MAKING FRIENDS THROUGH MUSIC
By QUINTON SHEER
The scene: Austin’s Coffee Shop, open mic night. An acoustic guitar player singing in the corner. And tables filled with solitary patrons. I go outside to smoke and overhear a woman in her late twenties venting to her fellow smoker, “Why is it so hard to make friends in this city?!” Their conversation scored by the music being played on the other side of the glass.
Making friends in any new location can be a challenge. It’s easier to get a stranger to go on a date with than to find a friend go to a Magic game. Maybe it’s because many who move to Central Florida never expect to stay for long. The sheer number of hospitality jobs that new residents often take can also lead to difficulty in making new friends. The job becomes their world. They hang out with the people they work with and can even become clannish – identifying themselves with a certain company, a particular theme park, even going so far as to only circulate with others in their area (performers, servers, attractions hosts etc). Limiting and excluding are both things that music is not about. Music is about freedom, collective experiences, and reaching across classifications of every kind.
I moved to Orlando in 1999 and outside of the folks I knew from where I worked I didn’t know a soul despite going out a few times a week. (Shout out the old Innoventions East Crew! ßSee?) When I started Q’s House Radio, research for my interview subjects took me to venues I had never been before. Until then I had stuck to bars and clubs. Downtown Orlando meant Wall St and Zuma Beach. I could go to dance clubs and not meet anyone new despite a packed dance floor. But I’ve never gone to a local music show without at least having a conversation with someone new.
There’s something about local music shows that make meeting new friends more probable than any other type of entertainment. Go to a packed movie and you simply sit alone in the dark. Go to a local music show and the collective vibes remind you – you are not alone. By the third time you see someone out at a venue you find yourself hugging hello. Then there are post show trips to diners and the feeling has always been the more the merrier.
Leigh Caldwell shared her experience: “When I left working at theme parks, the friends I had sort of disappeared. The club scene gets old but I still wanted to go out. I can’t tell you the number of fantastically Rad people I met by going to see local bands. I don’t know why that is but I love it.” And she is not alone in the experience.
“The nature of the music scene is to include others;” said Sarah Conness, Talent Director of Monster Nature booking agency. “Certain genres of music often attract certain types of people. So those who go out to a music show often have more in common with each other than those who in the same bar, or dance club. Live music speaks to people mind, emotion, and soul.” It’s connection on such a level that makes making new friends possible.
Our civic leaders make the rules but our musicians and artists create community. A local music scene helps people connect with each other and that in turn builds community. Sean Sedita, drummer for pop rock band, Orange Avenue, said, “Making people feel connected is important to us. After every show we make sure we are spending time with those who came to see us and meeting new people. It’s more than just good promotion. We want fans to meet each other and make new friends at our shows.”
Hosting a music business radio show, scouting for labels, and writing for various music magazines and websites have given me more than a satisfying career path. Being in the music scene has given me friends, the kind of friends that I invite into my home and go on vacations with. The kind of friends who invite me to their cook outs and introduce me to their families. Real friends. And while we vent to each other, have a few drinks, and a few laughs, always in the background is the music that brought us together.