Alumni Spotlight: Peter Katz Theatre ‘04, Recording Artist, Juno Nominee 2012 JUNO Nominee and winner of the CBC Galaxie Rising Star Award, Peter Katz will be back on campus headlining the Gould Street Party on Oct. 18. In this Alumni spotlight, Peter reflects on his time at Ryerson and shares some great career advice for students.
How are you involved with the Gould St. Party?
I’m playing a show, I’ll be doing a set of originals as a duo with one of my band members Karen Kosowski.
What are you most looking forward to during Alumni Weekend?
I always enjoy playing, and more than that, will be nice to hopefully reconnect with classmates that I haven’t seen in a while.
What did you study at Ryerson and what year did you graduate?
Theatre Performance, class of 2004.
What made you choose that program?
At the time, I thought that acting was my calling and after doing a lot of research, Ryerson came up as one of the best options in the country to study theatre. Also, after auditioning at a few places, there was something in my gut that felt right being in the Ryerson building, in Toronto, just felt like the place I needed to be.
What do you do now?
I’m still a performer, but now I make my living as a singer-songwriter, touring rather perpetually, playing live for people and releasing albums.
What personal qualities/attributes are important in your job?
I think you have to learn a wide range of skills in order to survive in the music/entertainment business. Beyond the fundamentals of learning your craft and getting as good at it as you possibly can, which is a must-do at all times, you also have to learn how to market yourself, how to properly manage a business and how to reach your audience. Over the past 10 years, I’ve had to do everything from build webpages, write press-releases, coordinate international tours, write grant proposals, do extensive budgeting, create business plans, hire all kinds of band members, producers, publicists, managers, agents, etc. You need to be able to manage all of these people, keep them inspired, working towards the same vision, and at the end of the day, no one is going to care about it as much as you do, so you need to keep the ball in the air no matter what. I guess people skills are a fundamental quality that you need to be good at, a heavy amount of relentlessness is required too, you get knocked down a LOT, you have to believe in what you’re doing enough to pick yourself up and keep going. I think you need to be a passionate person too, almost to the point of foolishness, it doesn’t always make sense, it often doesn’t make sense, but you do it anyway because you love it and you believe in it.
What special advice would you give to a student entering this field?
Focus on the work, as in the artistic output. I think I focused on the business side too early and my product wasn’t ready yet, I had to play a bit of catch-up. Make something GREAT, put all your energy into that, everything will be easier if you do that. Once you have something great, then you can start to worry about the other things I talked about, but they will all come easier with quality work that people actually want and love.
What is the most important thing you took away from your experience at Ryerson?
The list of things I learned at Ryerson is incredibly long, and I use the skills that I acquired every day of my life. If I had to pick, I could narrow it down to two things that were a big part of my education at Ryerson and that my teachers drilled into me: 1. Be open to the impulses that come to you, if the set falls down, use it, don’t ignore it, we all saw it happen. 2. Make your own work, put yourself in the role of employer, don’t wait by the phone.
Is there anything you wish they taught you at Ryerson?
I could have used a class on tax-filing for artists, took me a few years to get a handle on that, would have loved an actual course vs the crash course I had to take out in the real world.
How do you stay motivated?
I love the work. I love writing songs, and I love playing them for people even more. I’d drive through any snowstorm, sleep on any floor, suffer through any bout of self-doubt and banging my head against the wall, for that moment where I get to do my thing and have my songs connect with people. It’s an addiction, it’s an existence, it’s what makes me me, it never gets old.
What, in your opinion, are the keys to success?
In my business, a big part of it really is just being the last person standing. There are plenty of good reasons, a long list of them, every day, to give up and pick another path. So many great artists that I’ve come across over the years have given up, and I don’t blame them at all, life is complicated, everyone’s got their own variables to contend with, we do what we have to do. But if this is the only thing in the world for you, if it’s what you MUST do to be happy, then don’t give up, just keep going at all costs. And make sure while you’re going, that you focus on the thing that really matters, the core of what it is you do. There’s so much peripheral stuff we can focus on or spend our time on, but the meat of it, that’s the part that matters. No matter what career path you’re on, understanding what it is you’re actually doing, having a vision for where it should be heading, and being open to unexpected turns that could lead to something even better than you imagined, those are keys to success in my books, or at least to surviving while doing what you love. Success is a tricky word in my mind, it’s highly subjective.
Do you have any final advice for students?
Be nice to people along the way. It’s a basic rule of life, but having been in this line of work for 10 years, I’ve seen that treating people well comes around, I’ve seen it time and time again. Be on time, be hard-working, show people that you’re trying your best, treat them with respect, every person, not just the people you think are ‘important’. The world is not static, everything is always changing, people’s roles and positions on the ‘ladder’ will change, sometimes dramatically, so being nice to people along the way is always good business practice, and it’s just good life practice too. Catch Peter’s show at the Gould Street Party on Oct. 18th! Think what you’ve got it takes to be on the Gould Street Party stage, too? Audition for Ryerson’s Got Talent! Deadline extended to SEPTEMBER 14th.