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Where I think about life as a professional musician

by John on October 26th, 2012

In college, I made a decision . . . I would not pursue a life as a musician, and instead, take the more-reliable income of an engineer. And, for the most part, this is a choice that I’ve been happy with.

But, those of you who follow me closely might realize that music is finding its way back into my life . . . and I’m doing little to keep it out. But, when my world is going about like mine is, right now, well, I’m forced to think back on this college decision.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from the music director of the Carlisle Theater Company. He was double booked for the last weekend in October, and he really needed someone to cover for him for a murder mystery dinner theater production. As it was a weekend I wasn’t already booked, I said “sure.”

Then there wasn’t much of anything . . . until the Sunday before the Saturday show. I got an email saying “Rehearsals are all week from 1-5, and I hope to have the music in the next day or so.”

Flash-back to that decision in college . . . because now? Yeah, I kind of work, so I’m kind of busy from 1-5 every day. And, less than a week before the show, the music was still not secured. Wow.

In addition to the 1-5 rehearsal, on Wednesday, there was a separate technical rehearsal from 7 until whenever Wednesday night . . . so that’s when I actually got my hands on the music. And I realized that, not only was I playing piano in a 4 piece band (piano, guitar, bass, and drums), but I was leading the band. And that I wouldn’t be playing with anybody that I’d be playing the show with . . . until the show.

Wednesday night, I rehearsed until a little after 11pm, getting through a little under half of the show . . . Thursday night, as leader of the band, I called a pit-only rehearsal, just so that I might be able to play some of the music with other musicians before I play in front of a crowd.

If I had hair, I’d be pulling it out . . . I’m a decent-enough pianist, but I’m not the world’s best sight reader. And now I’m sight reading, and sight-directing, an entire show (seriously, I hope to be able to play through all of the songs this evening and tomorrow, just to have them under my fingers, but I won’t have played over half the showe with anyone but myself before I’m put on the spot).

If I’m serious with myself . . . the “not knowing what’s coming next,” the “not really knowing how I’m going to pull this off,” well, it’s all part of “being a musician.” During a live show, things go wrong . . . it’s the good musicians who are able to not let it affect them. If everything seemed to go easily now – well, I’d fear things were going “too well.”

But, in the middle of the chaos, which is actually driving me crazy, I can’t shake the fact that “I’m having fun.”

I realize that any job actually becomes a job . . . for as much as I want to be a performer, or a writer, or a professional masturbator, or a songwriter, or the catcher for the New York Yankees . . . if I were actually those things, I’d “be going to work.” The novelty would wear off . . . but I can’t shake that, if I were actually creating something fun and I had the feedback of putting smiles on people’s faces . . . well, I’d be a bit more fulfilled.

note to self, get yourself writing, a lot. Now.

From → Music

  1. I can relate to this because of I see it every day…in my husband’s eyes. He too is an engineer (aerospace) but his passion was always art. From childhood he was enrolled in art classes and involved in art competitions on both a state and national level. His artwork was featured on a stamp in our state, and is currently on display in both a mural and a water tower in his hometown. He was “supposed” to go on and become a world famous painter. But he looked at the world and he realized that he wanted a family more than anything. And art just wasn’t going to pay the bills. So, he followed his other passion: math and science. He now works for NASA and he truly loves what he does for a living, but there will always be that inner artist wondering about life on the other side.

    I hope in time he will find an outlet for his creativity as it seems you have. Some food for thought: you today is not the you of yesterday. The you today has had so many more life experiences that will no doubt enrich your creative process. Sure, you could have become a professional musician young, but I think it’s a safe bet the you of today is a better musician for the life you have lived in the days since making your choices.

    • You’re right – the me of today is not the me of yesterday . . . I know, if I had stuck with music, that I’d be longing for the stability of a regular paycheck in much the way that I, currently, long for the creative outlet.

      I hope he finds ways to outlet as well . . . I know there is a high that I get, as I perform, that I don’t get in any other fashion. And it’s wonderful.

  2. Yes, this.

    I wanted to be a writer (duh) and a singer, pianist, songwriter…

    But those dreams didn’t pay the bills right out of college. So I became a teacher with (at the time) a steady, guaranteed paycheck and an opportunity to make a difference in my own way.

    But those dreams will out.
    In their own time, in the best ways…

    • That’s the thing I keep telling myself – just because I’m not “Mr. Creativity” in my job right now, it doesn’t mean that I can’t do that . . . with just the right break, I can do it.

      It doesn’t matter if that break comes tomorrow, or in another 35 years. I know my creative pull – the call of the art, if you will. Some day, it’ll win me over.

  3. p.s. I hope you got my reply to your comment at my blog. I don’t think the emails are coming directly anymore…but I loved it!

    • I always seem to find a line between ‘sweet’ and ‘wholly inappropriate’ on your blog . . . though I have to credit you. After seeing this, I went to see it. 🙂

  4. I second your note to self. And good luck – it sounds like a fun time and I have faith you’ll be AMAZING.

  5. p.s. At least one of those professional life goals would lead to dreadful chaffing.

    • I’ve had far too much chafing in my life, recently.

      And thanks – I will get to writing more, and soon. I may actually chose to release a novel, a chapter at a time, on a brand-new blog in the near future. Assuming I can actually get said chapters written.

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