A chat with Adrianne DeLanda: Musician and Teacher

What’s the life of a musician like during this day and age? Adrianne DeLanda of The Anniversary and Extra Classic shares her experience in both her professional musician world and her job as a San Francisco teacher.

Read on the ups and downs of touring across the country as well as the catharsis of teaching music to the next generation.

Recently, Matthew Chen (Founder & Editor in Chief) sat down in a Zoom meeting with Adrianne DeLanda to discuss her colorful music career.*

*This interview has been edited for clarity and length

What kind of art do you specialize in?

DeLanda: Music. Teaching and professional.

When did you start pursuing music and when did you decide that you were interested in it?

DeLanda: Well, music is part of my family. My grandmother was a musician. She raised her children, didn’t work, but she played organ at her church. That side of my family, my mom’s side, was musical. My dad’s side did athletic stuff, which I didn’t do. So, I started taking piano lessons  really young, then did voice lessons. I went to a performing arts magnet school for middle and high school. For a while, I majored in musicology, then I decided to go with music education and get my teaching license in Kansas. I moved to California and made it a teaching credential. I teach at SFUSD (San Francisco Unified School District) and also have been a professional musician on my own and with other artists. In high school and college, I did lessons and juries for classical, jazz and contemporary. I had choir, orchestra, and band. I played percussion and I was in a local department. I was in my first band was when I was 17 and up until I was about 22. We toured all over the United States and we were called The Anniversary. I played keyboard and sang in that band. After The Anniversary, I did a lot of stuff, collaborating with other musicians and playing in their bands and then, I did a solo album in 2007. Then, I met my husband and we started out band which is called Extra Classic. We are here based in San Francisco and we have a studio partly based in our house and partly at a place that we rent. 

My husband writes most of our songs. I wrote two; I’m a little less prolific. He writes wonderful songs. He plays bass, I play keyboard and sing. We have a guitarist, keyboardist, and a drummer and we’ve worked with lots of great musicians.

Q: What was your experience like teaching music and what made you want to work in education?

DeLanda: I went into music education and teaching initially to have a job that would support me and my family. I couldn’t have a better job than teaching elementary music. It’s amazing. I’ve really wanted to teach middle school, too so I can conduct a choir- I’ve been trained to study chorale choir, too. I’m getting my master’s right now at San Jose State in music education, so that’s been cool! I’m trying to get my conducting chops, as far as my teaching life goes because I was always behind a piano or guitar. Rarely did I stand and conduct. I was the accompanist and the teacher at the elementary school level.

Q: What is one of your favorite and least favorite things about your respective industries?

DeLanda: One of my favorite things is being a music teacher with different modalities where I get to teach instruments one day and general music another. 

For most students, I’m there K-5 with them, and we grow and we develop and that’s amazing: to grow and develop with your students.

What I’m doing with kids now is really fun and I think about the development and evolution of that. My progression was wanting to grow artistically and musically, and I still want to now. I’m in school still. So that’s my favorite thing, I learn something new every day and I hope I teach my students something new every day. 

Also, challenging in that is space. Rarely do I have a dedicated teaching room. Sometimes I do, I kind of have to fight for space in school. Now that we’re online, it’s actually going pretty well.

I’m focusing on what I can do, not what I can’t. That’s what one of my professors at San Jose State told me, Dr. Benson. 

I’m able to go to school, I’m able to teach school,we’re just doing it. But sometimes, at school, it’s a little harder with the environment with regards to being in a different place every day. 

Professionally, I have a lot of privileges, so I don’t have a lot to say about having a challenge. I’ve toured all over Europe and the United States, I’ve been to Japan, I’ve had a really exciting amount of opportunities. Being a female musician, there’s a little more to prove, but I’ve always tried to meet that challenge. So, mostly positive both professionally and in teaching- there’s always the ying and the yang, but as a teacher and musician, I feel very lucky. 

Q: What was your experience like touring?

DeLanda: Touring is amazing and also very grueling. It requires a different amount of energy for whatever level you are at. The level I was at was mostly playing in really small clubs and dining venues, and then I worked up to playing in bigger venues with different projects. So, touring has a wide range. The touring I did was in a van mostly, across the country. It took a lot of energy, dynamics of getting along with your bandmates on all sorts of levels, and hoping people come to your show. Right now, a lot of people aren’t touring, and people are saying, “Oh man, I would give anything to go back to playing in an empty club just to go back on the road and perform.” I wonder what it’ll be like if there’s a new “normal.” I think a lot of things will be outside now, which I think will be great. You know, focus on the things we can do, not what we can’t. So, touring does take a lot out of you, but it’s great, if you can keep yourself strong and healthy.

Q: What was a major setback in your artistic career and what would you say you learned from it?

DeLanda: Personally, I would say keeping myself healthy vocally. That’ another evolution, working on my physical health and keeping good posture. Good breathing, good tone, vocally being healthy. I can say that I know when I’m abusing my voice. Sometimes certain substances and lifestyles like being on tour. You’re up pretty late, sometimes you have to drive and be the only one awake. I’ve had periods where I’ve lost my voice and periods of laryngitis. 

Make sure you’re breathing, doing meditation, stretching, or doing yoga. Those things can help you as an artist. You’ve got to keep yourself healthy.

When I haven’t been, it’s made my job much harder, because when you’re not healthy, it also affects you mentally. You’ve got to really take care of your mental and physical health.

Q: What was your goal when you were younger and have you achieved that? Or what does that goal look like now?

DeLanda: When I was a teengaer, I think I loved being a musician. I didn’t take it too seriously- like, “Practice? Pfft, come on.” I just loved being a part of the ensembles and all the different activities. I was in choir, band, all the musicals, all-state band and choir; I loved that. I can say that having fun is important but also staying furious and focused. When I was a teenager I didn’t really have in mind what I wanted to be. I quit college for a few years to go on tour and I everyone in the band wanted that to be our job. Like, “I want to be a professional musician, I want to tour,” and I did that and it was amazing. But those things come in waves and phases. People will tell you now- the people that aren’t able to tour and that’s their full time job -that as a musician, you have to be pulling cards out of your deck. I would say, for a while I wanted to be a rockstar. Then I got to do that kind of life, and now I live in California with a mortgage and a family and a son. What’s cool is that now, I have a job that is amazingly, fruitfully musical and a wonderful band- I feel like I have it all. I feel really blessed. It’s all turned out great.

Q: What advice would you give to young people who are thinking of pursuing art as a career?

DeLanda: Go for it. Don’t limit your scope, you know, be open to anything and all experiences. Keep yourself healthy and safe. Explore, express, and be yourself. The sky’s the limit. I think us having to turn inward right now is giving us more time to learn about ourselves and see what we can do. I think you’re turning this into a great, positive experience with SWAYE. Keep the passion going.

You have intuition and will know when things aren’t right. You might even have to try things to see if they’re right or not, but find the right fit for you.

Explore, express, and be yourself. The sky’s the limit. I think us having to turn inward right now is giving us more time to learn about ourselves and see what we can do. I think you’re turning this into a great, positive experience with SWAYE. Keep the passion going.

Q: Is there anyone or anything that inspires you?

DeLanda: There’s so many of those things…one thing I can think of right now is my students, who are showing up to music class on Zoom with a positive attitude. They are ready to keep on learning, playing the recorder, and doing movement activities. We’re all doing what we can. I’m inspired by students. I learn so much from my interactions with my students. That’s a big inspiration for me right now.

 Extra Classic on stage at the beloved SF venue, Make-Out Room, photo by Justin Frahm

Find Adrianne’s K-5 music website here.

Extra Classic Socials:

Nopal Records

The Anniversary Socials:

Our Socials:

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