We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Rorrer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, how do you think about risk?
Without taking countless risks, I would have never decided to pursue music professionally in the first place. Some very skilled artists don’t prefer to rely on their music-making to support themselves financially. For me, to take the music to the level of focus that I feel I am capable of, I needed to make it my day job so that I could be immersed in it. I decided to pursue a Master of Music in Cello Performance at California State University, Long Beach, so I could be better prepared for a music career and receive networking and collaborative opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered out in the world.
When COVID-19 first hit the states, I temporarily moved home to Oregon from Long Beach to finish up my degree program. In August 2020, I made the relatively risky decision to move back down to continue what I had started in Southern California, with the pandemic still in full swing. I found some session work and teaching jobs that allowed me to stay down here and continue my musical ventures as genuinely as possible despite the situation. It was still not easy – I felt like I was starting all over again, and still sometimes do. Reentering the music world post-masters amid COVID required resilience and resourcefulness that I didn’t know I had. Now, in June 2021, I have never in my life been as grateful for the freelance gig opportunities returning and the opportunity to play music with and for people in person.
One more critical piece about risks has been to ask people for help, network, and be willing to be vulnerable in the spirit of wanting to grow from experiences in my life and career. I have learned that if I want something, I must get out of my way and not let my negative thoughts or perfectionism keep me from starting and finishing a project. Some people might think I’m too persistent, ask too many questions, or put myself out there for possible rejection too much, but that doesn’t get in my way. I have found that in any given season, I am led to the right people to build community, make music, and do life with. I have found I just have to ask musicians I am inspired by, and oftentimes they are more than willing to help with offering advice, mentorship, or even potential work opportunities! In L.A., most freelance recording and performing gigs are not going to be listed on Indeed, Craigslist, or Facebook. These opportunities usually come by referral and/or the professional network one has intentionally developed.
I enjoy every part of the music-making and gigging process and make as many connections as possible. It is sometimes scary to reach out, but I know that will separate you from the people who are unwilling to do so. Sometimes I absolutely have to “fake it until I make it” and/or stare imposter syndrome square in the face. I do my best to keep in touch with those contacts, and then really be confident, overprepared, and go all-out when I perform, collaborate, or record!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a multi-instrumentalist, composer, recording artist/session musician, and educator. While the bulk of my formal training is on the cello, I play guitar, piano, and sing professionally as well. I can play any musical style and I dive deep into the emotion or vibe of any music I play. Along my musical adventure, I have sought out mentors and have been disciplined in collecting the knowledge and experience I need to make art in the most genuine way I know how. Collaborating with other musicians at a high level and mentoring dedicated aspiring artists is what gives me the most joy.
I have learned that it is not just okay to be different, but it is something that I should celebrate about myself. Instead of repeating stories in my head about how I’m not where I want to be or how everyone else seems to have it “figured out,” I have learned how important it is to focus and do what fills my cup and gives me joy, which consequently has other people in my life feeling more permission to be themselves and express the beauty inside of them.
Many people don’t realize how athletic a pursuit that music is, and the high level of organization, toughness, and interpersonal skills required to succeed. My schedule is variable, and the lack of a consistent rhythm can sometimes be challenging. Playing musical instruments, especially the cello, requires a large amount of repetitive movement, and the strain caused by long periods of practicing and performing must be reversed and mitigated by proper technique and physical, emotional, and spiritual self-awareness.
As probably many people in the entertainment industry can relate to, it is almost inevitable that one will face countless “rejections.” This process can take years. I take comfort in the saying that “rejection is God’s protection.” If life just handed you what you think you wanted each time, it might not be good for you in the long run. I have realized how imperative it is to think long-term instead of focusing on instant gratification, self-pity, or seemingly insurmountable challenges (they never are). It is also key to know when to say no or walk away from a situation that isn’t serving you.
It is my mission to make the world a brighter place, create unity, and inspire others in the work I do. I realize I won’t be everyone’s friend and that’s okay. I just strive to put my best foot forward, keep learning, growing, and glorifying God in everything I do.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
When I pick up a friend from LAX, we are already so close to the beaches! There is seldom an inopportune time to visit the beaches here. The Redondo Beach pier is a funky gem, and I also absolutely love the marinas. When I need an escape and a small-town feel I go to the Fisherman’s Village in Marina Del Rey. When indoor concerts open back up I would take a friend on a tour of music venues in Silverlake, Echo Park, and Highland Park to get our dance on to some of my favorite local Indie Pop acts. As far as nature goes, I would take us to Franklin Canyon Park north of Beverly Hills, Carbon Canyon Park in Brea, and El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach. I would check out the art galleries in Laguna Beach, saying hi of course to my friends at Brasa Gallery. I sometimes perform in their space alongside the beautiful artwork! Speaking of galleries, I would also make sure we check out the DTLA Arts District and grab a cup of flavorful coffee and people watch while we’re at it. As far as the culinary scene goes, I would have us check out the Steelcraft food court nearby and go up to Monterey Park for some authentic Chinese food. Wow, writing down this itinerary makes me glad I have stuck it out in Southern California, but it also makes me recognize I want to carve out more time so I can enjoy these wonders more often!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to recognize my mom and dad! I wouldn’t be where I am without them and the highly musical and creative environment they fostered for me growing up. My mom is a wonderful musician herself and plays organ (in Oregon!) and piano. I was blessed with lessons, instruments, and resources growing up to learn my musical fundamentals and make some of my fondest memories along the way! In my teaching, I seek to give back these blessings. My folks were supportive when I decided to switch from a public health-oriented field to just music. They have honored my decisions to move back and forth from Oregon and California as I have discerned where I am called career and education-wise. I have indeed cycled through a myriad of jobs to support myself during transitions. None of these pivots came without struggles! I want to lift up my mom for chatting with me on the phone and counseling me through health, relationship, and life hardships as I’ve tried to stick to achieving what I know I’m on this Earth to do! I openly admit to sometimes becoming overly dramatic or defeated and my mom has truly been an angel through everything. My sister Julie also deserves a shoutout! Her artwork can be found on several covers of my albums and singles. She is incredibly thoughtful and I often go to her for encouragement as well.