Risk, determination, knowledge, tenacity – Jordan (08) and Katrina (10) Frye know firsthand that pursuing a career in the arts take more than a degree and a bit of luck. That’s why they returned to their alma mater in April to share about their experiences with students. The Department of Art & Design and the Department of Music co-sponsored the event, which was entitled: “The Truth Behind a Sustainable Creative Practice.”
Katrina, a 2010 visual arts grad, launched indie music label Lauretta Records in 2020. Her previous experience includes founding company Mischief Managed in 2013 to offer management and marketing services for artists in all mediums as well as working in various nonprofit roles. In addition to her degree from PLNU, Katrina earned her master’s degree in arts management from Claremont Graduate University.
Jordan, whose degree is in philosophy/theology, released his first solo album, “Beautiful Wasteland,” in March 2022. It debuted at #10 on the iTunes Singer-Songwriter charts. He has also written songs for Grammy Award winner Zach Williams, alt-rock artists Royal & the Serpent, The Unlikely Candidates, Welshly Arms, Tyrone Wells, Kim Walker-Smith, and Mackenzie Bourg. Previously, as the front man of Urban Rescue, Jordan toured the globe with Hillsong United, Passion, Rend Collective, and Jesus Culture. He has produced and co-written more than 100 songs for television and film as well.
The Fryes’ impressive resumes come with a caveat—their paths haven’t been linear or easy. They have involved dedication, frustration, creativity, disappointment, and perseverance. These are realities they want students to understand so that they come to careers in the arts with their eyes open and their hearts and minds prepared.
“You can’t just quit when you experience failure; you have to use it for your advantage, grow, and try again.”
“Determination (stubbornness, really) is half the battle in the arts,” Jordan said. “I can’t tell you how many times I failed: hit some awful notes in front of thousands of people; got ripped to shreds on a blog or music review; wrote hundreds of songs that have never seen the light of day. But I keep going—keep pushing. You can’t just quit when you experience failure; you have to use it for your advantage, grow, and try again.”
Students in the arts and music may know that they need determination in the abstract, but seeing how that has played out for someone like Jordan can help them better understand the grit they will need.
Jordan also tried to help the students understand potential pitfalls that might undermine their confidence if they don’t strive to manage them.
“Comparison is where my heart goes to die,” said Jordan. “We live in a comparing world. All our social media outlets are literally designed to keep us comparing ourselves to one another. I find that when I go down that rabbit hole, I’m more sad, more depressed, more anxious. But when I can get off my phone for a day or two, write, create, just be – I’m more free to be me.”
Jordan’s dad was a drummer, and music has always been part of his life. Jordan’s love of music helps sustain him through the hard times. So do the victories along the way.
“I love when one of my songs get placed in television and film,” he said. “My proudest moment in music (so far) was having my song ‘Mine’ used in a commercial for the CDC during the pandemic. I wrote it for my son’s first birthday, and to see it used on national level, for such an important cause, was truly unforgettable.”
For Katrina’s part, her experience helps her understand both the challenges arts graduates may face in terms of finding sustainable, meaningful work and the practical knowledge that can help them address those challenges.
When Katrina graduated, most of her visual arts experience was in black and white photography. She didn’t enjoy wedding photography, so she turned to the nonprofit sector. Unfortunately, after jobs and internships at nonprofits including the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in San Diego, the Oceanside Museum of Art, and the AjA Project, Katrina felt stymied when it came to opportunities for advancement. That led to her return to school, earning her master’s in arts management.
Studying commerce, business law, and organizational strategy alongside the arts helped her understand more about how the industry works and how artists might be able to thrive. After several more jobs, this time in Los Angeles, Katrina took the risk and launched her company Mischief Managed.
“Can I show artists what it takes?” she wondered. “Are they willing to do it? Are they willing to show up?”
Although not everyone she worked with put into practice what she shared with them, “I feel like I gave a lot of artists a lot of tools,” she said.
Now with Lauretta Records, Katrina is enjoying helping a new group of artists strive to achieve their dreams.
“I’m loving the a-ha moments with our artists, seeing them see a project all the way through,” she said.
“The number one challenge is money,” she explained. “Starting a record company is kind of like high stakes poker or chess. It’s a long, strategic process.”
Katrina is more well-equipped now to deal with the challenges of running her business because she understands so much more about her industry and what goes on behind the scenes. Her own experience is why coming to speak with students is part of her passion.
“Artists need to not just rely on their art, but on their business acumen,” she said. “They need to be savvy about markets, current events, social activism. This is a time of renaissance, but it’s only going to be fruitful and economical for those who really apply themselves.”