Updated: Oct 2, 2020
You may not realize it, but fate brought you here today, but before we get too far into things let me introduce myself.
My name is Jon Olejnik, I’ve toured the world playing saxophones, flute, clarinets, and many world folk instruments (36 to be exact) in just about every capacity that you can imagine: Professional Big Bands, Wedding Bands, Corporate Bands, Rock and Roll Bands, as well as my own groups. I’m a D’Addario Woodwinds sponsored musician and clinician and have developed my share of students over the years. On paper (and social media) my experience looks impressive, and to an extent it is, but it does not paint the full picture of how me and my career came to be.
Social Media pulls a love/hate relationship from many. You see those bright pictures full of smiling faces in exotic locations, new cars, fancy entrepreneurs looking to sell you their secrets. There are all kinds of mixed messages out there in the jungles of Facebook and Instagram, but there is one underlying reason social media exists and that is to connect with others that exist outside of your “pod” that share similar interests. I’ve seen many “Social Media Gurus” shouting from the rooftop to “Unfollow those accounts that make you jealous!!”, but my message is the opposite; these accounts can help you. Let me bring you into my personal journey to shed some light on how utilizing social media as a tool has helped grow my career. Like most students studying music, I had my foot in the practice room religiously; putting the time in with the instrument so I could win that audition when I got done with school. Unfortunately that day never came- I actually had to take a mental health withdrawal in my final year of schooling (something that was necessary at the time and has not held me back in any major way. After all, to win an audition, no one is asking for your degree, only a demonstration of your skill). Now, don’t get my message wrong, practice is very important and school can provide you with easy connections. In fact my first “big gig” came months after withdrawing from school- The My Fair Lady North American Broadway Tour. It was a glorious 9 months of high pay, high performance expectation, and traveling through just about every state as well as Canada. However when I returned from the tour I reached another rough patch, “How can I get another job like that,” I wondered. It was too perfect the first time. I ended up taking a job at Toys R Us, first unloading trucks in the middle of the night, then working my way up to eventually become an Assistant Store Manager within 2 years.
Was I practicing during this time? The answer is…well, not really.
However, what I was doing was reaching out to those musicians that I idolized in order to figure out a path to my own success and using social media as a way of forming my future career.
Cirque Du Soleil had always been my dream gig- that’s the end goal. Luckily, Cirque Du Soleil sells the soundtracks to their shows and it’s easy to look up who the musicians are that they hire, so I started reaching out through social media for advice on what instruments to learn, what music to listen to, and what to practice. After receiving good responses from most that I reached out to I gained further inspiration to audition. Since that time Cirque Du Soleil has asked me directly to audition for four of their shows (no takers yet, but I am still assured by these musicians that being asked directly to audition is a very good sign: I remain hopeful).
Fast forward a few years and I exited Toys R Us to become a full time musician. Experience is invaluable in the music industry and putting yourself out there is 99% of the puzzle. Social media allows you a means to get your name out and connect with those in a position that you want to be in.
Now, knowing my back-story clues you into knowing that not everything on social media is “real”. I still very much struggle with my own mental health, but sometimes that creates a good push to utilize social media in the “healthy way”. Like everything, moderation is important. Give yourself some guidelines for success:
Post 3 times per week (This is a healthy average that allows “breathing room”)
Engage with your followers and those who follow you (This seems like common sense, but sometimes we get caught up in creating our own content to appreciate the content of others)
Find those people who create great content and reach out to them (Behind those beautiful, staged pictures are real people with real stories and advice. Sending a private message takes very little time or effort. After all the worst that can happen is they don’t respond, that’s how you know they’re not here to help you)
One of my goals as a musician was to gain an endorsement from a company that I love (many others have this goal, so if that’s you, you’re not alone). It’s all too easy to make posts featuring your favorite brands- also, these companies LOVE free advertising. Most companies spill lots of money into marketing because good marketing turns into good, life-long customers. Turn a focus of your posts into highlighting brands and in a year or two you may be looking at an endorsement (just don’t forget to engage with the brand of social media as well). In my story, it took a year to reach a point where I earned an endorsement, and the final piece was reaching out to the company to ask if it was possible to buy reeds direct through them. EXPERIENCE is something that makes for good social media content. Everyone has low-paying gigs, especially at the start of their career. Turn those low paying gigs into social media posts- will it be hard? Yes. Does it lead you to feeling like a phony? In some cases yes. But realize that EVERYONE starts at the bottom and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Are you giving lessons for $10? Awesome! Shout it from the rooftops and gain your student base as you expand on social media. Eventually you’ll be giving lessons for $50+ AND you’ll be a successful teacher while your at it.
So, let’s pull some points together as a final thought:
Engage with everyone on social media (comments, messages, the whole mess of it)
Post on a regular schedule (Don’t overdo it and burn yourself out)
Get that experience (When starting out “YES” is your friend, but don’t let yourself be taken advantage of)
About the author
D'Addario Woodwinds performing artist Jon Olejnik is one of the United States most in-demand instrumentalists and touring musicians. Most recently Jon has been on tour with The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, performing 220 dates over 48 weeks of touring, playing Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet, and Flute Past tours/acts include Bernadette Peters, Jazz drumset legend Jimmy Cobb, featured soloist with Princess Cruise Lines, Harlem River Noise, and the Broadway North American Tour of "My Fair Lady" As a multi-instrumentalist Jon plays, performs, and records on over 36 different woodwind instruments ranging from modern-day winds (saxophone, flute, clarinet, etc), to world folk instruments (Indian Bansuri, Bulgarian Kaval, Albanian Duduk, etc), all the way to Early Music winds (shawms, recorders, etc) Jon's playing has been lauded as having an abundance of creativity, being called "a musician's musician".
"When You Feel It Within", Steve Sholz (2012) [Sideman: Tenor Saxophone]
"Not All Who Wander Are Lost: a musical memoir", John Díaz-Cortés (2013) [Sideman: Clarinet]
"Irresponsible Days", Harlem River Noise (2018) [Sideman: Tenor Saxophone]
"Now Hear This!", Jon Olejnik & Aaron Krings (2020) [Leader: Tenor Saxophone/Clarinet]