More than just music: balancing school and performing


After playing the last show of the Kawaii Desu tour, Gutless singer Vitor Viana’s happiness was bittersweet. The lights dim with the resonance of the final chord and, for a moment, there was nothing else.

After spending the Labor Day weekend playing all over South Florida, it was now time to get back to the real world. He’s just one of many people living their lives as student musicians, trying to succeed in school as well as in their pursuit of music.

We’ve all been to a college band show. Witnessing kids come alive on a stage can be quite rewarding. Can the musicians say the same?

Chris Maurer, 20, is currently in his third year at Tallahassee Community College. His talent can be heard through a number of instruments including guitar, bass, and piano.

Being proficient in music, he was in the position of conductor for his school’s band. Initially he had been studying music, but recently he made the switch to a mathematics degree.

“You can still play music without a degree but I can’t say the same for finding a stable job,” he said.

During his first year, Maurer lived with friends from his hometown who had already formed the band Keep It Civil. When offered a seat as their bassist, Maurer leapt at the chance. The difficulties soon came with trying to balance both his studies and the band.

“I found myself getting caught up more and more in the band’s affairs over school,” he said. “I’d be sitting in class listening but not really retaining as much as I wanted to.”

This semester Maurer has parted ways with Keep It Civil and is trying a different approach.

“I found that expressing myself in front of an audience was extremely emotionally healthy,” he said. “It allowed me to connect with others in a way completely unique to stage performance.”

keep it civil

Keep It Civil’s Owen Pratt, Kevin Olivera, and Chris Maurer Photograph by Jolie Carlone

Having set up a studio at home, he is working on his own, at least for the time being.

“Regardless of whether it’s my job or not, music will always be part of my life,” he said.

London Khoury, 23, enrolled in the digital arts college Recording Arts Canada in Toronto during 2011 and 2012. His passion began in Dubai, where he attended school for a mental health degree by day and DJ’d by night.

“I was completely wrapped up in making music that my grades slipped every day,” he said.. “Giving up what I loved doing was not an option, though.”

Soon his family pushed him to make the move to Canada to pursue a sound engineering degree. While attending school, Khoury found a partner and together they formed the group Robin Hood. Performing anywhere from house shows to the streets, Robin Hood was dedicated to producing clean dance music to the masses.


Robin Hood photograph by Anna Afshar

“Everyone loves a party and we would throw them,” he said. “We would invite 100 and 200 would show up.”

The endeavor proved quite expensive, as the duo had to buy or rent equipment as well as cover any damages. Not having any time for a formal job, Khoury funded half the project using the money his parents sent him for food.

Robin Hood came to end due to irreconcilable creative differences.

“It was totally worth it, I’d do it all over again if I could,” he said.

After completing the program, London relocated to South Florida in search of work. He continues to produce music through a soundboard and plans to release tracks onto the Internet soon.

“Music is my favorite form of communication. It’s better than talking,” he said. “That matters more to me than making money.”

Vitor Viana, 20, who is studying at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, started Gutless as a solo project. But he knew his lyrics deserved a full ensemble.

He found that in bandmates Andrew Martin (bass), Cory Quimby (guitar) and Tim McGowan (drums). The group quickly decided to travel.

Teaming up with another local band, Consent, they set up a weekend tour through southeast Florida hot spots.

Being the only one who was attending school he scheduled his classes to cater to the tour dates.

“Even though the first show was stressful, it only got better from there,” he said. “Plus, I was in the company of my best friends for an entire week just having a blast.”

The last day of the tour ended back at home where Viana juggles two jobs, three classes and one band. Keeping his classes to just three per semester allows him to keep up with his workload and his two jobs allow him to go to school.

Currently studying elementary education, he hopes to instill creativity into today’s youth.

“I want to show kids how to think with an open mind instead of teaching them what to think,” he said. “Teaching without implementing limitations is very important.”

Viana understands that music along with other art forms can be essential in coping with self-doubt. It is what drives him to continue in this gutsy pursuit.

“I feel that in this world it is very easy to feel discouraged and afraid,” he said. “For me, it is so important to face that head on and do what you love.”

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