posted in performance on march 20th, 2009
As anyone who has hung around this blog for a while knows, most of the performance I do is as part of an ensemble—and usually with a pair of very loud dancers. During my little "sabbatical" (if only!), however, I had the opportunity to play a bit of solo dinner music during an event at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Seattle.
The gig was actually very cool, which made things easy from the start. The dinner was in honor of some of the long-term patients at the hospital and was part the VA’s "National Salute to Veterans." The impression I got was that it was an opportunity for these folks to break out of their normal routine and get together for a nice catered meal.
And what better final touch to put on a nice dinner than live music? Okay, fine: I may be a bit biased on this count—but luckily for me, the organizers were of the same mind.
As I expected, most of the time I was there for ambiance (a role which I quite enjoy, actually), but any time I started to suspect that people weren’t listening to (or enjoying) the music, I would get a round of applause, a request, or someone asking what the name of a particular piece was.
As I have done for stuff like this in the past, I had prepared a set list, but really ended up more following the mood of the room. I had planned a sedate sort of program, for instance, but when shouts for "play something fast" came out, what more is a guy to do than buleria? In any case, there were definitely times when it was nice to have a list for structure: it’s no good to sit around twiddling one’s thumbs trying to think of what to play next.
All in all, I think the music went over well. People come to stuff like this, after all, expecting to enjoy themselves; as a friend of mine once said, they want the performer (in this case me) to do well. Of course I made the odd mistake, but since I didn’t draw attention to it, I don’t think that anyone noticed. Or if they did, they certainly didn’t care.
On a practical note, you may be wondering: So how does one land gigs like this? (That’s what I would want to know, anyway.) I wish I knew a general rule. (Unfortunately, I don’t!) In this case, I suspect it was largely thanks to a noticeable web presence. The woman who booked me for this particular event had earlier booked my ensemble (Zamani Flamenco) for an event in May. And that she found through Google.
Of course, I also think that not being a spaz or a lunatic while booking that first gig helped, too. Evidently, the woman who booked me for this gig had been promised music by someone else—someone who evidently dropped the ball at the last minute. Which made me think a bit about all the other stuff beside just playing well that goes into being a working musician. I mean, let’s face it: there are lots of people around who can play—many of them better than me. But, particularly for stuff like this, I think that once you’re competent, being reliable and easy to get along with goes a long way.
Which isn’t to say the music isn’t important—that’s definitely not what I’m getting at. But becoming a "good" player is something that’s more of a process than a final result, no? (I personally don’t imagine ever getting to the point where I’m "done" trying to improve my playing.) Being reasonable, however, is an entirely different story.
And speaking of reasonableness, I’m going to reasonably wrap this little missive up and go play.
I suggest you do the same!