Am I Calling It In? by Jonathan Moody… My grandfather said that “you can learn something from everyone, even if it’s what NOT to do” and it seems that whenever I forget this saying of his, it finds a way into my life. The latest instance of this was when I was doing some research for some upcoming articles (which let me tell you, I’m getting very excited about). A colleague and close friend wrote to me – in response to a question I had – that “two-three hours of focusing on just music is a rare gift that we have.” It resonated with me for about a day, coming to a head during a double gig last night.
How many times are we just “calling it in,” and going through the motions over being totally committed to the task at hand? As a freelance musician, I wind up playing a lot of music that other musicians may lift their noses at, citing that it’s either below them or not something they want to play. Oftentimes the money is very good, but I also love jumping into a situation where I’m not that familiar in an effort to expand my knowledge base and learn some new things that may work their way subconsciously into my playing at a later date. I attack these new gigs with an open mind and willingness to learn from the more seasoned musicians in this field.
However, what about those other gigs that are “old hat?” To date, in the past seven years I’ve done 79 theatre productions at a variety of venues in and around the surrounding area. Very little surprises me anymore and I end up playing with many of the same musicians. But after my friend’s comment, I felt grandpa’s words sink in and I had to ask the question of myself.
Am I calling it in?
I’ve said it just now; very little surprises me anymore in the theatre realm. But I have to wonder if I’m subconsciously just putting myself on auto-pilot when playing a show, knowing that there is a clear roadmap in front of me, and while it IS live theatre, many of the productions I work with are top notch, eliminating any real possibility of a train wreck onstage. There is a clear and definite disconnect between the pit orchestra and the crowd (you can certainly hear them, but it’s not the same as when you’re the band they’re coming to see). That is still no excuse to present your best foot forward, and be completely present and in the moment.
As said previously, music is a rare gift that we have. How many of our friends and family are just in awe that we can play an instrument that looks completely foreign to them? We shouldn’t take this for granted, no matter how simple, easy, or “old hat” the gig is. We should approach every gig like it’s our first one, with that excitement of trying something new and the open mind to be in the moment and learn from everyone that’s performing with you. We deserve to present our best, to the people paying us (obviously), but more importantly to the crowd coming to see us, the other musicians we’re in the trenches with, but lastly ourselves.
No one likes to finish a gig and say “Eh, it was alright.” Take the time to approach everything with complete focus, and you might find out that the person that is teaching you what NOT to do was the person in the mirror. Have a great month, and feel free to share your thoughts with me on Twitter at @monjoody.