Thursday, September 24, 2015

Music is a refuge

This past Saturday I played for a wedding ceremony and reception party. I signed a contract to do this wedding nearly a year ago. I also learned over 30 songs to play for the reception and had practiced daily since June for it. All was in place the day before and I was ready. Then the call came in...

It was from my mother's caregiver and friend that she'd had a severe stroke and I was to fly to Arizona immediately. She was not expected to survive. What to do??! Since I was bound to the contract of the wedding, I could cancel and since it was the day before, I could not find a replacement that quickly. Fortunately, my sister was able to fly out there that night and I booked a flight for the day after the wedding.

Then there was the challenge of how to get through the wedding? It is a happy and emotional event and I was dealing with possible death of my mother. It didn't help that many of the songs I was playing for the reception were songs I grew up with and reminded me of my mother. "Moon River," "Light My Fire" by Jose Feliciano, "What the World Needs Now," selections from "The Sound of Music."

Of course I didn't sleep much the night before either and yet there was no turning back.  As they say in the music biz, "The show must go on." And so I arrived at the wedding and did my best. I actually found that focusing on the music and concentrating on my cues and being there for others helped keep me in a grounded state.  It turned out the songs all went well and everyone seemed pleased.

You never really know what's going on with someone. I played for all those people in their happy occasion, all the while trying to keep my sorrow and fear at bay.

It turns out that upon getting home from the wedding, I learned from my sister that my mother made much progress and she is now undergoing rehab. My sister has been there with her and we decided for me to come later in order to stretch out our support of her.

It's just an example of the kind of dedication it takes to do this work at times.  People say I am "living the dream" to be a professional musician and yes that is true. But it is not always easy! Still, I was grateful everything worked out!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Grab bag gigs

As a child I got a dollar each week for allowance and I'd go to the Woolworth's to spend it. I could buy a bag of marbles or a hot dog and a coke or any number of things. My favorite though was a "Grab Bag" of 45s. This was a stack of 10 45 records wrapped in a package so that you could only see the 45 on top. I loved going home and listening to each of them and discovering new bands and songs.  In most of the stacks there were a few duds but there was always at least one that stood out like a gem among the sifted sand.

My music gigs are like that too. There are days when I go and all kinds of distractions and mishaps are going on while I am trying to sing. Last week I was singing at a nursing home and there was a new resident present who was very unhappy to have me there. She kept repeating like a mantra, "Please leave. Please stop. Please leave. Please stop it now." I said to her once, "I have a few more songs to sing, maybe you can go in the other room if you don't want to listen?" She said, "I live here! Why can't I do what I want to do?!!" Well, she had a point there. So, I continued to sing while she tried other tactics. "One, two, three, four, five, six.. " (and on and on) until other residents tried to reason with her. "Please be quiet! We are trying to sing." But nothing worked.

I do have to say that the other residents did exhibit a lot of patience about the situation and seemed determined to have a good time in spite of the disruptive woman. Once we were singing, "Polly Wolly Doodle," and the disgruntled woman started up again, "Please stop. Please Go Away..." In the middle of the song, Ms. B went over to hear and said, 'Polly Wolly Doodle All the day!! How about that?!" and she laughed.  Then we all sang the refrain and laughed.. much to the dismay of our the woman who wanted us to stop. But we did have fun anyway.

In contrast was a few days later when i went to sing at another nursing home and everyone was alert and clapping to the rhythm and applauding after the songs.  They seemed so joyous and very appreciative too. When I left they all applauded me and a few even stood up.
So it can be a grab bag of mixed emotions and experiences but in all.. it is always worth it.