Baton Rouge native Erin Demastes knew it was sink or swim after graduating from the Loyola University College of Music. However, her upcoming performance at the Three Muses shows that she is well on her way to succeeding as a career musician.
"When I graduated from school I didn't even get an 'in-between' job," Demastes said. "I just started trying to get gigs. I met the right people at the right time and it's been good."
Those personal connections and formal music school training will come together at the Three Muses for a classic jazz set of songs.
"We'll play some Thelonious Monk-he's one of my favorites, Hoagy Carmichael's stuff, Sonny Rollins and a few original songs too."
Demastes is well-schooled on the jazz song book. She was drawn to the Big Easy for a bachelor's degree at Loyola in jazz studies with a concentration in piano performance. That degree gave her a solid footing to begin joining the ranks of working musicians in New Orleans. However, Demastes admits that her family had concerns about her career choice.
"My parents were a little skeptical when I said wanted to be a musician," Demastes explained. "But they are especially supportive now because I'm really cultivating it. I think they are pretty proud of me."
They can also take pride in Demastes' versatility. She will be performing as a duo with Matt Johnson at the Three Muses gig and with a big band at the National World War II Museum Stage Door.
"I like it. I've got to get dressed up like it's the 1940s," Demastes said referring to her Stage Door show. "We do mostly big band songs at the museum like Glen Miller and Artie Shaw."
Demastes believes that her classical training has helped her with her jazz performances.
"I took classical lessons from when I was seven years old. I played classical all the way up to when I was in college. It taught me piano technique and I really appreciated that."
As much as she loves classical and jazz, Demastes' songwriting goes in another direction - pop. She's also part of Planet Earth, a band that allows her and other members to play more of their original music.
"The stuff I write is different than the traditional or modern jazz that I play," Demastes said. "My songs are more pop-oriented. It's like having two different brains. My writing brain and my playing brain."
Demastes enjoys music recitals, but seems to prefer performing at clubs more.
"In a scholastic setting, it's more critical and that makes me better," Demastes said. "But I almost like clubs better because the crowds are generally positive."
A positive outlook along with a music school polish of her piano skills is what has propelled Demastes into a pop group, a jazz swing big band, and modern jazz gigs in New Orleans at the age of twenty four.
When asked what advice she might pass on to anyone intimidated at the thought of a music career, Demastes gives an answer that sounds like both a fiery sports coach and a mellow zen teacher.
"If you really want it and you have the motivation to do it, then you can do it," she said "You just have to enjoy the journey and remember what you want to do."
Erin Demastes performs on July 24 at the Three Muses located at 536 Frenchman Street. For venue info, go to http://www.thethreemuses.com. Learn more about Erin Demastes at http://www.erindemastesmusic.com.
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