A musician’s life is not the easiest one, but it sure can be the most fun! I get to go places and do things people can only dream about, and I get paid to do it! It is not uncommon to receive a phone call and have to be somewhere within a few hours to perform without even having had the chance to practice the music. Or when you’re on a gig, realize someone didn’t learn something and you have to cover that part instantly during the show. Yes, years of training and practicing prepare you to be able to perform in those moments, but it’s the mental preparation for the constant element of surprise that seems to be the item you can never learn or teach. It just has to be there.
When preparing, I listen for ALL the parts, not just the part I am assigned. How does my part fit into the overall piece? The overall show? This preparation takes dedicated practice time, and that must be part of every musician’s day. Even if I don’t play my violin one day (this rarely happens), I listen to the music and mentally (sometimes just vocally) prepare my part. When I am traveling 36 hours straight to get to Asia, I listen to music and mentally practice. Even if there is no immediate show for which to prepare, I will practice previous shows and see what I have missed/forgotten.
So practicing takes up a part of every day. I would love for it to take more, but life does get in the way. I still have to pay my bills and earn a living like the rest of the human race. In order to do this, I have multiple jobs dealing with music. I am on contract to several orchestras. I also am constantly trying to stay on the “call lists” for the contractors, agents, promoters, and everyone who actually hires me. I teach private lessons 5 days a week (sometimes 6). I teach at a local preschool (I really LOVE the little ones), as well as facilitate youth programs at a major theme park. I play for weddings, conventions, special events, shows, productions, musicals, operas – ANY time I get to play and be paid, I love it! I head 3 committees for the musicians’ union, and serve as an international delegate for the international conventions. I travel frequently to do all these jobs, and live out of a suitcase many weeks of the year.
Make no mistake about it – being a musician requires a LOT of hard work. This is no 9-5 job. I work the ever-changing swing shift. Some days, I get home at 2am from a gig, then have to be at another gig at 7am. It is not uncommon for me to sleep an average of 5 hours for days at a time, then I will take a day where I can sleep in and sleep 10 hours straight. I usually will have a gig that night, but at least I will have been well-rested. DRIVING and having a reliable vehicle for transportation is VITAL to all musicians. Sometimes, I drive as many as 6 or 7 hours round trip in a day just for a performance.
My workdays average 14 hours (not waking hours 14, actually working for 14 hours). E-mail responses, phone calls, gigs, practicing, teaching, updating websites, practicing, promotions, reconfirming musicians, scheduling rehearsals, communication, practicing, listening to music for upcoming performances, driving, practicing, paying musicians, paying union dues and pension, arranging music, creating charts, practicing, organizing files and receipts for business expenditures, dealing with legal documents and contracts, practicing – it never stops. This is all in addition to maintaining a household, doing laundry (I average 2 full loads of black clothes a week since musicians usually wear all black), cooking, cleaning, paying bills, “normal life stuff.”
Is it any wonder that a “normal” life bores me to death? I don’t have children, so I have no idea what it is like to have a routine. I don’t like routines. I like things changing constantly. It’s where I thrive! I look at the lives of my neighbors and how they do enjoy the pleasures of playing in the yard with their children. Yes, that part looks like fun. Then I see how they are worn down as people. It’s like there is no more “spark” in their eyes. Maybe it was the death of their souls without them realizing what makes them happy. One neighbor leaves begrudgingly every weekday at 7:45am, then returns at 5:10pm like clockwork. She gets out of her car, looking even more worn down than from the morning, and drags herself into her house. It’s as if life is just one chore after another.
I refuse to be like that. Life is what you make of it. Yes, I work a LOT, but I absolutely love it! I would not want to do anything else! I had a “day job” for several years, and hated every minute of it. Now, I do what I love. I do it a lot and with a positive attitude. I don’t want to be anybody else but a musician. It’s a musician’s life, and I love it!