Preston Shepard

From: Glendora, CA

Age: 33

Instrument: French Horn

Job Title: Sound Engineer/Freelance Horn Player

Favorite Coffee Drink: Venti Iced nonfat Chai with 2 pumps Hazelnut

"I don’t even think people distinguish themselves as just one thing anymore, like identifying as just an orchestral player, or just a teacher, or a freelancer. There was a period of specialization, but I think it’s very hard to make a living that way these days if you think that way. I would be terrified if I thought that they only way to make a living was to compete against 400 fantastic horn players for one orchestral job, holy cow. What pressure. When I was playing in Mexico, a lot of the people in that orchestra were post-graduates from the states, and all of the money that they made they would save to fly back to the states and take auditions, and they would always talk about their audition strategies and the mind games. But, what kind of life is that? To think that I have to get myself all psyched out and take a bunch of beta blockers so that I could win an audition so that I can start my life and achieve success? I mean, holy cow, that’s bad.

I do music because I enjoy it, and working in a recording studio, I get to enjoy music and make a pretty decent living do it. I still get to play my horn sometimes which I love, but I don’t stress myself out thinking that if I mess up I’ll lose my job. I don’t want to mess up, I want to have people want to hire me and enjoy playing with me, but if it was ever the case I wouldn’t be screwed because I have other valuable interests within music. So I think it’s crucial to be diverse. Whether you’re teaching, whether you write a book, or invent a product, or do solo projects, or tour, it’s just smart to diversify yourself."

Advice to others: I think the key thing is that people never know if someone who they are working with now will wind up being an important person later on in their life. Not just be nice and don’t make enemies, but more along the lines of just always do good work. Don’t show up and be that guy who is hungover and does mediocre work because, if you do that now, people will remember that 20 years later and think you are unreliable.

Significant Literature: “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield (not to be confused with “The Art of War”) Specifically the chapter on what Mr. Pressfield calls “The Resistance”, but the entire book I highly recommend.

Thoughts on Inspiration and Success: "I see a wide range of people in this business, you know, people who are grinding out a living, and I see people who are bright eyed artists who just got here thinking they’re gonna make it. The people who are successful in music, in my opinion, are the people who are willing to grind it, which isn’t to say that they don’t have inspiration, or moments of it, but a lot of times you just have to work without it because it doesn’t happen every day. I mean, Beethoven is one of the universally recognized master composers, and more than half of his output is very rarely performed! Same with Mozart, the last 4 symphonies get more performances than the 37 other symphonies.

But, think about getting married. You’re not going to feel in love everyday, but you’ve made a commitment to make it work. If you felt in love with someone or your instrument every day, it would be easy and it wouldn’t be real. But there are days, and I know you know this, you play the horn, and some days I’m sure you pick it up and say, ‘screw you, horn’. But if you let those days dictate how committed you are to something, you’re never going to accomplish anything."