Freelancing in a College Town: Dependability by Jonathan Moody
It’s Thursday. I’m staring at a weekend (Friday-Sunday) that has five shows, two rehearsals and a church service. As I’m getting ready and organizing my gig bags, amp cables, and clothes, I’m reminded by a comment a friend made a couple of summers ago; “Man, you gig more in one month than most of the students in town do in a year!” While I can’t confirm whether his comment is accurate or not, he does have a point.
The musician talent pool in a college town is much like their corresponding college sports teams; it varies widely from year to year. As graduates leave town for bigger cities and greater things, new students come in to begin their college journey. With this steady ebb and flow of talent, it can be very easy for the regulars in town to be looked over. It takes a different skill set than just playing your instrument well in order to remain on the top of the call list. The first one I’m going to go over is easy; be dependable.
Now, before we go any further, I’m not insinuating that college students are not dependable. However, college students have a lot of commitments that, when combined with classes, homework and practicing, can result in surprises. A student may have to rely on subs for gigs due to their conflicts. Many times, the directors don’t hear about these conflicts until a sub walks into a rehearsal or performance (I see this happen regularly). Having the same person for an entire run of gigs versus splitting the chair between a couple of players is preferable in any situation, and with college students this isn’t always a guarantee.
Since you don’t have the college schedule, you can more easily accept an entire run of gigs or shows, freeing the director to worry about someone else. If you do have to procure a sub for a show or two, be upfront and tell them right away. My personal motto is to never accept any gigs that I can’t do myself, but on the rare occasion that I do have a conflict, I make it a point to convey those to the director before I even accept the gig. If they are okay with the conflicts, we can move forward. Otherwise, I am happy to recommend someone else in town that is capable.
As the rehearsals and gigs come and go, your dependability is going to show up more as consistency. I am regularly early to any rehearsal or gig to set my rig up and get ready (I also can snag a cup of coffee from the theatre kitchen too, which is a bonus). When playing, I am consistent in my performance and also take notes on things that I need to look over and fix before the next rehearsal or show so that I can end a run of shows better than when I started. The last thing a director needs to worry about is “Where is ______ going to screw up tonight?” which, again, is something I see often. By being consistent, you become someone in the group that others can rely on. In the theatre setting, the music directors normally know they can lean on me to keep the tempo moving, but also help any subs that are in my immediate area to stay on top of the changes and cuts that are in the show.
In conclusion, when directors call me, there are no surprises or problems. They know exactly what I bring to each and every rehearsal or show. By being able to take entire runs of gigs, conveying any problems upfront and letting the director make the call, and consistent in how I approach a rehearsal and gig, my dependability speaks for me before the phone rings. The only worry that whoever hires you should have is wondering if they called you quickly enough to book you.