My Path Hasn’t Really Been A Straight Line (Maybe It Was Always Designed That Way) – Eric Yates | Ep. 52




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This week on the podcast, we have another installment of “Freeway Philharmonic”. This episode features Eric Yates, associate professor of trumpet at the University of Alabama. Eric plays with the Alabama Symphony frequently as well, and we have developed a good friendship over the years.

Before teaching at UA, Eric had an active freelance career in the Chicago area, so I thought he would make a great interview for all of us to be able to learn from. From freelancing to teaching to traveling the world performing, Eric has done a lot. Here are some highlights from his interview:

Your Career Doesn’t Have To Be A Straight Line

At the beginning of his episode, Eric talked about how his career path has not resembled a straight line at all. For some, the path is clear, but for him, it took some time for him to find his way. He says something that I think is very important to remember about any life endeavor, let alone our music careers. Here’s his words:

“The path to get there (UA) was not direct like it is for most people in our business. Where you end up or happen to be at any given time is not necessarily what you might expect. But if you’re intelligent about the way you take each step at any point in your career, you can always look back to the past and see that everything seems to connect in a way that’s very logical and seems as though it was designed that way.”

There Are Reasons To Say No To A Gig

This is very dependent on where you are in your freelancing career, but Eric and I discussed whether or not you can say “no” to a gig. I mentioned that I’ve been taught if you are available, you should always say “yes” to a gig. When you’re first starting out, this will definitely be true.

As you get further into your career however, and you get busier with freelancing and possibly a family or a more stable job, things change. Here’s how Eric describes it:

“Once you are older, you have a family, and you have other responsibilities.. Maybe you’re starting to notice certain times during the year you’re spread a little too thin — you might start to notice there are certain things you need that you’re neglecting. By saying no, it might just be for your rest or your state of mind. Just mental health.”

Knowing when it’s time to say no will be personal, but it’s important for all musicians to know that our physical and mental health are important too. If you’re in a position where you can prioritize these things, count your blessings and take advantage.

Amazing Opportunities Are Never Created Alone

Eric’s relationship with another trumpet player named Brad Ulrich offered him the opportunity to go to Russia in 2009 and perform with Fortress Brass. He has been able to enjoy numerous trips to perform over the years, both in the quintet and as a soloist. He is quick to point out that none of those experiences would have been possible without the help of other players and even the University of Alabama.
“We don’t ever create opportunities to do amazing things completely by ourselves. It’s more about who you know that cares enough to bring you in on something they are doing, or sharing some connections they have. I think anyone in the music business would be able to think for just a moment and come up with several names of people who have affected them in that way.”

Contact –

Eric’s email –

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Until next time,


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