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Author Topic: Freelance Trombone Playing Query  (Read 46502 times)
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LX

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« Reply #40 on: Dec 29, 2007, 07:41PM »

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.

Jerry's perspective is very valuable to this discussion!

A couple things...

1. A lot of musicians I know take of a portion of their income from their "soul-less" gigs and turn them around to fund the music they want to create themselves. Mike Davis comes to mind. I think someone can have all the artistic aspirations they want and still play their horn to fund the endeavor.

2. Not sure that working for a living counts as "an inidictment". The freelance life is not for everyone, that is for sure, but what bothers me are people who expect their artistic endeavors alone to be enough to live ON...to the contrary, art is something to live FOR. I know many older musicians [as I enter those ranks myself  :-0!!] who continue to maintain high personal artistic standards DESPITE the fact that they might earn the majority of their incomes playing in less-than-optimum musical situations. This topic has largely been about this very dilemma, and despite the flow of words from the bitter and jaded I have been hearing for the past 30-40 years of being a musician, there are ways to make a living playing your instrument while still maintaining a commitment to Music.

3. If you notice, Terry Craven's quote starts with "Your main job...etc". I was not referring to what he describes as a musician's ONLY job or anything close to that. Terry likes to speak in broad metaphor. Sorry if that didn't come across. However what he describes IS ONE aspect of the total career I DO aspire to and I must accept the idea to a certain extent. It is, after all, a job. We all have to "pay dues" in so many ways to get to be invited to work at that job...you gotta practice long tones and scales, practice tunes you know turn up on jam sessions you're not crazy about, you have to be personable, show up on time, etc etc...and...

Yes, you have to figure out ways to just get through some gigs the way Terry describes. I think that the people who accept ALL these challenges and make music in the process are creative artists in their own right.  It only becomes soul-less when you stop bringing your best musicianship to the table. When that happens, save yourself, bandleaders, and your colleagues a lot of time and hassle: Go do something else for money and pursue the music you want whenever you feel like it!! Just make sure you learn how to write a killer grant proposal!

4. As artists, I've always thought that one of our responsibilities is to bring our art to people. Sometimes, what might be a dumb gig to you is the BEST place to do just that! I have played casuals [club dates] alongside several jazz artists most of you have heard of. Many of them, without changing one thing about their artistic standards played THEIR way and it still fit the gig. I think sometimes we have this romantic image of "the Artist" in our minds. Maybe it's time to re-think that image. Art can sneak into a wedding gig [as Jerry says!] or into the way a trombone section blends on a chord for a second-tier off-Broadway show. Art can be found outside those exclusive art-house settings where we were all once so inspired.

I also think some players, after years of study and practice, develop a strong sense of entitlement when it comes to "their art". Granted, some people are meant to make music ONE way. That's fine, but if anyone still thinks the world owes them anything for having pursued a single minded musical journey, they are sadly mistaken.

LX

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« Reply #41 on: Dec 29, 2007, 08:46PM »

Nice points Alex,

this discussion is rapidly changing from "How to be a freelance trombonist" into "what to expect as a..." or rather "What NOT to expect..."

The simple fact of the matter is that playing music to make a living involves performing music that isn't art (most of the time) and is not (for the most part) the kind of music that one has endevours throughout their study to play.

So...

if that is the truth...

and we're telling you the truth...

you either deal with it, do something else, or lead a sad existence.

Period.

As someone close to me once said after working at Radio City Music Hall for 12 years said:  "Art's the doorman".

So, you make art on your own.

And you thank your lucky stars when you get a great gig that is spiritually rewarding.  If it's spritually and financially rewarding (it does sometime happen) be even happier.

No one should be in the dark as to the state of live music today. 

If you are in the dark, look around...

Knowing that, knowing what's popular in music, knowing what kind of work you might get as a trombone player...

Or thinking about it at least...

You have some choices to make.

Decide who YOU are, and make a decision accordingly...

Or explore who you are, and find out...

The problem is that very few people ever go into trombone playing, or are trained in the western classical or jazz traditions in american universities/colleges, to play the music that they are most likely going to play for a living. 

What's worse, most folks involved in getting younger folk involved in making music aren't ever going to tell them that.  Univeristies, un-wordly private teachers, a public that doesn't understand what regular working musicians have to do are all part of that problem.

So listen to the good advice and experiences that are being given to you here, by real people out there actually doing what you want to do and decide. 

It's a persoanl path you take and no path is wrong as long as you'll be happy.

-Ben
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« Reply #42 on: Dec 30, 2007, 04:10AM »

Great points Ben and LX et al. I hope all the young trombonists on the forum are reading your very informed posts along with me.

The fact is I might be a bit spoiled over here. I remember years ago when a friend of mine, the drummer Bob Moses, told me over a beer that he was leaving NY because he only got to play with the people he wanted to (at that time Hal Galper, Mike Brecker and that crew) on the average of once a month. I thought to myself I'm in exactly the same position although not in such classy company. I'd gotten everything I could out of the rehearsal band, show and clubdate scene and it was becoming apparent. Trombonist Keith O'Quinn came right out with it at one point - "Hey Jerry the first half was great and then you lost interest". It was time to go too. It was a good move although I still miss you guys. Now and then.  :)  Over here as a leader I get to do things my way, in other words, never the same way twice. There MUST be some art in that somewhere.  Way cool


Quote
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? 

But think of the effect months of Cats was having on my playing and my head (shutter). Some guys are strong enough to deal with that kind of a situation and still be creative but think of the energy it takes to ward off that routine and mindset and still be an effective artist! If the Klingons had access to that kind of forcefield Kirk wouldn't have stood a chance. 

In the end all I can say is that I'm feeling great and still crazy after all these years.  I'll go almost anywhere to bebop - its a gift. But if you want me to sit still in a section and behave you better have a very decent check with my name on it.  :D
« Last Edit: Dec 31, 2007, 02:56AM by BoneCall » Logged
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« Reply #43 on: Dec 30, 2007, 06:12AM »

I think I've posted this here before:

"The highest reward from your working is not what you get for it but what you become by it." - Sydney Harris

I cut this out from the newspaper and pasted it in the front of the binder I put together for audition materials, for the times when I feel like I'm banging my head against the wall practicing tiny fractions of pieces of music for a pointless audition.

I'm not going to tell anybody how this thought is or is not relevant to their particular situation.

Personally, I love freelancing nearly all of the time. Occasionally I'll have a gig where the music is so bad it makes me angry (I had one last week in fact), but there's nearly always some saving grace to it, usually with the players around me.

This is an excellent discussion, and I think one of the things arising from the disagreements is that different people have different personality types and different tolerances for music that doesn't tap anything deep within themselves. And I don't think such differences are any indicator of who the better musicians are by any means.
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« Reply #44 on: Dec 31, 2007, 06:41PM »

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I think I've posted this here before:

"The highest reward from your working is not what you get for it but what you become by it." - Sydney Harris

I cut this out from the newspaper and pasted it in the front of the binder I put together for audition materials, for the times when I feel like I'm banging my head against the wall practicing tiny fractions of pieces of music for a pointless audition.

That's a keeper, Gabe. Good!

Just so you know, Jerry...

I DO believe quality music, and arts in general have been under siege for years by a lot of "pop" culture which can defeat the spirit of many artists. However, that same "pop" culture [or "folk culture" which existed before electricity and the internet!] has also given birth to and/or inspired the creation of many forms of art we hold so dearly today. Bartok borrowed from common Hungarian folk songs, Duke Ellington created some of his most significant early work playing for wealthy people in the hugely popular "Cotton Club", a whites-only establishment in Harlem. Charlie Parker re-defined the popular blues and defined a school of improvisation building on the framework of common "popular" tunes of his day. And so it remains so to this day.

 I am sure my fellow forum-ites can think of many [and better] examples of this in history.

If it were not for the very existence of a popular culture, those wishing to hear/see something more significant might not have a standard to compare artistic greatness to in the first place!! Greatness needs to have something to rise above to be seen as great.

Also, none of us knows when or from where the "next" thing will emerge.  Don't know

A composer friend of mine told me once that inexperienced composers often think of themselves as "inventors" of art. He doesn't totally buy that idea. Rather, he believes the great ones tend to be first and foremost, "discoverers". Many composers often say that a given piece emerges as if it already somehow existed before they started and they are merely unearthing it and committing it to paper. I have had fleeting glimpses of this feeling on a handful of occasions as an improviser.

Sometimes, an artist endowed with a special combination of talent and diligence will find his/herself struggling to make ends meet or struggling to get through a series of unrewarding gigs. History has proven time and time again that these moments, for an even rarer kind of artist, can become the point at which his/her life comes into focus through the music. That stage in life--however wretched it might get for the artist personally--can be when they begin to unearth their voice, their method, their way. Their life's work becomes creating works of art, rather than just "doing the gig". This moment might occur for different people at different times and manifest itself in many different ways.

I sincerely hope that any young person wishing to seriously enter the profession of music strives to keep the Music Business two separate words. If one respects each word in that phrase, one is less likely to become either too surprised or too jaded when he/she hears others use them side-by-side. To me, the only responsibility we have as musicians is to share what we have with the world. For some, that involves following a specific artistic vision, for others, that means sharing their knowledge and wisdom with students, while for others still, that is sharing their best musicianship with what might otherwise be just  another "commercial" musical situation.

LX
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« Reply #45 on: Jan 23, 2008, 02:08PM »

The process of creation and spontaneity ultimately triumphs,regardless of setting,musicians and the type of music you're playing up there.

I think we all should all remember that.

Yes,it can be a drag out there,but that should not be a deterrent to choosing to have a career in music.

In the end,it's all about being happy,and enjoying yourself out there.
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« Reply #46 on: Jan 27, 2008, 08:56PM »

Just dropping this in:

My colleague Tim Coffman relates this Keith Brown (Indiana) advice:

"Never pass up the chance to shut the "blank" up!" (expletive deleted!!!)

Wish I could adhere to it some days!!!
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« Reply #47 on: Apr 21, 2008, 07:51AM »

I find myself saying from time to time:

"I play the trombone for a living and music for fun"

and:

"It has to be for the music or the money. Hopefully both, never neither"

In other words, as usual, I agree with with what the pros say! We're all in the same world trying to make music and keep roofs over our heads.

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« Reply #48 on: Apr 21, 2008, 07:55AM »

Just dropping this in:

My colleague Tim Coffman relates this Keith Brown (Indiana) advice:

"Never pass up the chance to shut the "blank" up!" (expletive deleted!!!)

Wish I could adhere to it some days!!!

That's right man!
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« Reply #49 on: Aug 02, 2009, 05:47PM »

Hey. I would like to know more about what these "corporate" / soulless jobs are like. I see people mentioning weddings- what is it that is so bad about weddings? Or do you just get hired for the "here comes the bride" and not the reception? At the weddings I've been to, the people wanted some very specific things from the musicians, after which point they were pretty much free to do their own thing as long as it fit into the event, meaning plenty of romantic songs of different styles and that sort of thing are in the mix.

It seems to me that you get to play with people more than you otherwise would, so what makes you start seeing certain jobs as just bread-earning? Maybe the novelty of playing with others wears off for people who are free lancing, since they do it so much? Where I am now though, I like to play with anyone I can, even if it's not my thing, just because it's a chance to play with people. Of course I've never gotten more than a meal out of playing.

This is an interesting topic.
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« Reply #50 on: Aug 02, 2009, 07:57PM »

The problem with weddings is that music is the last thing on the list of needs (after Photography).  Generally by the time they get to budget for music there isn't much money left.  So you'll get something like "can you play my 4-hour reception for $30.00 per man?"  Not to mention, it is now current to hire a Disk Jockey instead of a band for the wedding reception.  A DJ can cost as much as a live band.  A good DJ can have a tremendous variety of music to satisfy all tastes.  Try to find a gee-tar Rock Band that can play "In the Mood", or a Combo or Band that can play Led Zeppelin songs.  A good Wedding job should pay $35-50 per contact hour per man (which includes a 10 minute break every hour).

For a humorous (and surprisingly true!) look at the "soulless" side of gigging, check out:

http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/su/cja/hash.html

You can get one of two types of Wedding gigs.  One is a small ensemble for the ceremony.  This would usually be a brass quintet, but you are competing with flute/harp duos, string quartets, wind quintets, and even ensembles of saxophones or kazoos.  Generally you need to play for an hour or an hour and a half.  Play for seating guests, processional for the Wedding Party, recessional for Wedding Party, and for the guests to leave.  The people getting married may have a specific set of songs they want, or you can choose.  But don't play "Stars and Stripes Forever" for the service; it usually won't be well received.

The other gig is to play the reception.  Each couple (and their families) will have a particular music they want to hear.  We did one wedding where they wanted more and more Disco.  Another wanted wall-to-wall Latin.  Still another wanted a "retro" wedding playing 30s and 40s Swing Band stuff.  Of course there are certain songs that almost have to be in your library: "Daddy's Little Girl", "Sunrise, Sunset", something for cake cutting, something for introducing the bride and groom, something for first dance.  If the client wants something you can't play, you may have to learn it or lose the gig.  Also, you are playing for dancing; arrangements that alternate between genres won't fly -- ditch that cool arrangement of "In the Mood" as a Bossa/Funk alternation.  Also, when you take a solo don't go overboard; a Coltraine 30-chorus stream of notes will clear the dance floor.  A solo that is clearly recognizable for the melody flies much better.

Lots more to playing these kinds of gigs.
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« Reply #51 on: Aug 02, 2010, 11:07PM »

I missed this thread.

Sorry.

Lots of good info here.

My own story?

I am the most "freelance" musician that I know in NYC. On any axe. Never took a Broadway show, never had a regular, day-in-day-out gig, including teaching. 40 years and counting.

My one, main rule? No matter how dumb the music, always play your instrument as if every note was important. Make every note mean something even if it only means something to you.

Main rule #2?

Do not do work that interferes with rule #1.

Now...implementng that second rule can be a very subjective and personal thing. I myself cannot stay even borderline sane on most B'way show gigs, and the club date scene makes me almost suicidal. A gig here, a gig there? Sure. Every week for months? No way.

Other really fine players find those kinds of gigs not so unpleasant, and still others crank their way through those scenes despite how unhappy they may be. Everyone has certain financial parameters that they must meet...family, etc...and people do what they think that they must do in order to survive. Long term, as far as I am concerned? If a gig hurts your playing, it's not worth doing.

And there's another thing about so-called "steady" gigs. (All of which end eventually, I might add.) So many players get all bound up in working for one or two or three regular contractors, never turning them down for fear that they will lose their place in the pecking order. But another approach is to work for so many people...on so many scenes...that no matter what happens, no matter what scenes and contractors/bandleaders come and go (And things are always changing. Bet on it.), you wll always be working for somebody. The spiderweb approach. Build a big enough web and there will always be gigs flying into it.

Other rules?

Always show up when and where you say that you will show up. In 40+ years I have blown maybe three calls total. Including free rehearsals. I blew a rehearsal last month, as a matter of fact. Got back from a long, exhausting tour and just spaced. But since I had never done that before in almost anyone's memory, the leader wasn't even mad. Almost blew a gig, too. Put it on the wrong day on my calendar. A friend's call and a quick drive saved that one. Luck helps. We're all human. But when I say "I'll be there," people can pretty well take it the bank.

Bring the right tool for the job and be warmed up and ready to play it, even if that means having to practice a relatively unfamiliar double for a week or more before a gig that is not very remunerative or even very interesting or musical. You're only as good as your last note. I will turn down a last-minute call no matter how well-paying it may be if I am not fairly sure that I am up to the task, and I almost never, ever leave the house w/out thoroughly warming up before a gig or rehearsal, even if it means going without enough sleep. While I am on that "right tool for the job" idea...treat every position in the ensemble as equal in importance. Don't slough off your practice or your attention because you are playing inner parts. Middle Fs are important, too.

Never say "No" to an offer unless you are going to be doing something else at the same time. Not the first time, anyway, even if it pays little or nothing. If it turns out that it sucks...simply make polite excuses ("Sorry...I'm already working that night," etc.) until they stop calling you.

Don't play sub games...double booking, sending in subs, etc. And if you must send in a sub, make sure that they play their butt off. There are some freelancers who only hire subs whose playing will not threaten their position on a gig. I think that this approach is counterproductive, myself. I consider myself a servant of the music...I really do, even dumb music...and if I'm not going to be playing it I sure as hell want someone good to be there in my place.

And...always keep your real musical goals at the forefront of your efforts. One of the reasons that I have been able to sustain a freelance career through so many years here is because I almost always take musical gigs over better-paying, not-so-musical ones if I can possibly do so. Gotta stay hungry; gotta stay alive musically. Everything else grows out of that.

And of course..have fun. A happy musician is a hired musician. That goes back to rule #2. If you are on gigs that overall make you unhappy...well, there you jolly well are, aren't you.

I wake up every day full of enthusiasm for whatever challenges will come my way. Win, lose or draw, it's a great life if you know how to live it.

An ongoing, lifelong adventure.

LX knows that. So do DG, Ben Griffin and several others on this thread.

Bet on that as well.

Have fun...we are.

Bet on it.

Later...

S.
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« Reply #52 on: Aug 02, 2010, 11:35PM »

Go Sam!

I missed this thread.

Sorry.

Lots of good info here.

My own story?

I am the most "freelance" musician that I know in NYC. On any axe. Never took a Broadway show, never had a regular, day-in-day-out gig, including teaching. 40 years and counting.

My one, main rule? No matter how dumb the music, always play your instrument as if every note was important. Make every note mean something even if it only means something to you.

Main rule #2?

Do not do work that interferes with rule #1.

Now...implementng that second rule can be a very subjective and personal thing. I myself cannot stay even borderline sane on most B'way show gigs, and the club date scene makes me almost suicidal. A gig here, a gig there? Sure. Every week for months? No way.

Other really fine players find those kinds of gigs not so unpleasant, and still others crank their way through those scenes despite how unhappy they may be. Everyone has certain financial parameters that they must meet...family, etc...and people do what they think that they must do in order to survive. Long term, as far as I am concerned? If a gig hurts your playing, it's not worth doing.

And there's another thing about so-called "steady" gigs. (All of which end eventually, I might add.) So many players get all bound up in working for one or two or three regular contractors, never turning them down for fear that they will lose their place in the pecking order. But another approach is to work for so many people...on so many scenes...that no matter what happens, no matter what scenes and contractors/bandleaders come and go (And things are always changing. Bet on it.), you wll always be working for somebody. The spiderweb approach. Build a big enough web and there will always be gigs flying into it.

Other rules?

Always show up when and where you say that you will show up. In 40+ years I have blown maybe three calls total. Including free rehearsals. I blew a rehearsal last month, as a matter of fact. Got back from a long, exhausting tour and just spaced. But since I had never done that before in almost anyone's memory, the leader wasn't even mad. Almost blew a gig, too. Put it on the wrong day on my calendar. A friend's call and a quick drive saved that one. Luck helps. We're all human. But when I say "I'll be there," people can pretty well take it the bank.

Bring the right tool for the job and be warmed up and ready to play it, even if that means having to practice a relatively unfamiliar double for a week or more before a gig that is not very remunerative or even very interesting or musical. You're only as good as your last note. I will turn down a last-minute call no matter how well-paying it may be if I am not fairly sure that I am up to the task, and I almost never, ever leave the house w/out thoroughly warming up before a gig or rehearsal, even if it means going without enough sleep. While I am on that "right tool for the job" idea...treat every position in the ensemble as equal in importance. Don't slough off your practice or your attention because you are playing inner parts. Middle Fs are important, too.

Never say "No" to an offer unless you are going to be doing something else at the same time. Not the first time, anyway, even if it pays little or nothing. If it turns out that it sucks...simply make polite excuses ("Sorry...I'm already working that night," etc.) until they stop calling you.

Don't play sub games...double booking, sending in subs, etc. And if you must send in a sub, make sure that they play their butt off. There are some freelancers who only hire subs whose playing will not threaten their position on a gig. I think that his approach is counterproductive, myself. I consider myself a servant of the music...I really do, even dumb music...and if I'm not going to be playing it I sure as hell want someone good to be there in my place.

And...always keep your real musical goals at the forefront of your efforts. One of the reasons that I have been able to sustain a freelance career through so many years here is because I almost always take musical gigs over better-paying, not-so-musical ones if I can possibly do so. Gotta stay hungry; gotta stay alive musically. Everything else grows out of that.

And of course..have fun. A happy musician is a hired musician. That goes back to rule #2. If you are on gigs that overall make you unhappy...well, there you jolly well are, aren't you.

I wake up every day full of enthusiasm for whatever challenges will come my way. Win, lose or draw, it's a great life if you know how to live it.

An ongoing, lifelong adventure.

LX knows that. So do DG, Ben Griffin and several others on this thread.

Bet on that as well.

Have fun...we are.

Later...

S.
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« Reply #53 on: Aug 03, 2010, 04:42PM »

Great stuff, Sam. Thanks for chiming in!! Many words of well-practiced wisdom there, for sure!! And you are right...."an on-going lifelong adventure" INDEED!!!

LX
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« Reply #54 on: Aug 04, 2010, 04:35AM »

This is very interesting reading even for people that are not in the freelance situation or in a pro environment of playing. When I was studying and also got some into the pro scene with some interesting gigs here and there, I did a lot wrong. Playing skills are just a little part of the hole picture and not enough. Important and necessary, yes,  but there are many other factors that is well as important. Like Sam told about to meet up at right time.  I did experience that factors like human behaviour, be trusted and have your own day and life in shape is as important than playing skills.  So you have to keep your day/diary in system, you have to be stable and you have to be friendly and make contacts around you. This have to be understood very fast in any career  before its to late.

Today I see around its very tough to be in this situation. With family, children you cant take that many chances. You need a minimum of income to keep you and family over water. And also make them all they need to live decent. If you are alone its a bit different. I see many excellent players that have to do other work to keep all together. Do gigs that are not on their level and so on. 

I believe you need that approach like Sam told.  Give every note a meaning no matter where or with what players. I play a lot with amateurs and I try to blend in, play my note as consentrated I can, try to make my role as a part of it, and try to help the hole musical  result.  I never say so much. I just try to keep my playing to support and blend. That's in it self a big challenge and it makes my own playing interesting. No matter where I play.

Today I feel that if I only have the opportunity to play, I'm happy.  I don't care so much for level, what kind of music or where I play. Just play and do it with my soul. Then it gives a meaning and its fun. Im fare a way from the pro scene the people above lives in but still its interesting for me.

Leif
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« Reply #55 on: Sep 25, 2011, 01:50PM »

This has been a most interesting and very thought provoking thread for me.

I would like to offer another perspective to the idea of doing gigs that might be considered sub par. After and during school (B.M. & M.M.), I managed to make it as a freelancer in San Francisco, not first tier but made a living and had some interesting playing opportunities. I used to ***** and moan to myself on those gigs that were bad and I was playing, "just for the money." I had much to learn back then, as I do now.

Eventually, I became weary of the driving and also realized that trying to get a steady orchestra gig was not what I really wanted. I went on to study the Feldenkrais Method and developed a strong practice after moving to Switzerland. I did some gigs when I first came and then when I began earning enough from the practice, stopped freelancing. I kept playing albeit not as intensely, as well as teaching privately.

One thing I did was join the trombone choir to keep some ensemble playing going. The group is made up of amateurs and wasn't very satisfying. Now that I've decided to get back into serious playing, I'm still in the choir. It's still not very good but I've found that when I'm really present and playing well, the group gets better. Additionally, no matter what's going on around me, I can still try to play as musically as possible and learn something about music from the 1400's to present.  I test out my ideas for movement lessons for brass players in the group and soon I hope to publish somatic awareness lessons for trombonists in hope of helping many others like yourselves feel and play better. I also got a 1 year teaching job here in the music school because of my work in the bone choir.

And then, there are those rare moments when every one gets linked in and plays better than they normally do. Mind you it's still not great but when the intonation and musicality settle in, it feels like the sun has arisen on a spring day, and everybody smiles.

The brief version of this is: my experience is what I make of it.

Thanks to all of you for contributing your experience to help me shape mine for the better!

John
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The Dynamic Musician Series: Dynamic Stability & Breath, Vols. 1 & 2 "Dynamic Resonance" & "Embodying Deep Practice" Using somatic awareness to better playing.
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« Reply #56 on: Sep 25, 2011, 10:07PM »

I just got in from a club date (wedding reception) and saw your reply, John.  It reminded me of an experience I had many years ago.

I was doing a dixieland band gig with a throw together band at a local fair.  It was a fun group, good musicians, and we had a blast playing and hanging out.  I was scheduled later that evening to play at the fair with a different band; one of those warhorse-local bands that play like **** and are a real drag, but seem to always be working (yay, suburbia). 

Anyway, I was B******g and moaning about having to play with this band and the guitar/banjo player stopped me cold.  He's a real cat, and has been through some serious stop if in his life.  He said to me: "Of course it's going to be miserable, you've already decided that it's going to be."  This stunned me and he said after that "Just decide that you're going to have a good time and you will."

Well, of course I wound up having a good time.  I found things I liked, or that were challenges to me.  I got along better with everyone in the band.  I sounded better.  I keep this with me often when I'm not enjoying a gig.  There's lots of reasons not to enjoy regular working gigs; quality of music, players, bread, leaders, clients, etc.  But I can put on the good face for one night and usually wind up having a good time. 

I had a good time tonight at my club date; because we made it fun.  It's a good enough group of guys that we enjoy what's going, even if we're making up lines to Lady Gaga.  We make up challenging lines, push each other musically and technically, laugh and joke...its a good group of human beings.  We get guys that sub on the band that have the sour puss before they even show up...they never have fun.  Then others are seduced by the infectious spirit of insanity.  But WE make the insanity, WE create the environment.

Now, none of us are any false delusions about the quality of the compositions that we are covering.  But OUR product (as a horn line, at least) is very good, and WE create an environment that is enjoyable too.

Our perceptions and preconceptions will make a difference to our survival.

-Ben
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« Reply #57 on: Sep 26, 2011, 03:36AM »

Yeah, playing classical trombone is often a background voice (jazz too I guess). Often I sit there playing long notes and harmonic pads.

I can't remember who said it to me, but he or she said: You have to find a meaning behind the notes. WHen I get bored while playing, I often think why am I playing this, what is my role etc... And I challenge myself in that way.


I read an article once, I think it was in the norwegian musician organisation's magazine, that so many norwegian arrangers (and also some composers) are trombonists... And one of them, who was interviewed said in all seriousness that he believed it was because trombonists had the most boring parts, so they start to listen to the music, isntrumentation, layers and to the other parts and how the music works, than to their own part!
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« Reply #58 on: Sep 26, 2011, 05:54AM »

I used to have that - I subbed a lot of wedding bands about 7 years ago before 2 (yes, 2) band leaders died of heart attacks within a couple of months of each other.  Amazed I hated doing the work at the time, but it was my part time job getting me through school. They constituted 90% of my good paying work, and I was stuck. I thought, since playing weddings wasn't what I wanted at the time, I thought I would be happy teaching and playing part time. 6 years later (after finishing my degree at the New School, getting certified in a year long program and teaching 5 years), I was miserable, playing a few gigs a month and dreading waking up every day. I resigned from teaching, and began pursing the freelance career again. Now, I'm playing weddings and corporate events again, but I find that I enjoy them so much more. I'm thankful every day that I get to make a living putting my lips to my horn.

I guess that since I have the experience of doing the day job (in addition to teaching, I have worked in offices as a temp), I realized that the day jobbing life is not for me, at least right now. Who knows who I will be and what I will want in 5 more years? But, I'm far more satisfied now, loving every gig I get (from Chinese funerals to corporate events, and some weird stuff in between, in addition to the "normal" big band work), and wake up every morning excited for what the day will bring. I'm about to warm up for a Chinese funeral, then I will be going to a training session for an after-school program I'll be teaching, and who knows what tonight? Practicing, probably. I haven't had a dull day since my last day of teaching 3 months ago.
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« Reply #59 on: Dec 24, 2011, 10:00PM »

This is a truly wonderful thread. It's giving me a lot of information to take in about freelancing in the industry. I've got some personality changes I need to undergo before I graduate! Luckily, I have time.
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BM (Instrumental Performance) - Eastern Washington University: '10-'12
BM (Trombone Performance/Jazz Studies) - Western Michigan University: '12~
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