Hello everyone, my name is Charlie Walkich, I’m a Ukrainian-American business owner and music composer and in this video I would like to share a little bit of my story of how and why I came to the U.S., as well my new music video for a new piece that I wrote for piano, bass and drums specifically for my 10 year anniversary of living in the United States. We’ll first start with the story followed by the music piece and ending with the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding my music.
So, when I was growing up in Ukraine, which a beautiful county, despite that, I was always crazy about everything that had to with the United States. I loved a lot of American music, movies, cars, humor, culture, business values, etc. Back in Eastern Europe, I heard some people say “well, Americans are fat and stupid”. And, having lived here for about a decade, I can tell you with confidence, it couldn’t be further from the truth. There are all kinds of people everywhere.
Anyway, I was a having a pretty good life in Ukraine, I studied music business and was getting a full scholarship, I played in several different music bands, had a couple of decent part-time jobs related to my major. Also I had a few really good close friends not to mention my lovely family so, to make a long story short, I’d say I had a lot to give up. And, despite all that, I still felt that I didn’t fully belong in Ukraine for many different reasons so I started aggressively learning English and saving up for my trip and, as soon as I turned 18, I joined a program that allowed to come the U.S.
I landed in New York in 2010. I had only a few hours before my flight to San Diego so I could only choose pretty much one place to visit. At the time I was a huge of fan mid and late 70s American Disco, which is a pretty sophisticated music genre, a mix of Jazz, Funk, Soul, R&B, Classical, House and other styles oftentimes recorded with a whole live orchestra and state-of-the art synthesizers. So I was fascinated by it all and the first place I went to was the 54th street in Manhattan where a notoriously famous Studio 54 nightclub used to be located. It was known for all the disco music that played inside, very high end clientele and people waiting for hours or days to get inside. Studio 54 got shut down for not playing taxes and all the sex and drugs going on inside but it was definitely a special feeling standing on that street and looking at that building, not to mention riding NYC subway for the first time, looking at all the skyscrapers, smelling those street hot dogs and so on.
Later that day I landed in San Diego, California. At that time smartphones weren’t popular or affordable so I asked around for cheap hostels and a cab driver took me to a place in Downtown where I stayed my first night. I remember laying in my bed and looking at the ceiling fan while being too excited to fall sleep. Here I was, finally in the United States, after so many years of dreaming about it. At the time I had no idea how many challenges I would have to face so I was just being an innocent hopeless romantic.
During the next few days, I found out that a temporary job I was supposed to have was rather a scam so I had to look for another one. It was the middle of a recession so the unemployment rate was very high and even many American people couldn’t find work, not to mention someone who just got here from a totally different world. All I had was $400 in my pocket and the American dream, no family, no friends, no connections, no job, no place to live and no credit history. To say the least, it was a pretty big change.
My parents tried to help me but it was very tough because of the currency difference. What’s considered a decent amount of money in Ukraine is pennies in the United States. So I spent every day looking for work, moving multiple times from one terrible place to another and learning all I could along the way, of course.
One day I was walking on 5th Avenue in Downtown and I saw two well-dressed gentlemen standing next to a couple of expensive cars speaking in Russian, which is my second language after Ukrainian. I was really shy at the time but I was desperate to the point that I decided to approach them and politely ask for advice. I said something like: “Excuse me guys, I’m terribly sorry for interrupting your conversation, I recently came from Ukraine and really would like to stay but I’m having a very hard time finding a job. Would you be kind enough as to pointing me in the right direction? And they asked me: “What do you know and what do you do”? I said: “I’m a musician with experience in event management” and they stopped me right there. They said “okay, that’s enough, let us call someone we know”. They called the guy, explained the situation and gave me the phone to talk to him. We arranged a meeting and that was honestly a life changing moment for me.
The person I met was a local DJ and musician who hired me to work as his assistant. He also ended up being a really good friend and helped with a lot of advice and other things. Furthermore, he introduced me to a bunch of other people in the industry so I started to work at their assistant as well, learning all I could and, a year or so later, I was ready to start my own business, which I did.
Being a business owner was very tough in the beginning. No matter how smart you are and how great your product or service is, the most challenging part is finding clients and that’s the main reason why most businesses fail. I worked day and night on marketing and eventually I started getting some clients. Over the ears, my company grew and now it’s a well-known event music, sound, lighting, audio visual, photography and videography service in Southern California.
To make a long story short, if I had known everything I’d have to face after coming the United States, I honestly don’t know if I’d still make the same decision. Sometimes I was literally hungry and couldn’t even afford a decent meal. But, because of my strong desire to make it and the support I got from my family and friends, somehow I was able to get through those difficult times. And now, of course, I’m happy and grateful for the opportunity to enjoy my life here. I really would like to take a moment to thank everyone who supported me. Without your help I’d probably be back in Ukraine now so I can’t stress enough how grateful I am.
On this note, I hope you can enjoy this new music piece. I’d like introduce my drummer Charlie and my 2nd bass keyboard player Charlie, we’ll be playing it together as band and the piece is about my journey towards the American Dream.
Alright, now I’ll answer a few questions that I’ve been asked multiple times regarding my music, which may be helpful to people who want to learn how to play or improve their skills.
First question is why am I not singing? Well, those who know me long enough, know that I used to sing. Then I stopped because I wanted to focus on what I do best, which is composition. But now I’m actually getting back to it, practicing almost every day and learning new technics. So the next video is likely to have my vocals.
Next question is how much do I practice. The answer is I try to practice at least an hour each day on each instrument I play so that’s 2 hours for both piano and drums. When I have time, of course, I try to practice more, sometimes a lot more. If I’m short on time, I still try to play for at least 30 minutes daily just to not lose my shape. Practicing every day is the key to growing as a musician.
Next question is how long does it take to make a music video. Well, this depends on the specific project. As you may already know, I do everything myself. So first I have compose a piece, which could take a few hours or even a few weeks. Then I need to learn how to play that piece well, which takes a few days to a few weeks. The next step is to record high quality audio and video, which can usually be done in a day or so. And then the final step it to edit the video before sharing and promoting it, which could take a few hours to a few weeks, again, depending on the specific project. This music piece and the video you are watching now took me a few hundred hours to complete and I’m not joking.
Next question: Do you film everything yourself? What cameras do you use? Yes, I film literally everything myself using mirrorless DSLR cameras Sony A3000 mounted on tripods. Obviously, I have to do a lot of test shots in order to find the best angles but I enjoy it.
Next question: Do you make money with music? Well, the answer to this one is yes and no. I don’t make any money with these YouTube videos. YouTube pays pennies. However, I have relationships with several music licensing companies and I do get paid to compose music, mostly on an exclusive basis meaning, once the piece is ready, it belongs to them and obviously it cannot be promoted as my own. If you’re hoping to make a decent living with just music, it’s possible but not very easy. Most people end up doing it part time in addition to other jobs.
Next question is what inspires you? Well, I’m a very sensitive person so I can get inspired by almost anything – beautiful nature, good conversation, a nice movie or simply just music made by other composers. If you’re in love, that’s a good inspiration as well. But when you’re really in love, it’s hard to find discipline to practice.
Next question is why don’t you join a band? Exactly, I agree, it’s one of the things on my to do list. I used to be a part of several bands back in Ukraine and it was an amazing experience. Although, at this point, instead of joining a band, I’d probably rather put together my own. If anyone wants to collaborate, please contact me through my website CharlieWalkrich.com
Also, a few people have asked me if I teach and the answer is no, I prefer to focus on learning myself and making new music. However, I know some pretty good teachers and I’d be happy to recommend one if you ask me. The most important thing when choosing a teacher is making sure he or she can do what you want to do. For example, you shouldn’t go to a classical piano teacher if you want to learn how to play jazz, pop, rock or other styles. Classical teachers are best for classical music, side reading and classical theory. But that’s not enough for most people. If you want to learn how to play by year, improvise and compose music, I would not recommend a classical teacher. Once again, find someone who can do what you want to do.
And final question is what your music plans are for the future? Assuming I continue being an independent artist, I can outline about five different directions for my future projects. First is a mix of jazz, classical, contemporary and cinematic styles on the piano, which is what I’ve been doing for the past few years. Next is Rock, I’ve been a huge fan of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal my entire life. The only thing that stops me is that I don’t play guitar. But hopefully I’ll be able to collaborate with other musicians and put something together pretty soon. I have so many Rock songs that are ready and just need someone to play them. The 3rd direction would be synthswave and retrowave, which is kind like 80s movie soundtrack style, I like that sound a lot. The 4th direction would be Disco and Funk, how could I skip that, right? And the last direction in which I’ve already established myself is House and Trance. In the last few years, I have produced a lot of decent EDM. I know it’s totally different from live music and I definitely agree that it’s easier to be a good DJ or an EDM producer than being a good musician. But achieving your own high quality powerful EDM sound is not as easy as it might seem, not to mention making it interesting as a music piece with a beautiful melody and a nice chord progression.
On this note, I’m going to wrap up this video. I would like to thank you for watching and engaging. Any feedback, comments or suggestions are always appreciated. I’ll see you next time.