it’s not just a precious stone

Marc Geelhoed (Deceptively Simple) recently transitioned from Classical Music Journalist to “CSO Resound Coordinator.” Here, he writes a post I would consider a must-read for anyone who’s ever found themselves in a situation such as mine: about to graduate with some sort of music degree (mine happens to be an MM in Jazz Studies) with the financial obligations of the average adult but not the circumstance to meet those obligations playing full time.

When I was nearing the end of my undergraduate program (in Music Education), my teacher let me in on a little secret: in the competitive world of orchestra musicians, some musicians with a modicum of left-brain activity go into administration for their “target orchestra” in order to be in town with that section – those players – and learn what they want from a section mate. Taking lessons from the principal and any other section member who will spare the time gives you an edge when it’s time to fill a spot. So, off I went into my illustriousshort career as an orchestra management-er.

Because of budget issues (this was an early-post 9-11 world and hurricanes had just ripped through Florida, taking Foundation and Individuals’ money with them), I didn’t even last a whole season. They created the position for me and, as they say, “Last one hired, first one fired.” The position closed and I was jobless. I also spent a year teaching public school. I had spent a lot of time thinking I could straddle this Classical-Jazz bassplaying fence. It wasn’t working.

I came back to school and am here now, wondering what next. I’m still not prepared to make a living carting my bass around. I’m a good teacher and a functional bass player. I’ve spent my entire Graduate life to-date in “arts management” and, while it afforded me the finances to go to school, it stole (and continues to steal) my time and focus from playing. I’m starting to think I can’t have it both ways (go figure).

When you work around something you enjoy, it’s easy to become jaded, and that was something I initially feared going into this job. It’s something I feared as a journalist, too, and I got to the point where a concert was work. I have a lot of respect for my former colleagues who’ve gone to concerts week in, week out, for upwards of 20 years, in some cases, and can still write about it with passion and insight. It’s easy to lose sight that several hundred or thousand people have bought tickets to the event and are greatly anticipating it, while you sit there wishing you could be somewhere else. That boredom seeps into your work, if you’re not careful.

I work with one of the greatest Big Bands in the country. A great group of musicians and a brilliant writer/leader. I pay host to numerous musical luminaries. And I lose my appreciation for it all.

Because I can see that future on the horizon, I vowed to continue going to CSO concerts every week, but I also started going to rehearsals. The CSO doesn’t have open rehearsals, and has a rule about barring press from them, so I’ve never had the chance before. . .I get a fresh reminder in the middle of the day about what’s going on that justifies my getting up and going to work every day.

I used to do this at the Orchestra. I can’t afford that luxury here; I’m at rehearsals, working to make sure everyone’s happy and can hear and has all their music and their check. People tell me I’m good at this and it’s helped me along the way.

Food loses its charm when you can’t ever leave the kitchen.

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