“I am a 21st century musician, which means I have many jobs — some of them even pay!”

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MUSICIAN/PROFESSOR/ADVOCATE
Brian Chin

What do you do? I am a 21st century musician, which means I have many jobs — some of them even pay! I am a freelance trumpet player and perform with Seattle Symphony, opera and ballet [groups] and record for movies, TV, and video games.

I am the founder of Common Tone Arts, a nonprofit arts organization committed to inspiring positive change through arts education and music. I am the artistic director of the Universal Language Project, a 21st century music and multi-arts concert series. And I am a music professor at Seattle Pacific University, where I am the head of instrumental music and teach composition and theory.

How did you get started in that field? I believe in music’s ability to fundamentally change people’s nature. In retrospect, music is the only thing that ever felt honest and real to me. I started as a jazz musician and moved to the New York area in my early 20s. I spent a decade honing my craft, learning about music and art, and soon expanded my world to become a professional classical musician. The work I am doing now through the nonprofit is attempting to bring these genres together with other artistic disciplines as a composer, performer and artistic director.

What’s a typical day like? Some days, I start by leading a music fundamentals class with young professional musicians at Seattle Pacific University and spend the day advising, attending meetings, preparing lectures, practicing, grading tests and teaching private lessons. Other days, I spend in rehearsal, entrepreneurial networking and preparation for concerts. Performance days are relatively rare and special.

What’s the best part of the work? Every day is different! As a beautiful example, I am writing this from Granada, Spain, where I am for the summer studying flamenco music for a show for the Universal Language Project I am planning two years from now. I love teaching. I love making music. I love the process of getting better. I love to see the excitement in people’s eyes after an inspiring class or an artistically fulfilling show.  

Brian Chin (right) plays trumpet with the band Hereward at the Royal Room in Seattle. (Courtesy of Kimberly Vreeland Chin)
Brian Chin (right) plays trumpet with the band Hereward at the Royal Room in Seattle. (Courtesy of Kimberly Vreeland Chin)

What surprises people about what you do? People often remark that I’m so lucky that I get to do what I love for a living. This is true, but what I find most challenging is that I am emotionally tied to my work and it is never done. It is not uncommon to work a full day to come home to study, prepare and practice. People are surprised when they realize for any given performance there is likely 18 months of emails, planning sessions, rehearsals, writing, composing and fundraising! And that this is fun for me!

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