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[SZ] From hobby to career for expat musicians in city

2015-June-4       Source: Szdaily.com

After singing and playing the guitar like he had in the training center — and like he had countless times in friends' homes in Arizona, U.S. — he was offered a job playing once a week.


Daniel de La Huerta was playing a guitar and singing in the lounge of an English training center, where he taught last year, when an adult student approached him and said she was a partner at a popular OCT jazz bar — Penny Black.

"[The student] said, ‘why don't you come down and meet the manager and maybe you could sing,'" said de la Huerta.

After singing and playing the guitar like he had in the training center — and like he had countless times in friends' homes in Arizona, U.S. — he was offered a job playing once a week.

De la Huerta is one of a growing group of foreigners in Shenzhen who have found that their ability to play music — more or less normal in America — can mean a new career in Shenzhen.

By playing most nights each week a foreign musician can earn between 15,000 yuan (US$2,420) and 24,000 yuan a month.

Rue Moyer, 31, from Pennsylvania in the U.S., lived in Shenzhen for eight years and played music for a living for the past four years. Along with his Chinese wife, he ran two websites related to music in Shenzhen.

According to Moyer, de la Huerta's story isn't unusual.

"I don't think good musicians come to Shenzhen for music, they come here for other reasons," said Moyer, who himself came to Shenzhen to teach English. "But in Shenzhen … there's a shortage of musicians to meet the demand for music."

When Adrian Blackstock, 28, of Virginia, U.S., arrived in Shenzhen in 2012 to teach, he was offered a job playing the drums in the first month.

Blackstock said he enjoys playing at business openings and sales events.

"These are corporations, businesses, sometimes the government," said Blackstock. "The money is better (than playing at a bar)."

"Maybe in the U.S. I was playing once or twice a month, now I'm playing once or twice a week," he said.

The demand for musicians, especially in Futian, has increased by 200 percent over the last two years, estimates David Garzotto, who runs shenzhenstuff.com, an English-language website promoting events in Shenzhen.

He said that the demand for foreign musicians is directly tied to the number of Western-style bars opening in Shenzhen.

A Chinese bar resembles a Western nightclub, where live music does not fit well.

A Western-style bar is more like a restaurant: meals are served, the lights are on and excessive drinking is discouraged. But here's the point: Western customers expect live music a few nights a week.

Despite all the opportunity, the musicians do face problems. It's difficult to keep a band together because foreigners don't usually stay in Shenzhen for long.

"The hardest part is that people leave," said Blackstock. "Rue (Moyer) is one of the main reasons there is music here."

After eight years in Shenzhen, Moyer has returned to the U.S. His "goodbye" show was held at The Village Bar and Grill in Shekou on May 24. Nearly every seat was filled, and some of Shenzhen's best musicians took to the stage.

"After everything I've done here and after all the uncertainty I lived with for eight years — I'm really interested now in having certainty," said Moyer who is now joining the United States Air Force.

"The musicians are here and they are going to keep coming."

Editor: Chan

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