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Author Topic: Freelance Trombone Playing Query  (Read 46500 times)
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D Gibson
« Reply #20 on: Dec 05, 2007, 06:34AM »

Most of my teaching is in a liberal arts context.  I feel that learning is the only goal.  I receive much joy from helping students develop a higher and more sophisticated awareness of all of the facets of music.  By recognizing all of the nuances present in the art of making "music", they can either enjoy music more or create music better....or both.  This ends up being my most rewarding teaching, since the agendas of the students are limited.  They are only there to "learn". 

But, when I have students with designs on being a professional musician, the situation can get much more dicey.  They have, in many of the difficult cases, already established an agenda and begun on a path.  If I think they should back up and notice something they may have missed, they are more inclined to resist my implied indictment of them or their agenda.  These students are wasting time for both of us.  I always offer that I am not better than my students, but just further along a path that they may be on too.  I share what I have noticed and learned along the way.  I don't have all the answers, but I do have experiences to share.  I can see immediately when someone is bs'ing me and themselves.  Sometimes, students approach me in hopes of me getting them a gig.  That rarely happens.  That would require me to have too much work and decide to give extra work to someone I just met instead of someone else who has been living in NYC for years with a family and a track record of excellent performance and professionalism.  There are cases wherein I might throw something to a new guy, but it probably won't pay anything....or be such a terrible situation that I couldn't call certain people to do it.  So...these students lose all the way around.  They don't "get a gig" and they don't learn anything.  Too bad. 

DG
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« Reply #21 on: Dec 26, 2007, 08:42PM »

As a trombonist who is just breaking into the world of freelancing, I want to echo the wisdom of many of the other trombonists on this post.  I'm 25 and hopefully going to grad school in the fall, and I spend a little time freelancing.  I'm from an insanely small state, so I don't depend on freelancing gigs for any type of income, it's more gaining experience, and the extra bucks certainly can come in handy.  I just thought I'd relate some of my experiences as someone just starting.

In high school, my teacher told me to simply play as much as possible.  I got into a couple community bands as well as playing in my high school bands and festivals.  This proved to be a really good place to start, because it was a lot of fun and I made many contacts ... several of whom are still the people who most often hire me for paid gigs.

The common thread in this ... well, thread ... seems to be the willingness to be diverse.  My paid gigs are insanely varied ... I've played for church events, in orchestras, jazz groups, a funk/rock band, on the local late night TV show, pit orchestras for community theaters and school musicals, parades (on Sousaphone ...).  I've done my best to always show up with a positive attitude with the music prepared (granted, that doesn't always require hours and hours practice depending on the nature of the gig  ;-) ).

There has never been a gig I've done that I haven't learned something from, no matter what the "level" of playing is.  I use every experience to make me a better musician, and that attitude has a positive effect on everyone.  I've also found that it occasionally leads to moving up on the "list" of players, even past people who have done specific gigs for years.

I have nothing really "new" to add, I just really want to reinforce these ideas, because there's a lot of wisdom in this post, and all of it has worked for me.  I have the chops, sure (not that I don't need an insane amount of work, mind ...  :D), but a willingness to take every gig possible with a smile on my face has done wonders for my freelancing, my playing, and (of course) myself as a person!

Edit: oh yeah, and believe me, I got a TON out of reading these posts that I can use myself!!
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griffinben

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« Reply #22 on: Dec 27, 2007, 03:14PM »

This is great...

I would only say one other thing:  Know Thyself

There's a lot of really fine musicians that take different paths. 

The ones that get a charge just out of playing will make the freelancing scene better.  Enough has been said already about what to do in that department.

The ones that only want to make art should maybe think of making a backup plan to support themselves so they can pursue music in a way that is untouched by the necessities of eating.  Yeah yeah, when you're young and excited you maybe want to live that poor lifestyle, pay those dues, not eat well, live in a dive and just play.  It's romantic for a while and exciting.  But that stuff gets old as you get older, and sooner or later you'll wish you had something else to get you out of the poor house.  Nobody you play with will care what you do to pay the bills if you're good enough to make the music. 

I know quite a few people who are really happy doing the both the former and the latter.  And there's quite a few who might be happier had they chosen the latter rather than the former.

Know Thyself!

-Ben

PS i hope I haven't violated the rule of "thinking about what to say and then not..."
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BGuttman
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« Reply #23 on: Dec 28, 2007, 05:57AM »

This becomes a very interesting discussion, especially for our younger members.

When you are in High School, you really don't see what options are available to you in the world.  Often you are a member of the Band/Orchestra/jazz band, etc. and you think "wow, this is great fun and I'd love to do this as my job".

There are several thousand high schools in this country and each one has at least 50-75 kids who are making music.  That means there are tens of thousands of musicians out there.  And the market for these people is in the range of a few hundreds.  This is a really tight market!!

Our young players need to sit back and see what options there are in the world.  Some of us work in High Tech.  Others of us work in Merchandising.  Still others in Finance.  Others work in Education.  And some, a glorious few, actually make their living playing trombone.  I know it sometimes makes me look like the Grinch, pouring cold water on everybody's dreams, but I feel that a cold, sober decision has to be made about what you want to do.  I have met indifferent players who are excellent music teachers and music store owners/employees.  To be a good teacher requires really connecting with kids.  To be a good music store owner requires knowledge of business and a very people-directed attitude.  Not necessarily the traits that will make you the Lead Trombone in Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra or the New York Philharmonic.

I don't think any High Schooler has an appreciation of what being a Mechanical Engineer, Tax Accountant, or Database Programmer involves.  It might actually be fun!  Some of us wear our vocations on our sleeves, and I for one invite all the kids who might be interested in my situation to either open a topic or PM me to find out what it's like to be working as a Chemical Engineer or Chemist and free-lance sometime player.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #24 on: Dec 28, 2007, 03:46PM »

Absolutely!  I get tired of hearing people tell kids that they can be anything they dream to be ... it's not bad to dream, but they always leave out the part "... if you work your butt off for it."

I definitely don't know if I have what it takes to make money playing trombone, but I'm certainly going to try.  I dream of getting a full time job as a musician, but as BGuttman points out, there are a lot of folks vying for a very few jobs.

There are so many things to do in the musical world besides just playing.  If I don't become a full-time trombone player, I certainly want to do something else related to music.

Some of my musical buddies are computer programmers who play and teach part-time.  They love it.  There really isn't an end to the options available.
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Chris Fidler

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« Reply #25 on: Dec 28, 2007, 04:09PM »

Live it, dream it, eat it, believe in yourself AND WORK YOUR BUTT OFF!!!!!!!!!

I remember going to careers advice and telling them i wanted to be a professional trombonist....... They almost laughed me out of the room!!!!!

I didn't listen to a word of their doubting confidence.

I've been a professional trombonist for 25 years.
It is tough but worth it.

BUT you REALLY have to WANT to do it........ Come what may!!!!!!

P.S. I knew that i wanted to do this from about the age of 11.
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The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.
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D Gibson
« Reply #26 on: Dec 28, 2007, 04:23PM »

In the freelance world, there is no such thing as stability.  Getting a great gig and doing a good job are good for your resume, but even the best gig is akin to being elected President for one day.  The next day, you're back at the beginning again.  That is what many fail to remember.  You are your own business and you're the product.  Work is never guaranteed.  For those who wish to own their own business, realize that there are much more profitable ways to make a living.  For those who wish to make music, realize that you always struggle to find the next gig. 

When I moved to NYC, I spent my first summer traveling with Slide Hampton.  Next, I toured with the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni.  Next, I worked in the sales department at Boosey and Hawkes.  Then I played a bunch of weddings.  Then I worked a temp job doing data entry.  Then I made a record.  Then I did some more weddings.  Then I toured with the Dizzy band again.  Then I led my own gigs at clubs in the city.  Then I did some teaching.  Then I played more weddings. 

What I enjoy as much or more than music is people.  I like being around good people.  I'm lucky that I get to do this...but not always.  There are plenty of work situations that involve folks with which I would rather not work.  But, I have to eat.  And, I have to make music. 

DG
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« Reply #27 on: Dec 28, 2007, 04:24PM »

Wonderful thread!!!

A lot of the ideas apply to more than just freelancing, and I have definitely tried to make a point of "checking my ego at the door".  Hopefully, more trombone players will catch on to that idea.   :D

Although it is a little disheartening to realize how hard it is to make a living strictly playing trombone, it doesn't necessarily mean "give up faith".  I haven't quite decided what I want to do with my life, nor do i feel immediate pressure to.  I could go the BGuttman way and pursue physics and be a civil or mechanical engineer to pay the bills, and play with local bands and whatnot.  Then again, I could toss physics on the backburner and just use it for some light reading, and becoming a music teacher.  Who knows.

Regardless of my rambling, this thread was a great read, and I'm loving all the words of wisdom.
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LX

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« Reply #28 on: Dec 28, 2007, 07:44PM »

There seems to be another couple of important themes emerging here related to self awareness, and an individual's musical diversity.

When Dave said

Quote
If you want to be sitting in that chair for the next 40 years, there is a template readily available.

 it reminds me how important it is to really listen and observe everything about how established players and colleagues conduct themselves as musicians and as humans. You learn more than just the musical stuff this way.

I found Ben’s saying, "Know thyself" so true on many levels. The first person you need to be “true” [honest] with is yourself. Again, listening and observation are the tools at your disposal. But you have to also be open to realize that there might be parts of yourself you have not yet discovered so don't jump to too many conclusions there either. In other words, don’t ever stop GETTING to "Know thyself"!

Some people see themselves within a box; "I don't improvise." or "I don't play [this or that] kind of music." But you don't really know anything like this until you've given yourself the right amount of concentrated exposure combined with how much you really know and love about the music at hand.

When you were a 2 month old baby, if someone said, "Ok, stand up and put that cup of water on that coaster." You wouldn't have been able to do it--you couldn't walk, let alone stand up... you didn't know what "cup", "coaster" or "put" meant and you didn't even have the language skills to understand that this was even a sentence directed at you in the first place! But, in less than 3 years you would. Luckily for you, you didn't know how little you knew!!  You learned to do thousands of things you once hadn't the foggiest clue how to do!

At the risk of sounding redundant...

There are many ways of being "diverse".  :)

As Bruce said so well [and even was kind enough to volunteer time to privately answer inquiries  Good! Good! Good!] it is wise to remain realistic about the way you are going to make a living. If you have a way to tolerably make a living and still create and/or play music...that could be the way to go for you. It worked t various times for Charles Ives and JJ Johnson [both of whom worked non music jobs at the heights of their music careers].

But just because you might end up making your living outside music does not mean you EVER have to sacrifice pursuing your musical path. A path that should, in my opinion, be there REGARDLESS of the make-a-living part.

And this is a path without a foreseeable final destination!

Commit to being the best and most realized musician you can be. The "destination" is merely a by-product.

That is why for a young musician to say, "one day I am going to be in a major symphony orchestra" or "...be a studio musician" or "...be a jazz musician" seems kind of illogical in the music world as I have observed it to be. If you are that singularly focussed, fine, but there are MANY ways to make music and there are just as many if not MORE ways to make a good living.

I once had a sax player friend [very committed to jazz and improvisation who reached a VERY respectable level] who, in his frustration with lack of work tell me, “You know, I think that’s it!! I’ve had it. I am going to make a smooth jazz/Kenny G kind of recording. I’m done trying to convince contractors and leaders that they should hire me based on the way I’ve been playing.”

My response was this....
“You want to record a bunch of music that contradicts everything you stand for musically? And you also then want to be hired instead of people who DEFINE THEMSELVES MUSICALLY by that genre you can’t stand? Who are hiring agents more likely to chose to hire to play that music?”

Thanks for all the great responses to this topic.

Keep 'em coming!!

LX

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« Reply #29 on: Dec 29, 2007, 02:29AM »

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There are plenty of work situations that involve folks with which I would rather not work.  But, I have to eat.  And, I have to make music. 

Having to play in those situations is the disadvantage to being dependant on a freelancing lifestyle. If you care about the music inside yourself, playing jobs simply for the income they generate can be very destructive. I can testify about that first hand - after a year of Cats I wanted to throw my horn in the river. Maybe JJ and Charles Ives had the right idea, at least for future generations of trombonists who will, it seems, have even less opportunity than there is today.

On the other hand if playing the trombone becomes a more flexible undertaking, who knows what the future will bring.
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« Reply #30 on: Dec 29, 2007, 03:55AM »

I can testify about that first hand - after a year of Cats I wanted to throw my horn in the river.

A year of playing the same stuff (especially Lloyd Webber) night after night would make anyone want to throw their horn in the river.

However with the right attitude to keep everything else going whilst having a regular gig like that can work to your advantage.
You ARE allowed nights off...... 28 days paid holiday too, plus you can give other players sub work!!!
That will also pay off as they will more than likely book you back.

The right Attitude works wonders for survival in this biz!!!!!!!
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The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.
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D Gibson
« Reply #31 on: Dec 29, 2007, 06:45AM »

I hear you, Jerry. The times when I am tempted to get upset about the quality of the music or musicians with which I am working are really opportunities for me to "grow up" and work on things other than music. I can work on my mental strength by clearly defining my expectations from a given situation. Or, I can focus on my airstream or my attacks. There are always challenges to be found and work that I can be doing. But, if I was doing one of these jobs every single day for a year, I would probably want to throw your horn in the river too....errrr...my horn in the river. ;-)

I can usually deal with a poor musical situation if I am encountering interesting and friendly people. Without the friendly folks, the challenge is much greater.

DG
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BGuttman
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« Reply #32 on: Dec 29, 2007, 10:22AM »

There have been other famous amateurs in the past.

The Russian "Mighty Five" (which included Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Moussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov), all students of Glinka, made their livings from something other than music.

Borodin was a Professor of Chemistry.
Moussorgsky was a customs inspector (when he was sober).
Rimsky-Korsakov was a naval officer.

Their contemporary, Tchaikowsky, made his living as a Professor of Music.

There are people who should be professional musicians.  I see them a lot.  What they have in common:

1.  They would rather play music than anything else in the world.  Rather than eating, playing sports, or even sleeping.

2.  They are diligent in pursuing the minutiae of their instrument.  Wynton Marsalis was said to have left a lesson and worked on nothing but attacks for 8 hours straight.

3.  They have an aptitude and feel for musical style and interpretation that the "mechanical clock" players never master.

Sure, it's a tough business.  But some guys do make it.  It wasn't me.  I preferred to eat.  But I still love to play.  So I can do both.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #33 on: Dec 29, 2007, 12:02PM »

One of the things that I have learned from observing several well-established freelance players...

You bring your BEST game--whatever the gig. Great musicians who are true to Music sound great even in less-than-great musical situations. You are missing an opportunity if your perspective is so fogged up by your desire to be doing something else musically at that moment. As a professional musician, you are paid to make that music sound as great as you can make it regardless of the gig at hand. Some may see this as "turd polishing"...maybe sometimes it is... Don't know

And that might mean playing night after night in an orchestra pit.

It's really not that hard to change your perspective sometimes.

We all know Dick Nash, right?

Dick's son, Ted is one of the most respected and sought-after jazz saxophonists in NYC. He's played in the LCJO and also leads, tours and records extensively with his own groups. He also played in the pit for Cats on Broadway for several years. Maybe he's thought of that steady gig as his own miniature/personal version of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Andy Martin, besides being a well-known jazz and studio player is probably the top call player out here for Broadway shows. He's been doing Wicked for nearly the last year. And, let me tell you, he's at the TOP of his game right now. AND he plays that show the best he can night after night--and he does that VERY musically.

You cannot measure yourself [or anyone else] by what gig you [or he/she] are doing at any given moment. If a given gig "makes you want to throw your horn in the river" you are probably better off doing something else FOR A LIVING.

But Music will always be there!!

The music that successful freelancers care most about inside might have little to do with the gig they are doing on the outside. They just bring the best of what they have to share musically and personally to the job at hand,then take the check and head home.

Bass trombonist/teacher Terry Cravens has a great line about this idea. "Your main job you get paid to do is to take all that music piled on the right hand side of the music stand and get it all turned over face down to the left hand side of the music stand." The people who do that job MUSICALLY get invited back.

In the meantime, you listen and you practice and stay on your journey.

LX
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« Reply #34 on: Dec 29, 2007, 12:17PM »

Great post Alex!

My attitude is that I'd rather be out every day/night playing the horn than sitting at home moaning!!!!

Even the Broadway musical situation ain't that bad when you consider that you only have to work for 3 hours leaving around 15 waking hours a day to do whatever you want and not have to worry about putting food on the table.
Bob Mintzer told me he played Cats on Broadway!!!

 
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« Reply #35 on: Dec 29, 2007, 01:48PM »

I've been lucky enough to be awarded a National Endowment grant LX, and I can tell you it has nothing whatsoever in common with playing in the pit at Cats.  :D

If the music that successful freelancers care most about inside has little to do with the gig they are doing on the outside then its a terrible indictment of the profession. Like Chris Fidler I knew early on that I wanted to be a musican but I also knew that whatever talent I had was not to be squandered on the "turd polishing" that makes up too much of freelancers schedule. I'd seen the toll freelancing took on older musicans who were robbed of any individuality they might have contributed to the music by being turned into sound alike plug and play modules. Only the very strongest retained any semblance of a really distinctive sound or indeed any real desire to make good music.  

But successful freelancers are able to make a living with their horn. And many pay a high price for it if they have any artistic aspirations. Perhaps freelancing as an artist is the modern equivalent of selling /surrendering your soul. Perhaps for many of the best artists their soul might be too important to part with.

Quote
"Your main job you get paid to do is to take all that music piled on the right hand side of the music stand and get it all turned over face down to the left hand side of the music stand."

What a wonderful career to aspire to.
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« Reply #36 on: Dec 29, 2007, 02:13PM »

It is possible to mix the 2 I call Bread and Butter gigs and Artistic gigs.

Both contribute to having a career in music and making you a better musician!!!

Jerry I know that you play a few bread and butter gigs with your wedding band. You simply can't make a decent living here only playing Jazz!!!!!



What's the National endowment grant you've been awarded then?
Is that that a recent thing here in Hamburg?
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The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.
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« Reply #37 on: Dec 29, 2007, 04:28PM »

I don't think you're getting it, Jerry.  Could you change your perspective to look at your Cats gig as subsidizing your more artistic goals and projects?  Don't many, many players on Broadway and in pits everywhere do exactly this?  I'm thinking of the Vanguard Jazz Orch, for instance, and how many of the guys over the years have been on the longest running shows while making sure they preserve their Monday night jones.  I'm sure we could all come up with a decent list of players with similar situations, though far fewer than during the "glory" years.

OR

I'm remembering Dave Liebman's take on all of this, saying he would far prefer to substitute teach in the NYC schools by day so that all of his music making was in artistic/creative mode.....no weddings, studio work, or shows.....another approach that he probably only had to use in the early years, though I'm not sure.

Interesting to read the various perspectives here...

I've been lucky enough to be awarded a National Endowment grant LX, and I can tell you it has nothing whatsoever in common with playing in the pit at Cats.  :D

If the music that successful freelancers care most about inside has little to do with the gig they are doing on the outside then its a terrible indictment of the profession. Like Chris Fidler I knew early on that I wanted to be a musican but I also knew that whatever talent I had was not to be squandered on the "turd polishing" that makes up too much of freelancers schedule. I'd seen the toll freelancing took on older musicans who were robbed of any individuality they might have contributed to the music by being turned into sound alike plug and play modules. Only the very strongest retained any semblance of a really distinctive sound or indeed any real desire to make good music.  

But successful freelancers are able to make a living with their horn. And many pay a high price for it if they have any artistic aspirations. Perhaps freelancing as an artist is the modern equivalent of selling /surrendering your soul. Perhaps for many of the best artists their soul might be too important to part with.

What a wonderful career to aspire to.
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« Reply #38 on: Dec 29, 2007, 05:00PM »

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What's the National endowment grant you've been awarded then?
Is that that a recent thing here in Hamburg?

Nope, that grant is ancient history. I used part of the money to finance The New York Tapes.

http://cdbaby.com/cd/jerrytilitz1

Wedding band?! Don't let my guys hear you describe them like that. The beauty of leading party gigs over here as opposed to the ones I used to do in NY is that people over seem to be a bit more sophisticated and are greatful for the music that we feel good doing. With the occasional Girl From Ipenema thrown in for the less experienced punters.  :D Doesn't matter, its fun to turn on the sexiest voice I can muster and try for some response from the ladies. Then its back to Lazybird or one of my own compositions or some standards that I like to sing. I don't know how "jazzy" you would consider our party repetoire but we never do a tune the same way twice and we all get to solo on almost every piece. The most satisfying thing is that I shape the evening the way I want. That in itself is * high art *.  I find when I please myself the audience is likely to be pleased as well.   ;-)

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griffinben

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« Reply #39 on: Dec 29, 2007, 05:06PM »

I don't think anyone here is trying to compare the satisfaction of getting a grant and working on a project you care about and DESIRE to do with being able to cope with the real word realities of feeding yourself playing music.

I think what is being conveyed is what is realisticly ahead of one who choses to play for a living, and what is expected in those situations.

Regardless of what a person thinks of the music they have to perform, it's how one performs that music that determines if they are hired back or again.

Solid technique, the ability play with others and musicality count, no matter the sitution.  Or at least they count when another guys can be called to take your place the next night.  The more cats in your town, the higher the stakes.

But then again, work is so scarce that most people dare not mess up any gig if they can  help it.

Hell, people don't mess up in REHEARSAL BANDS.

Ya gotta eat.

Or, you chose a different lifestyle or different avenues so that you don't have to put yourself in that situation.

I've always found it best to make that decision myself, before someone else makes it for me.  Dig?

-Ben
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