For years, I have wanted to write a book about the relentless determination it takes to succeed in the arts. Whether as a young artist in New York City, as a music coordinator of a Broadway musical, or as a musician traveling through Europe, I will share with you excitement, acclaim, and culture. Onward and Upward is the true account of my pursuit of a dream; a career in music. In this around-the-world journey, I share my stories of culture, family, laughter, friendship, wisdom, and heartache, with a generous splash of the likes of Strauss, motorcycle chases, and Hollywood. Any aspiring artist, would-be world traveler, or entrepreneur, will benefit from reading this book. Learn from another's experience about dedication, passion, and culture. Partly by means of behind-the-scene memoirs, partly by means of journal entries, we will walk hand in hand on this most extraordinary journey through a life in the arts.
“If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way to make life more bearable.” —Kurt Vonnegut I went through a great deal of hell while on the road to my chosen profession. How much of it was absolutely necessary? How much of the anxiety, fear, and uncertainty was brought on by others observing? Most of the messages I received throughout my studies were about how it would be impossible to make a living once I graduated from college. Doctors and lawyers are also consumed with their studies, but somehow they are in a real, viable, understandable field. Their chosen path has been accepted by their peers as well as by society. The acceptance of those who choose a more prestigious field, one that has a promise to make money, is something of which we artists are acutely aware. We have had that attitude rammed down our throats, starting from our early studies, and it never lets up. Education is the greatest gift society and our family can give us. Yet an education in the arts is looked upon by the majority of people as a “nice thing to do,” as opposed to those of us who have a deeper understanding of our particular need to express ourselves in our field. The message is clear: studying music sounds like fun, but what are you going to do for a living? I hate to compare my path with others, but especially in the early days, I found myself doing so. It was unavoidable and caused me a great deal of introspection. Only those in search of the truth can acquire true happiness. The search for some, including me, was very short-lived. My happiness came when playing or working toward performing; nothing more was required. I knew this from a very early age and never let go of the idea. Many feel that musicians live an erratic lifestyle, one that doesn't conform to what society accepts or approves, which is a nine-to-five job, steady income, health insurance, pension plan, a 3-Series in the driveway, a wife, and two and a half children, not to mention the white picket fence. The perception is that musicians keep different (odd) hours than normal people, and therefore how can they live normal lives? We stay up late and sleep in. We work during the evening hours and on weekends, and we eat less-balanced meals than the average person. In reality, if you are one of the fortunate musicians who is able to land a job with a symphony orchestra, you will receive a salary larger than most nine-to-fivers, while working less than their forty-hour week. You will be offered a healthcare program, pension, and a 5-Series or better to take you to and from Symphony Hall. No picket fence required. Student loans are a way of life for most, and I for one was always aware that one day I would need to pay this borrowed money back. Although I was one of the fortunate ones to receive a partial scholarship and was offered work studies while in school, I still managed to rack up a sizable student loan. A commitment of so many dollars per month for ten years was all it took to continue with my education; naturally, I signed the papers. I was reminded by those who were quick to point out that I should consider a second major, “Just in case your first one doesn't work out.” They also felt the need to drive home what they thought were the facts, such as when a business major completes schooling and enters the work force, he will most likely get a job that offers him a good living and affords him enough money to pay back student loans to boot. However, when an artist graduates from school, his chances of finding a job are most precarious; will it even happen? Artists are looked upon as a risk, and even if they do find a job, they probably will not make enough to pay off their loans and live a life free of struggle.
Jim Neglia is a veteran force in the Performing Arts. He has been a working percussionist as well as music contractor, personnel manager and music coordinator for more than 25 years, working closely with some of the best-known names in the industry. Jim covers the entire gamut of music production and performance. Jim resides in East Hanover, New Jersey with his wife Alexandra, and sons Phillip and Daniel. For relaxation, Jim enjoys traveling, reading, writing and keeping his website, www.JimNeglia.com up to date.