From TC to Joe’s Pub: Music Ed Students Play the City ☆

Since getting their undergraduate degrees at The New School, Christian Nourijanian and Dustin Kaufman have followed a similar trajectory in their career and educational paths.  Dustin recently graduated from Teachers College with a dual Master’s degree that pairs a jazz performance major from Manhattan School of Music (MSM) with a music education major from Teachers College. Christian is currently completing the same dual program. “Getting a Master’s in Jazz performance is great, but combining that with getting certified to teach K-12 is a really good combination to have,” says Dustin.

In addition to their educational pursuits, both Dustin and Christian are professional musicians. With Dustin on the drums and Christian on piano, the two of them play together in gigs around New York City. Recently, they played at Joe’s Pub, the popular downtown music venue at The Public Theater, with singer, Dawn Cantwell,, winner of The New York Musical Theater Festival’s Next Broadway Sensation. “Dawn is an extremely talented singer-songwriter and a very kind hearted, genuine person,” says Christian. “Those qualities come through in her music.”

Having a friend to “gig” with has proved to be helpful as artists in New York where the competition in the music business is fierce. “It’s such a big city and there are many musicians on one instrument that are amazing. It’s like everything in New York, you have to really hustle for everything you’re going to get,” says Dustin. In doing so, Dustin and Christian have cultivated a network of peers that they can count on. “It’s important, especially in NYC, to have a community,” says Christian. “A lot of my friends are guys that went to The New School or guys that graduated from the Master’s program at MSM…It’s good to have a small community of friends that you can trust or call for gigs because the City’s so big,” he says.

To make their mark, the two have also worked to expand their performance repertoires beyond jazz. “We’re both very versatile musicians,” says Christian. They play gospel music at a church on Sundays. “That gig alone has really prepared us for other types of music. Before that I mostly played jazz, but every week playing all these different gospel songs…it’s really prepared us for pop gigs and for being able to play with singers,” says Dustin.

While the frequency of their performing makes them unique in their Master’s program, it has proved challenging to juggle their music career with the rigors of grad school at TC. “That was one of the hardest parts of the program,” says Dustin. “Being musicians and having to deal with fulltime teaching and classes and gigging and rehearsals, it can get almost overwhelming.”

But the rewards they gain make the hard work worth it. “Playing music is one of the best things you can do,” says Christian. And their passion for performance inspires their teaching. Dustin loved the time he spent sharing his talents with the students at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) and Christian hopes to do his student teaching there as well. “I really enjoy inspiring children,” says Dustin. “When I can get a kid as excited about music as I am, I’ve accomplished my goal. And I enjoy showing children the music I enjoy. I’m passionate about performing and playing, and I teach better when it’s a subject I’m really passionate about,” he says. Christian enjoys sharing his knowledge with students, but that’s not the only perk of teaching, he says: “You learn from your students just as much as they learn from you.”