David Traver, AS ’04 Music Technology and Composition, is the resident music director and musician for The Blue Man Group at Universal Studios Orlando, as well as the composer and music director for Orlando-based performance troupe DRIP. We had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his Northeastern experience, and how it paved the way for his musical success.
What drew you to the Blue Man Group after college, and did Northeastern prepare you for that experience?
I actually started working with Blue Man Group after my freshman year at Northeastern. At the time I was fed up with a lot of the music that was out there and was looking for something different. I was playing this weird 12 string instrument called the Chapman Stick at the time and a good friend told me he saw a really strange show in Boston that had a Chapman Stick player in the band. So of course I had to check it out! After seeing the show I was blown away. I had finally found something that was different and an interesting combination of everything I was into at the time. After seeing the show a second time I demanded a job from the Stick player who promptly told me that is not at all how it works! I became an intern and I tried to learn as much as I could about everything in that theater. I slowly worked my way through many different positions (painting sets, bringing people food, answering phones etc.) and eventually became a performer and later a music director.
During my sophomore year, I took advantage of Northeastern’s Coop program and I interned at various recording studios around town. This prepared me for my professional life outside of theater which has involved being a session musician, composer and producer. Having the ability to see how all these different recording studios fit into the music industry definitely helped me narrow down my interests and helped me figure out what I really liked about the industry and what I didn’t. It’s great that Northeastern students can figure these things out early so they have a jump on the crowd when they are released into the real world. I was able to take things that I learned in the classroom and immediately apply it to real world situations.
Probably the best advice I could give to anyone searching for employment in any field would be to sit down and think about what it is you REALLY want to do.
I also had some amazing Professors at Northeastern that were super supportive and active outside of the University as well. They would push me to stay on top of my studies but also stay active as an artist outside of the classroom. Anthony Deritis, an amazing composer/musician and one of my professors, even included me in one of his performances with the New Haven Orchestra which was an honor! Professors like Anthony Deritis, Dennis Miller, Ron Herrema, Doug Durant and Leon Janikian as well as many others at the University really took a personal role in my growth at Northeastern and definitely helped me prepare for a career in music during and after my time at Northeastern. You have some great people over there!
What is DRIP? And what inspired it?
DRIP is a multifaceted art troupe that existed in Orlando before I moved here. It was born out of Orlando’s awesome Fringe festival. Jessica Mariko, the founder, wanted to create an artistic organization that would incorporate everything she loved about art; dance, music, visual arts, and even food! We met through some mutual friends and I became DRIP’s composer. I helped create several performances with DRIP before Mariko decided she wanted to go for it and create a full blown show. At that time I was off on tour with Blue Man Group so we had to exchange show ideas via email and Skype trying to figure out what this whole show was going to be about. Once we had a concept Mariko would feed me the ideas, I would write the music on a laptop in my hotel rooms and send it back for notes. Meanwhile, Mariko was looking for venues around Orlando. After a year or so of this we had a space and a full show written! We opened the show about three years ago and we’re still here! Oh and Mariko and I got married. So thats pretty cool too.
A DRIP performer covered in paint. Image courtesy of DRIP.
Is there a specific experience or individual that empowered you during your time at Northeastern?
Ha! The first one that sticks out in my head was when I wrote a piece using a musical programming language called C-Sound for my professor Ron Herrema. He seemed to be pretty into the piece until it came to the fade out ending. He turned to me and said “A fade out? Really? A fade out?”. He was super bummed out. I remember leaving his office thinking “Why did I fade out that song? That sounded horrible! Whats wrong with me?” It was super lazy writing. It’s such a small thing but it has stuck with me all these years. Since then I don’t think I have ever faded out a composition. I’ve racked my brain until I could come up with a solid ending for every piece, good or bad. I’d like to think that mentality has crossed over into different aspects of my life and I try to follow that sentiment of finishing what I start. Or I’d like to think that I follow that sentiment. Ask me again in a couple years?
What advice do you have for students interested in music industry, or searching for employment?
The best advice I could give anyone interested in the music industry is to work extremely hard and be as nice and appreciative as possible. It’s actually that simple. If you work hard then you become good at your craft. If you are nice and appreciative of people and experiences that you are lucky enough to come across, then you become part of a community. You add those two things together and you’re basically the most hirable person in town! Life’s too short to be a jerk and you should probably learn those scales and modes anyway.
Probably the best advice I could give to anyone searching for employment in any field would be to sit down and think about what it is you REALLY want to do. Not what your parents want, not what society expects, not where the money is….but what you actually want to spend your time doing. Once you have figured that out you’re golden. Hit the streets and find someone doing that thing. Then never leave them alone. That’s all there is really. If you’re not doing what you love then whats the point?
Why do you stay involved with Northeastern?
Mainly for the people. I have some amazing memories of students and faculty that have affected me in so many ways. It’s nice to plug back in to where you came from and see how things are going.