Teacher Spotlight: Comedy Music on Life, Love, and Unicorns

Combining comedy with music can be a tricky art. If you do it right, however, you wind up with a tune that’s both catchy and hilarious. New York teacher Jessica D. works in the comedy music genre, crafting songs that showcase both her musical chops and her sharp sense of humor. We had a chance to pick Jessica’s brain about her influences, booking gigs in New York, and some exciting projects she has coming up. Check out our exclusive interview with Jessica…

1) What inspired you to be a comedy musician and how do you come up with your material?
My family is very musical and very funny, and I’m a wild spirit that won’t be tied down to only one genre! Some of my early inspirations were The Dr. Demento Show, Roseanne Barr, Joni Mitchell, They Might Be Giants, and mythological creatures. I put those muses into the ol’ brain blender, hit purée and comedy music is what came out. How I write material is a whole other thing. My grandfather, a big influence, was a ribald sailor in the Navy and my large Italian, blunt-speaking and free-thinking family have a lot to do with my point of view – which is frank, silly, and earnest about topics such as life, love and unicorns. Plus, it’s easy to find things to write about in a city like New York.

2) You stay very active in the New York music scene. What is your advice to students for finding gigs, networking, and getting their name out there?
For finding gigs, I suggest performing at open mics or small showcases and making comrades that way. Also, creating your own showcase is a great way to trade sets and develop your network and community. Cautiously perusing Craigslist, Mandy, Backstage, and online forums on music sites or blogs can be ok, too. I spent several years busking in the subways, and though I fully recommend a good shower afterwards, it’s a great chance to get paid to practice. But most importantly, work on honing your craft and sharing it in creative ways, and you’ll attract gigs that way. I also recommend getting off the beaten path and doing unusual and fun spectacles which will get you noticed.  I once put on a show in a “fake cemetery” I made with some friends at midnight on a Saturday around Halloween, and 100 people came. I believe that people appreciate something unusual or unexpected from creative types.

3) How did you get started as a musician/performer/teacher? What did/does your career path look like?
I got started as a musician at 5, when I’d smack down the keys of my grandmother’s grand piano, watch my mom, uncle, and aunt do their band rehearsals, and listen and sing to my uncle’s records. Later, I taught myself to play guitar at age 15. At first, music was an escape from boredom in a house full of instruments. But I found I had a knack for it. I became a performer when I moved to NYC after college and started hanging around clubs and open mics seven nights a week to try out my songs and material. I started teaching after eight years of performing, when I got sick of touring. I missed being around my friends and family. Teaching allowed me to stay closer to home, and put an instrument in my hands for several hours a day. I still perform a lot.  I’m working toward developing my own TV show, and I work with a group of comedy musicians to produce the Annual NY Funny Songs Festival. This year it’s May 30-June 2.

4) How does your active performing schedule help your teaching?
I’m always meeting people at shows who want to learn, and I get referred a lot by people who saw me here or there. My students are great, because they come to my shows and tell people I’m their teacher. They’re like my little agents. I should give them a cut!

Learn more the 2nd Annual NY Funny Songs Fest here!



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Jessica D. teaches guitar, music performance, music recording, ukulele, songwriting and singing Lessons in New York, NY. She has been teaching for 10 years and joined the TakeLessons Team in September 2009. Learn more about Jessica or search for a teacher near you! 

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