“If you think you might be ready for a change, you probably are.”
This was advice given to me recently as I was agonizing over several potentially life-changing decisions.
Looking back, I can see that it has rung true more than once throughout my life and career. Maybe it’s not a new idea, but it occurred to me that it could be helpful to others undergoing similar transitions or questions, so I thought it was worthy of inclusion in this blog.
It bears noting that musicians’ lives don’t necessarily fit a “normal” mode, because of the travel, the obsession with our art, and for various other reasons. The artist’s lifestyle isn’t necessarily thought to be conducive to raising a family, making money, getting up early, living a square or “stable” life… I always thought it was exactly what I wanted, and still do in some ways. But there have been 5 or more years during which I have never been in one place for two weeks straight. (As they say, “be careful what you wish for”). The fact is, I got almost everything I dreamed of and then realized that my dream was changing, sort of… (Young people, take note- your goals and values may change. You’ll be aiming for something you know you want, and ten years later when you’ve got there, find that you’re suddenly someone else, with different goals.)
Eight years ago I had built up a life as a jazz musician in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. I was able to make good money playing music on my own terms mostly, without working too hard. I had a good reputation and lot’s of contacts. My daughter, Camille, was four years old.
I had been trying to grow my career by traveling to perform, attend conferences, meet influential industry people, etc… Then it occurred to me that if I brought players in from NYC to play with me in Columbus, I could develop meaningful relationships with them and perhaps impress them enough that they would hire me to play in NYC and around the world.
Some of the players I brought to town included David Murray, D.D. Jackson, Greg Osby, and Billy Hart-all big time artists that I hoped to connect with. Luckily enough, D.D. Jackson recognized something in me that he felt he could utilize, and he brought me to NYC to record, rehearse, and perform. While in New York, I reached out to other people and acquired other possibilities to work, with people like Akua Dixon and Steve Turre.
People I met in NYC advised me to move. They couldn’t understand why I would stay in Columbus. NYC is, after all, the center of the universe for a jazz musician. I thought it would be problematic to leave Columbus as long as my daughter lived there. How could I leave my daughter? It seemed implausible, unthinkable. Making such a change just wasn’t going to happen, or so it seemed.
For more information about my work and me, you can visit my site at http://www.christianhowes.com/education
I’ve always said that if you give me $1,000 I’ll stand naked in the middle of Times Square. Why not? It takes money, in part, to make the world go around, and, especially if you’re a creative musician, money can help you produce your art.
So many musicians just don’t get it. And I’m not talking about the ones who are HAPPY starving, playing in their bedrooms to noone. If that’s you, and you dig it, cool.
But if you really want to make your music and get it out there, I suggest you find ways to generate cash to keep your engine going. It’s cash that enables you to buy an amp, produce a record, book a rehearsal studio, etc…
Playing weddings is a great niche for string players who can stroll, play styles like jazz, funk, folk, world music, and anyone with a pick-up or electric violin will have a huge advantage when fitting into loud groups that play big rooms. I can tell you for sure that in NYC alone there are several agencies specializing in performing for Orthodox Jewish weddings, and they will pay a premium to get a violinist 1)with a pick-up and some effects 2) who can read 3)who can improvise and rock out a bit.
Google “wedding bands” or “booking agencies” in your town, call them all and email them all telling them that you’re able to stroll, amplify, fit into different styles, improvise, etc…. You will never have to worry about cash anymore, and by working two nights a week to make some quick money, you’ll have the ability to focus the rest of the time on your creative art.
If you’re a classically trained string player like I was, then you know how to make a beautiful acoustic sound come out of your violin or cello. It’s about your left hand, right hand, posture, etc… You probably don’t have a clue about getting a sound when you’re playing on stage with a drummer….
It’s a different ball of wax when you’re amplified. It’s all about using the amps, pickups and processing gear as extensions of your instrument. This is such a game- changing thing that most of us never get around to getting a good amplified sound. I’m still frustrated from time to time about my sound, but I know I’ve made lot’s of improvements over the years just from trying things.
My choices of gear include the Yamaha electric violin, viola, and cello/bass. I also LOVE the Yamaha VNP1 acoustic violin pickup.
RADIAL makes an awesome acoustic instrument preamp, and D’Addario makes great strings for electric violins.
My favorie amplifiers are Acoustic Image and AER , but it really depends on what you’re going for. And my layman’s effects pedal of choice is the BOSS ME-50, accompanied by the Digitech JAMMAN loop pedal.
More entries: April 2010
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