We had the good fortune of connecting with Brandon Kunka and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Brandon, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Creating a job title that doesn’t necessarily exist is always going to have its ups and downs. Being a freelancer really means that you are wearing five to six hats at any given moment. At first, the biggest challenge was to pay rent and put food on the table, so you will take any and every opportunity that comes your way. However, once I got established being a full time percussion director, full time performer, having a private lessons studio, amongst other things, I began to realize that there are only 24 hours in a day, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. I got caught in the issue of wanting to still be involved in everything that was important to me, but struggling with being able to do them all at the level that I expected from myself. Prioritizing and learning to turn down certain opportunities without fear of never getting called again was a hard lesson to learn, but one that has allowed me to truly dedicate myself to the things I care about most and give it my all. I am still involved in many facets of the music industry, but without the burnout that can accompany it.

In addition to that, it has allowed me to take up different hobbies for which I previously did not allot time. I’ve recently gotten back into swimming as a form of exercise and as a way to clear my head. While that doesn’t necessarily check off an hour of ‘work’, it does allow me to spend the hours that I *AM* working in a much more productive manner because I’ve taken the time for myself before I sit down. At night, I’ve spent more time decompressing than trying to finish that final task of the day – most things can wait until tomorrow. Just implementing the mindset of taking a little time for myself at the beginning and end of each day has helped not only my work-life balance immensely, but my productivity and general well-being.

What should our readers know about your business?
My business (Backbeat Productions, LLC) was officially started in June of 2012, but I was working for years before that as an individual. Backbeat Productions is the umbrella that I run all of my endeavors through: teaching, performing, composing, recording, etc, and it was the easiest way to have a one-stop shop for everything that I offer. One of the biggest things that I bring to the table is diversity. From an education standpoint, I am able to teach marching and concert percussion, drum set, guitar, bass, and composition, all on a one-on-one and group basis. As a result, I have been lucky enough to have such opportunities as conducting a percussion ensemble at the Georgia Music Educators Association State Conference, directing and assisting with winter marching percussion programs that have been regionally and nationally successful, and taking a jazz ensemble to perform at the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Most recently, I have co-founded a non-profit high school honors percussion ensemble called The Atlanta Youth Percussion Ensemble, which is in the middle of its inaugural season and will have its first concert in Mid-May. As a performer, I have been able to perform with many artists such as Evanescence and Sarah McLachlan, open for Incubus, and go on a concert tour of China with the Hollywood Concert Orchestra. I also am working for the Atlanta Wedding Band as a frontman, and founded various tribute acts such as Stone Tribute Pilots (Stone Temple Pilots tribute).

From a business standpoint, I am able to cater to my clients’ needs from any angle. Whether or not they’re looking for a solo guitarist, a jazz combo, a rock cover band, a wedding band, or even a tribute band, I can put it together between myself and the wonderful musicians I am able to play with, and know that those clients will get a top-notch performance every single time. I also am confident in my abilities as a teacher to be able to bring out the best in my students no matter the age, not only musically but from wisdom of life lessons. I recently have devoted most of my time to my private lessons studio, which will have it’s thirteenth studio solo recital this May, bringing students from various middle and high schools together to share the hard work they have put into solo literature. One of the silver linings of the Covid pandemic was to get a home studio up and running, which has helped me land jobs writing music for commercials and recording music for other musicians in the area. I think it is very important to never stop learning and honing your craft, and there are always opportunities to improve yourself and learn new trades within your profession.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is a hard question!! Metro Atlanta is such a beautiful place, with so much to offer; really you could satisfy just about anyone! If it were in the winter, the Atlanta Botanical Garden Holiday Lights are a must-see. I’ve always been a sucker for the Georgia Aquarium for those who haven’t already been. The High always has some GREAT art exhibits. Kennesaw Mountain is always a good hike, and don’t forget about Piedmont Park! For food/drink, I could go on forever, but some of my favorites are The Whiskey Project in Roswell, Sushi nobo in Smyrna, Southern Belle in midtown, and too many Mexican restaurants to list.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The person I would like to dedicate my shoutout to would be, without question, my wife. Not only is she a nationally recognized band director and phenomenal musician, but she is also the most genuine and supportive person I have ever met. Now that I do freelancing full time, she always helps me keep my head up if things are getting tough (which helped immensely at the beginning of Covid), is there for me to bounce ideas off of (“listen to this song and tell me what you think!”, “would this business model work in the real world?”, etc.), and helps me keep perspective no matter what the situation. She is my rock, and I would not be where I am currently without her.

Website: www.backbeatatl.com

Instagram: @backbeatproductionsatl

Facebook: www.facebook.com/backbeatproductionsatl

Image Credits
Andrew Burn

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