Is it worth it?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by resonator, Jan 26, 2006.

  1. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Garry, nice post - you too bring some interesting thoughts to the discussion.

    Here's something interesting that I would like to share. As most of you probably know by now, I gig with a rock and roll party band on the weekends. For those who don't know, the name of the band is "The New Monopoly": (Or simply click the "www" in my profile line)

    How I wound up in this band is interesting, but it's also related to Garry's post, and I believe it also bears some relevance to the conversation at hand.

    I got this gig because of someone I knew - at the time I was subbing a lot in a big band called The Blue Moon Big Band - and one evening the lead trombone player calls me up and asks if I would be interested in subbing a rock band job, which I accepted. At the time, the band didn't have regular horn players and the bandleader was looking for players to permanently fill those spots. One of the tunes the band played that night was "Margaritaville", a tune which I could easily cover, and after the set, I joked with Justin, the bandleader that I could have sung it. Well, he had a gig the next weekend and asked if I would play it and during that gig, he called me on my joke, called the tune "Margaritaville" and I found myself with a microphone in my hand, singing about a "lost shaker of salt".

    See, he can get a slew of trumpet players to cover the trumpet book, and undoubtely cover it better than I can, but can he find someone who can play the trumpet book AND reliably sing lead, read vocal charts and sing backups, play auxilary percussion AND play the drum kit in a pinch? My horn playing is only part of the reason I have kept the gig - it's my overall versatility that really got me the gig and keeps me there, and that links in to what Garry said. It's one thing to be a one trick pony, but the more you can do and the more versatile you are, the more you opportunities will arise for you.

    By the way, these days not only do I currently cover Margaritaville as a lead vocalist, but I also cover a slew of other tunes ranging from Bobby Darin (Mack The Knife) to James Taylor (Carolina In My Mind) to Bruce Springsteen (Glory Days) and I sing backups anywhere I'm not playing trumpet.

    I do enough with music that these days I'm content to play trumpet on the side in a party band and play drums on Sundays for a Worship band, even if I don't get to do it quite as much or as well as I would like. Everything is a tradeoff unless you can somehow manage to become a superstar.
  2. gchun

    gchun Piano User

    Dec 10, 2003

    You and I are thinking the same way. With your approach, you'll always be able to find work.

    Unfortunately, there are the players that won't play anything but "real jazz" or pure classical music. Their loss. In Honolulu, the Honolulu Symphony Pops Orchesta, (made up of many the Honolulu Symphony members) is financially more successful than the regular classics orchestra. Without the Pops concerts, the entire organization would probably come close to folding. Then what?

    Be flexible, open-minded and forward thinking. Learn to adapt.

  3. tromj

    tromj Piano User

    Jun 4, 2005
    Teaneck, NJ
    making a living

    I think the NY philharmonic auditioned something like 450 trumpeters for the current opening on 2nd trumpet. I am a reasonably good trumpet player, but not NY Phil quality. But I can sing, run a sound system, teach, deal with clients, book gigs, stop fights, get from Bay Ridge to the Bronx using no highways in 45 minutes, get along with sectionmates and know when to assert myself, call tunes, play enough jazz, memorize tunes, play credibly on piccolo, cornet, flugelhorn, play Klezmer, classical, big band, and read shows. I can get wax out of my tux using an iron and a paper towel. There are hundreds of guys like me making a living playing.
    So I work.
    Thats what it takes nowadays. It's not rocket science, just common sense and imagination.
  4. Clarence

    Clarence Mezzo Forte User

    Jun 23, 2005
    san diego
    The thing is this,
    You gotta promote your self, and that,a all the time...for me.
    sitting in when and were ever possible.
    you have to create a job for yourself, a demand for yourself.
    You can,t be seen and not heard.
    My brother and i use to call on studios and check the local papers to see who was what and were.
    We would just grab our horns and sit in with rock bands,blues,and jazz bands.
    everybody knows somebody that,s doing something.
    That and networking keeps us playing for a living.
    Word of mouth is a very powerful marketing thing! ;-)
  5. Billy B

    Billy B Pianissimo User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Des Moines, IA
    Is it worth what?
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    ^^ Is it worth the time, effort and possible financial struggle - I believe that is the thrust of the question. From a # of Jobs vs. # of musicians standpoint, the odds of being able to forge a viable career in music where you can actually pay the bills are becoming worse for the aspiring performer, and even for the aspiring teacher.
  7. ecarroll

    ecarroll Artist in Residence Staff Member

    Jul 13, 2005

    One of the first things that I ask prospective students auditioning for one of my classes is "do you want to be a musician or do you have to be a musician?" Ask yourself the same and an honest answer may help you with the question you brought here :-)

    (slinking back to my forum after a few days of crusing, with interest, various others. I'll write a topic along the lines of vocational vs. avocational music making when I have a bit of time to be more attentive to it)
  8. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Ed, I like the line of the thinking and the idealism, but is it really that simple?

    I HAVE to be a musician. It is not within me to not be a musician. The real question for me becomes one of degree: what am I willing to accept? Here are some questions that I have asked myself in the recent past:
    • Is it ok to simply gig some on the side, or do I need to gig all of the time in order to be happy as a musician?

      Can I live with my level of proficiency if I choose to not make a career of being a musician?

      Am I willing to make financial sacrifices to pursue my musical aspirations?

      Do I have the talent to "make it" if I do put in the work?
    It's easy to tell others that it's a simple matter of deciding and choosing when a music career has worked out for you and your talent matched the hard work and drive that you had to succeed, but the reality is that not everyone who loves it as much as you do is going to succeed to the level that you have. It could be that the talent just isn't there. It could be that the cards don't fall quite right and the opportunities never present themselves. It could be that due to other reasons they just aren't good at making opportunities for themselves.

    So, for me, is it worth it? I made the decision 6 years ago when I left the Army band program that no, it wasn't. I wanted more for my family financially (and to that end, I have succeeded) and I had come to the conclusion that I either didn't have "it" or wasn't willing to make the kinds of sacrifices it would have taken to get it to succeed at a higher level. Have I second guessed that decision? You bet! However, in light of the fact that not only am I a musician, but I am also a husband, father, and provider for my family, I believe I made the right choice, and I have had to learn to accept (for now) what I am doing with music in my life.

    It's not always simple to define whether or not it is going to be worth it to pursue a career in music, and personally (from my own experience) I think it is folly to try to simplify it down to a single question as basic as "do you want to be a musician, or do you HAVE to be a musician"?
  9. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

    Nov 2, 2003

    I agree 100% Pat!

    One question for all you idealistic types:

    If you were forced to choose between teaching Middle School band or walking away from music entirely what would you do?
  10. ecarroll

    ecarroll Artist in Residence Staff Member

    Jul 13, 2005
    Pat and Jason,

    My response was to a question put to the room by a high schooler, not somebody in mid career. If there's ever a time to be idealistic and follow dreams, it's at precisely that point in life. I have two high schoolers myself and if either wants to pursue art history as a degree I'm all for it (in spite of the obvious subsequent job opportunities)

    Life happens. Babies are born, loans need to be repaid, orchestras fold, lifestyle issues have to be addressed, etc. There are no black and whites in this profession or any other. Everyone has his/her own situation to deal with, demons to fight, and passions to nuture. I'm simply saying that if you don't love it, and aren't willing to make sacrifices, reconsider your options. If you do, then full speed ahead (as, I assume, you both have decided).


Share This Page