft.
Secondly, I would find the type of thing that you want to do and just contact those people, see if you can intern or volunteer. Get involved with the group of people that you want to be a part of and learn the ins and outs of that world. Make sure the things you are striving for are meaningful and worthwhile while and it’s something you actually want to do.
Now, more than ever, it’s a lot of preparing yourself as best you can and putting yourself out there and being seen as much as possible. Just hope the right people find you and hope that you’re prepared for when they do. The rest is just doing the work.