Aussie Musos Offer Their Best Advice For Balancing Uni & Your Creative Pursuits

Balancing uni with the rest of your life is already one heck of a juggling act.

You’ve already got your day job, a full-on social calendar, family commitments, fitness, probably a relationship (go you, casanova!) and that pesky little thing we all have to do every night called sleep to cram into your daily routine. That’s on top of a seemingly bottomless truckload of assignments (I swear I still have nightmares that I’ve got essays overdue. And I’ve been out of uni for more than three years now).

So chuck in the added stress of scheduling creative pursuits — like, say, playing in a touring band — and you’ve got yourself a dangerous recipe for dropping the ball.

juggle fail

… if not getting crushed under the weight of it all.

First, it’s important to remember that most normal humans don’t have to worry about squeezing in time for things like musical endeavours, and such artistically bankrupt plebs will have little to no empathy for your struggles. Unit 1: forget them. You don’t need to explain why playing/writing/photographing music is important to you, and if someone doesn’t understand it then they can…

get out

Now, to fit music into your already chock-a-block itinerary, you’re going to have to prioritise it over other things, which means occasionally telling people no, and being prepared for the possibility that some of them might not understand. Whether that translates to turning down an extra shift at work because you’re playing a gig the night before and need the extra time to focus on uni (or sleep), or else saying no to another drink at the gig so you don’t screw up tomorrow’s exam, it’s all about being organised, prioritised and unapologetically so. That’s Unit 2.

Unit 3: don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s great to get the HD but don’t drag your ass over the coals if you end up falling short. As long as you score a passing grade and manage to keep all your commitments in balance without having a deadset nervous breakdown, then you’ve earned yourself a HD in life, champ.

f for fantastic

Unit 4: If you’re having a hard time, ask for help. Your uni will have support services available for students who find themselves struggling to cope. That’s what they’re there for, so use them, gosh darn-it. And in the meantime, you should re-examine everything that’s on your plate and see if there’s anything that can be shifted or removed accordingly to – as Farnesy would say – take the pressure down.

But seriously, most lecturers are very caring, reasonable humans who are only too happy to grant you extensions on projects, as long as you communicate with them about what’s going on.

As an added FYI, it also helps to make sure your band doesn’t schedule tours around exam time. Obviously, it can’t always be helped, but avoid it if you can.

That’s all from me, now over to some guest lecturers.

Name: Jake Stone

Band: Ex-Bluejuice vocalist & current solo artist

Studied: Media Production

jake stone press pic

“I was always terrible at balancing study against all the creative stuff i wanted to do. So instead, I just DIDN’T study, and did only the creative stuff. Which is why I’m currently complaining to my friend on Facebook that I live with my parents, and am barely employed. Don’t get me wrong, I did a very good job of the creative stuff, like comedy and sketches, and writing things, and making music.

“But I would have been better to spend the same amount of time on the core, boring elements of what I needed to do at uni, so I could get a slightly more lucrative job between creative work. As it was, i bartended and worked as a journalist. That was a good choice! But it meant that, once the band was playing consistently and I quit work, re-entering the workforce was always going to be fairly difficult. Having said that, if you are passionate about something, it’s okay to be completely absorbed by it. What else can you do? You have to follow your heart.

“My advice would be to just do the boring stuff with as much energy and passion as you do the exciting stuff, because it’s your ability to do the boring stuff AS WELL that differentiates you from the pack of creatives.”

Name: Josh Smith

Band: Northlane

Studied: Marketing/Economics

josh-northlane 2

Photo Credit: Neal Walters

“I personally found University really difficult because all of my creative energy was focused on my musical pursuits. I think the most important thing I did was to set aside specific time for when I’d be focusing on music, otherwise I’d just play guitar all day and do all my work at the very last minute.

“If you have regimented days you’re more likely to stay on top of your workload. It’s important to not lose sight of why you are studying and equally important to not let opportunities pass you by in your creative pursuits because of your studies. Uni can always wait if your career calls for it.”

Name: Luke Liang

Bands: ex-Papa Vs Pretty, Guy Sebastian, Jarryd James, Nicole Millar, Asta, Japanese Wallpaper, Joy., Jack River & more

Studied: Law

luke liang 2

Photo Credit: Josh Ludlow

“While exams and gigs can’t be moved, ask for help with things that can be. If a test comes up the morning after a scheduled rehearsal, see if you can rehearse some other time. If you’re going to be on tour when an assignment is due, apply for an extension.

“Also, make the most of the time you have — if you’re going to be stuck at an airport for a few hours, bring some study materials. That said, listen to what your mind and body need. If you need to rest during those hours instead, do it! You’ll be more productive later on.”


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