Penn State Alum Quits Job & Moves To Nashville To Pursue Musical Dream

Growing up in a small town with just a few thousand people and then going to a college like Penn State can be extremely overwhelming for some. But, for Penn State alum Paul Nestler, the idea of being packed around tens of thousands of people in a city was something he lacked throughout his whole childhood.

Nestler grew up in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, which is a small town outside Hershey, and unlike most of his peers, he didn’t have that hometown connection growing up. Nestler grew up playing various sports but found his passion in music when he started playing saxophone at a young age.

When Nestler finally enrolled in college at Penn State, his middle school band teacher suggested he try out for the Blue Band. Being the first family member to ever go to Penn State, Nestler had no idea what the Blue Band was or what he was signing up for, but he loved music and liked marching band throughout his years in school, so the decision was a no-brainer.

Nestler got a spot on the band his freshman year and recalled the long, strenuous hours of band camp the week before classes started. After completing his first week in the band, Nestler geared up for his first performance at Beaver Stadium against Akron. What followed was a huge sigh of relief and a feeling he would never forget.

“I was nervous because I didn’t know if I could actually do it,” Nestler said. “But that first week, when we marched for pregame, it was a lot of work, but the payoff was well worth it.”

Nestler ended up staying on the Blue Band all four years of college and even played at the Pinstripe Bowl, the Rose Bowl, and the Fiesta Bowl.

Although Nestler played in the Blue Band, he admitted that when each season would end, he would tuck his saxophone away and wouldn’t play it until the next season rolled around. That all changed after his senior season when the thought of pursuing a career in music crept into his mind.

“As I got close to finishing my senior year, I started to realize that the real world is coming,” Nestler said. “And, I don’t really want to stop doing music. Not in a way where I want to do it as a hobby, I felt more of the need to do it full-time.”

Being from Hummelstown, there weren’t many musicians to look up to, nor were there step-by-step instructions on how to make a career in music. However, none of that mattered to Nestler because when he graduated in 2018, he began to perform at local venues and bars in his hometown.

Nestler ended up accepting a job and moving to Scranton after his summer internship ended in 2018. He continued to play here and there while balancing work and figuring out how he was going to break into the music world. Just when Nestler was getting a grip of the industry and his sound, the pandemic hit.

Nestler had to halt all gigs and began to question if he could continue on his musical journey. After a year through the pandemic, a friend of his suggested that he move to Nashville if he wanted to seriously go after this dream. So, he quit his job.

With a packed car and nothing but a dream, Nestler set his sights on Nashville.

“I quit my job, and I packed my car with whatever could fit and just moved,” Nestler said. “I have never been to Nashville… and I realized it was going to be tough. But, I also realized that very few people could do it, and I don’t want to have that ‘what if’ 10 or 20 years down the line.”

Since his move to Nashville, Nestler released his first song, “I Don’t Go Home Much Anymore,” which describes his feelings toward his hometown and how that feeling of love and pride for one’s hometown just doesn’t exist with him. Nestler explained it’s not so much an attack on those who love their hometown but rather his departure from a small town to bigger and better opportunities.

“I don’t really go home much anymore because I can’t,” Nestler said. “I know some people love their hometowns, but I don’t. So if people can relate to that, I think this song is for them. Most hometown songs are about how people love their homes… but going from Hummelstown, which is 6,000 to 7,000 people, to Penn State with 47,000 is a huge jump. I realized I love cities and being around people.”

Nestler’s music falls under the soft-rock/soft-pop genre, and he further describes his music as a mix between John Mayer and Billy Joel. He is heavily influenced by Mayer’s ability to play the guitar, but also by the lyricism of Joel. For him, combining the two makes for the best of both worlds.

“I try to use that [Mayer and Joel] influence so that it’s not just musically interesting, and not just lyrically interesting, but combine the two to give someone a song that one, is pleasing to the ears, but also when they listen to lyrics, they’re like, ‘Oh, I relate to that,'” Nestler said.

In the spirit of a new city with new opportunities, Nestler has taken full advantage of the music scene in Nashville.

He picked up a full-time day job at Belmont University, which is one of Nashville’s prestigious musical schools. From there, he has been able to meet other talented musicians, designers, and photographers that he hopes to stay in contact with for the foreseeable future. In fact, it was a gig in Nashville at a bar called “The Basement” where Nestler met a bassist who liked his performance and would end up playing bass in his debut song.

Although he is still trying to find his way in the music world, Nestler does realize he has a lot more to achieve. He plans on releasing two more songs before the calendar year ends and possibly a full project within the next few years. As far as his 10-year plan goes, Nestler hopes to stay in Nashville or move to New York City or Los Angeles.

The biggest takeaway for Nestler through his journey in music is not being afraid to chase after your dreams, even if that means you don’t have a concrete plan.

“If there are musicians at Penn State that are playing at Cafe, playing house parties, or playing frats and you want to get a degree and keep going, that’s awesome,” Nestler said. “But, if you’re itching to do something else, and when you graduate, that may be the only time of life that you get to really move to a city you’ve never been to and do something without a plan, and that’s OK. That’s the big thing — it’s OK to not have a plan.”

However, Nestler’s biggest stress to those finding their way is to first find their true happiness.

“Really take into account that it is your life,” Nestler said. “Don’t let people tell you what you can and can’t do, especially if you want to do something that you get happiness from.”

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About the Author

Tobey Prime

Tobey is a senior studying broadcast journalism from Lancaster, PA. He is a major Pittsburgh sports fan and Miami Heat fanatic. When Tobey isn't writing for Onward State, you can catch him looking at photos of his pugs. Send your best insults to [email protected] or sports takes to @tobey_prime on Twitter.

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