No names will be mentioned in this story to protect the guilty.
I have been playing third trumpet in a big band for a few years now. I play mostly third, but get lead on a few parts and some solos. About 3-4 months ago our lead player left the band, which left an opening for a lead player. I am not yet able to fill that roll, but am getting closer with each passing day. The leader of the band found a pro trumpet player to get us through last night's gig. He has played in several big name bands and taught trumpet at more than one university. He attended a few rehearsals in the month before the gig. I played lead during the rehearsals that he was unable to attend. Unfortunately, he was unable to play the gig due to having some surgery earlier in the week. He chose a sub of equally impressive credentials to send in his stead.
When I arrived at the hall we were playing I was told to play lead if the sub didn't show as he was already late. Five minutes before downbeat the sub arrived. It didn't take long to realize that something was amiss with the new guy as he was unable to concentrate on anything. He made comments of how he had played most of the arrangements in the bands that had originally performed them. He was unable to play them last night and blamed it on a bad back. All the while I couldn't help but notice the smell of booze as he made a mess of things in the first set. By the end of the set he was asking us to help cover the lead parts. At the beginning of the second set I took lead on the first three tunes, before he left the stage saying that he needed to sit down. Needless to say, the audience and the band had greater appreciation of the quality of music that we were making from that point forward. It wasn't that I was doing that good, but that I wasn't as bad as what was happening up until that point. I played lead the rest of the second set and shared it with the 4th trumpet during the third. That second set is the most fun I can remember having on stage as the energy of the band and audience and myself grew with each tune. We were appreciating each other in a way that I have not experienced before. On a break between the second and third set I was given a note attached to $50 from the band stating " band consensus is that you saved our ass". Words can't describe how it felt to gain the respect of a group of musicians that I have always felt lucky to share the stage with.
I always work on improving every aspect of my playing so I will be ready for whatever situation arises. The fact that it paid of last night just encourages me to work that much harder as there is still so much that I am not ready for.
Practice often and be ready. You never know when you will be asked to stretch past your normal reach.