V.com weekend vote: What is the farthest distance you've traveled to play a gig?

May 25, 2018, 7:01 AM · How far would you go, how far have you gone, for a gig?

I'm talking about the distance you would drive, or fly, to play.

Many working musicians regularly travel in order to sustain a career in music. This does not surprise me, but sometimes people don't understand that musicians often keep regular jobs in distant cities, with much of their earnings absorbed in the expense of traveling.

Personally, I've certainly had this experience. When I lived in Omaha, Nebraska, I had a contract in both the Omaha and Lincoln Symphonies -- Lincoln being about 60 miles away (I-80 being a sheet of ice across which the snow blows horizontally, a dizzying drive in the dark). When I lived in Denver, I had a contract with the Colorado Springs Symphony -- about 70 miles, but a different kind of snow because it involved going over a mountain pass. I was fortunate that I wasn't in the caravan that once was stranded in a developing blizzard. When the police came to dig out their car, they had to leave their instruments behind, the horror! Living in California, I regularly drive all over the very wide Los Angeles metropolitan area for work in various symphonies and groups.

I haven't flown all that often to play, but concertizing soloists often fly multiple times a week, finding themselves in a different city or country every few days.

How sustainable is this lifestyle? It's pretty tough, but for many musicians this is simply a normal part of life.

How about you? What is the farthest distance you've traveled to play? Do you have a regular gig that requires a long-distance commute? Have you taken touring that took you away from home? Do you simply live out of a suitcase? Is this okay, or does it make you crazy? Please vote, and tell us all about it in the comment section below. (Also, I realized that for some, traveling to another country is a short distance! If you can say 'yes' to more than one answer, just pick the one that seems most appropriate to illustrate your travel for gigs.)

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Replies

May 25, 2018 at 03:34 PM · Someone I know was once flown from Chicago to Maui (Hawaii) for a wedding gig. Four days total, all expenses included. Played for no more than 45 minutes total (prelude, service selections). Not bad

May 25, 2018 at 03:44 PM · I think there should be a flipside question for nonprofessionals--- what is the farthest distance you've traveled to watch a concert?

I did a day trip 3.5 hours one way to watch a concert. 7 hours driving + 2 hours concert. Still one of my fondest memories.

May 25, 2018 at 04:35 PM · To another state. Longest distance: about 300 miles -- road time about 7-1/2 hours. I did this multiple times during my student years but haven't done it since.

Side note: One of these small-chamber situations was during a heat wave in Michigan -- afternoon highs of 95 F. for several days. This is when I, and my playing partners, decided to set aside the jackets and ties. I've played without these extra "wraps" since then -- far more comfortable for me and more secure contact with the instrument.

May 25, 2018 at 07:18 PM · Not the farthest but the tightest timing; Due to miscalculating my needed travel time I once had to take a small shuttle plane from Riverside to LAX, dressed in my tuxedo.

May 25, 2018 at 07:25 PM · I've travelled to China and to Europe from Canada to play, not so much as gigs though but for chamber music workshops (in Europe) and for myself and my family (in China). I love to travel and don't want to stop playing. So there's no distance that is too far for me to go as long as I can also be playing. Traveling with violin on the plane seems getting more and more problematic lately, although I have not had bad experience myself. This fall I'll be in Tuscany for another chamber workshop. For the first time, I decide to rent a violin there instead of bringing my own so that I can travel around after the workshop more carefree.

May 25, 2018 at 09:00 PM · I am not, and never was, a professional musician. However, I was recruited by Bell Labs to teach/consult on Supply Chain Management for the manufacturing side of AT&T after divestiture. That actually ended my violin performing because I was on the road almost every week.

12 years of that and I pulled the plug. Found a steady local job and vowed that I'd never set foot inside an airplane ever again. So far I haven't. I haven't gone back to performing with the community orchestra (because they are no longer intergenerational - only for young musicians building their college resume's). I've been round the world, had sufficient frequent flyer miles for three vacations in Japan. Still never want to be in an airplane ever again.

May 26, 2018 at 03:37 AM · I've gone as far as Japan!

May 26, 2018 at 09:10 AM · I've flown from California to Michigan to perform on two occasions. Neither was a paid gig.

One time was for the wedding of two of my friends in 2016. I mentioned it in last week's weekend vote thread. I ended up playing only a 3-minute processional and a 6-minute recessional, but had to prepare both at the last minute because the pianist was in the hospital and there was no replacement lined up.

The other was in 2004 for the undergrad senior recital of a different friend who was double-majoring in physics and horn performance, and playing one of my compositions in her recital. (It was also the first-ever public performance of any of my compositions.) I ended up also being included as a performer, playing the second viola part in the Mozart Horn Quintet. I was there for my entire spring break in order to rehearse. That time I bought my own plane ticket, though I had all my meals covered and stayed in the guest room at her parents' house while I was there.

Other than those two trips to Michigan, the farthest I've gone is about 35 miles.

May 26, 2018 at 01:16 PM · One of the orchestras I play with (viola) performed at the Kennedy Center earlier this year but I don't count that as a "gig" since I wasn't paid. Besides that, Roanoke is about an hour from Blacksburg and I've played several actual gigs there (all jazz piano).

May 27, 2018 at 02:25 AM · We live in Northern CA, travel up and down the coast fairly regularly to play for dances. The better gigs pay for flights but if we have to drive we usually try to combine the trip with some vacation time. Music isn't our main source of income so we can can be picky about what we take on. Longest drive was about 14 hours each way for a weekend dance workshop near Seattle.

May 27, 2018 at 02:20 PM · Some pretty good distances here!

May 28, 2018 at 04:16 AM · Played at a friends wedding once about an hour away. That's about it :)

May 29, 2018 at 06:37 PM · I thought the percentages of the question gave some interesting info. 35% travel less than two hours for gigs. It really underlines for me, at least, the importance of networking and making professional connections. People hire people that they know, and like! Unless your ambition is to play in orchestras, then you go where you get hired.

May 29, 2018 at 07:25 PM · Has anyone seen my yellow Ford Bronco? I've been looking all over for it.

May 30, 2018 at 07:05 PM · USO tour...around the world twice...American military bases

May 31, 2018 at 07:02 PM · On one International Concert Tour, delayed leaving, I flew from O'Hare (Chicago) to San Fran, catching the connecting flight from S.F. to Tokyo, & transferring on from Tokyo to Hong Kong. Upon landing, jet lagged out of one's mind (!) when I arrived at the Hotel, dropping my fine Violin Case (I managed to save the impact) + 1st rehearsal the next morning (HK time) with the HK Philharmonic as guest soloist in the Sibelius Violin Concerto, it was tough! Fortunately, the subscription concerts were 4 days away and I was able to get some rest & after my HK Phil solo concerts gave a Violin Recital in HK City Recital Hall, to then fly back home, unpack, sleep, & leave for recitals & concerti w/orchestras in London & Poland + different concert repertoire ~ It may look 'glamourous' but the rigors of a concert artist's life are Heavy Weight-Boxing demanding! One must practise if between two flights anywhere available, & in transit from Copenhagen to Helsinki, (having flown from Chicago to the Danish capital airport w/an air strike on at Vantaa Int'l airport in Helsinki), I found a large Ladies & got my fiddle out for 2 + hours practise (Sibelius again + Bach Unacc. Partita #2, full, + Wieniawski Con. #2, & with a 'Hotel' mute on to avoid disturbing all using the facilities) then ran to the Finnish Air flight (& only one from Denmark finally cleared for landing in the huge snowstorm on Jan. 31st) out of breath but less nervous losing a full day/night flying. Btw, as all know, playing the Sibelius on Finnish turf is daunting, & with the Sibelius Academy of Music official pianist & specialist on Sibelius, it was even more so! Helsinki weather temperature's during that wondrous Tour were High's of 25 degrees Below Zero & Lows of 35 degrees Below Zero!! (I had a lite blanket wrapped around my fiddle throughout flights both going/leaving to intentionally defer weather-shock which can cause damage to one's instrument & bow's.)

Perhaps Laurie might initiate a discussion on 'Weather related experiences to Violins & Bows in very differing climate's away from home' ? This might bring many interesting stories w/much knowledge + Tips on What to Do's when playing in differing weather climates from home ... (A Just now Idea!)

To be sure, suddenly having to grab a short distance plane to get to a concert would try any musician's nerves, as described by JQ! For myself, the airport strike at Vantaa airport + a dire snowstorm shut down limiting All flights landing into Helsinki, rattled me, but with a 4+ hr delay, I was able to jet lag practise in Copenhagen's airport!!

At Home presently!

E. Matesky *

*Raphael K., we should've met in Tokyo, having picked up

JQ at LAX, & on 'The Jet Stream (not Road) to Hong Kong'!

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