With the music industry changing so fast, music schools have to prepare students in a way that would allow them to adapt to various changes in their careers. The pandemic being certainly an unexpected change, USC has been ready to switch to online classes long ahead of time. "We had brilliant staff and IT personnel who had all of the training ready weeks before we needed to roll out any online schooling," the professor mentions. "We prepared and rehearsed before it was a necessity."
Looking at the education musicians get in general, Andrae feels that educators fail their students because they don't give them real-world skills — you can be an amazing musician, but how do you make a living? The education is so clear on how to teach you these phenomenally brilliant musical concepts, but it doesn't tell you how to go to your country's copyright website and protect and monetize your intellectual property. "We now have musicians who have devoted hours and hours on being a phenomenal musician, but have no idea how to feed themselves everyday," Alexander points out. He suggests endorsing mandatory classes on topics such as the importance of social media, marketing, and networking.
To be successful in the music industry, however, is simple: tenacity, discipline, and networking. The musician himself isn't a firm believer that the people with the most technical skills become the best musicians. "They only have a year or two lead when it comes to success, because that student, who isn't that great of a musician, but is tenacious and will practice 12 hours per day and give it all they have, is going to catch up, and when they do, that's it," Andrae tells me. To stay current or even ahead of trends, one must be sure to know who the key players are in the music industry: as one of his mentors once said, "networking is one letter away from not working."
To inspire students to find their voices, Andrae gives them an opportunity to speak. "I've seen professors who facilitate discussions and are afraid of silence, so [they] move on. No! I allow us all to be awkward, I walk around and I laugh at [students] and they laugh at me," he says. This allows some to have a little more time to speak, not feel like they're being rushed, and realize that everyone's opinion matters. "The thing that will make us all better as a whole is the fact that you can hear someone's opinion who thinks completely different from you, and you don't have to agree with them, but now you've figured out that that way of thinking exists," the professor elucidates.
Andrae's career pivoted at an early age. Studying at the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts and growing up in a musical family, he started playing jazz and taking jazz theory when he was around 13 years old. "My first gig was at Barnes & Noble's as a piano player for a Christmas thing, which was crazy," he remembers. "I literally just sat in the corner, jamming out." During his time in high school in Washington, D.C., Andrae got the opportunity to intern and play for a lot of Congressmen, which is an experience he is very grateful for. "At 13 or 14, when you're walking into one of these governmental buildings with marble everywhere, a million feet tall columns, and huge buildings with brilliant acoustics, it really boosts your confidence to say: 'If I can do this at 13 or 14, anything is possible'," the musician smiles.
Having participated in a wide variety of projects, Andrae discusses just how much he has learned from all of them. "I was a presidential pianist assigned to the White House in The United States Navy Band of Washington, D.C., at 20 years old," he recalls. "I absolutely loved it: I traveled the world, played for the Crown Prince of Norway, princes of Arabia, and learned discipline and culture. I just learned so much!" Being a musician on a cruise ship for four months, he traveled to Greece, Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Brazil, Egypt, Argentina, and even Arctica several times. Looking back at this experience from a social perspective, Andrae's musical abilities took him around the world. "My career is something that lives, breathes, and evolves," the musician concludes, feeling thankful for all of his experiences.