Music to tweet about: Professor uses social media to share his talents
By Taylor Reeves
On a breezy Thursday afternoon, Monty Craig assembles various wires, amplifiers and microphones on the dining patio at Seasons by the Lake restaurant, where he and an accompanying jazz ensemble hold weekly performances. Craig’s friendly personality and musical talents are familiar not only to audiences at local performance venues like Seasons, but also to students in Clemson classrooms, where he integrates technology and business skills to teach the craft he loves.
A Greenville native, Craig studied music at the University of South Carolina and the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After a 10-year stint in the military, he began teaching at Clemson in 2006. Craig has taught introductory courses to music and guitar as well as more advanced jazz courses for experienced students. He also works with a jazz summer camp in Greenville.
Craig’s instruction is augmented by his extensive background in the music industry. He is the director and arranger for Alma de Candela, one of South Carolina’s premier Orquesta Latina that features musicians from Cuba, Columbia and Puerto Rico. He is the chief writer/director for FunkShua, a modern jazz/fusion ensemble that tours the Southeast, and he is a member of Professor Trio, a group that plays classic jazz, and rhythm and blues. Craig is also the director of the Monday Night Jazz Series at The Handlebar in Greenville. In addition to these engagements, Craig plays at local weddings and events in the Upstate.
To manage and promote his various endeavors, Craig has become a prolific user of social media and developing technologies, and he hopes to equip his students with professional skills that will allow them to succeed in the industry. In addition to managing his own website, Craig posts performance videos and guitar lessons on his YouTube channel and Twitter account.
“I’ve been a computer geek forever, so I jumped on the social media bandwagon from the very beginning,” he said. “YouTube has become a really effective tool for musicians, and it’s a great way for me to connect with my students by offering extra help outside of the classroom.”
Craig’s penchant for technology has garnered him national attention. Onlinedegrees.com recently recognized him as one of the nation’s most influential music professors on Twitter. The 50 music professors named to the list were chosen based on college affiliation and the number of quality tweets each professor produced. Craig has more than 2,500 Twitter followers to whom he tweets regularly about upcoming shows and new videos he has posted.
“I thought Twitter would be a great way to connect with the wedding industry,” Craig said. “Planners and vendors advertise themselves on Twitter, so as a performer, I thought I could gain a valuable following through the site.”
Craig also uses social media to recruit musicians to participate in ensemble performances. While he typically hires professional musicians, he has also given some of his students the opportunity to perform at local clubs and venues in order to establish professional networks and performance experience.
“With my students, I try to instill the importance of the business aspects of the music industry,” he said. “You definitely have to be able to play well, but it’s just as important for my students to know how to make their own websites, create quality videos, generate budgets and spreadsheets and effectively market the skills they’ve worked hard to cultivate.”
In addition to helping him impart valuable business skills, social media has allowed Craig to connect with his students beyond the classroom. For example, he and his jazz combo students created a Facebook page to share their ideas and performances with one another.
“Technology has ultimately given me a better connection with my students and has helped me become a better performer,” said Craig. “I have enjoyed teaching my students the skills I’ve developed and watching them grow as musicians.”
Craig performs every Thursday evening with the Clemson Jazz Combo from 6-8:30 p.m. at Seasons By the Lake restaurant, located at the Madren Conference Center.