[Dixielandjazz] Play Where the Kids Are
jazzmin at actcom.net.il
Sun Dec 21 00:13:39 PST 2003
Shalom Jazz Fans,
I just turned 50 myself not too long ago, so I figure I have some time left to promote our music. It didn't take me long to realize
that finding old English speaking audiences in Israel to play for is NOT the way to go. Rarely can I get those folks out, even
personal friends, even when the gigs are cheap or free, and precious few of them hire me for any worthwhile gigs. I decided some
time ago to try to find Israel young people, maybe 16 - 30 years old, who want to play, or learn to play instruments that I can get
them started on, which means banjo or brass horns. I've been buying up inexpensive playable instruments as I find them, and
recruiting students and young players as I find them. It takes time, since I also have to work for a living until my jazz cruise
ship comes in.
But a couple years ago, I hit the jackpot. An Israeli kid who used to listen to me play banjo downtown got out of the army and
decided he wanted to learn. He worked hard, and did his first on stage performance with me -- a 45 minute show -- about 4 months
after his first lesson. Having him on banjo frees me up to play horns, although we do some 2-banjo stuff too. I've settled into tuba
and trumpet when we're working as a duo, and we take our turns on kazoo, washboard, or other interesting axes as the situation calls
for. Now, two years after that show, we have 4 hours of memorized repertoire that we can play consistently in the groove, we have
2-3 other players under 30 who work with us sometimes, and I have a trombone student coming up the pike who is almost ready to take
on certain paid gigs, but not yet the bigger ones, and another banjo student getting started.
Well, guess what! These kids have energy that we've forgotten about long ago. They have friends. Their friends like the music. We're
getting invited to play at Hebrew University, local pub-type hangouts I don't even know about, where young Israelis hang out. And
they like us too. We're getting paid jobs, and getting invited back for repeat business. They have friends who are getting married,
or who have brothers and sisters who are having bar or bat mitzvahs. My guys are getting a taste of being able to work an evening
for $100 - $150 and have fun, versus sweating all day for $25. All of a sudden, we're killing a whole bunch of birds with one stone.
Young players, customers, audiences... they're out there. We just have to find where to plug into their scene.
We played at Hebrew University a couple weeks ago, just 2 half hour sets in the student center between classes (with a 1 1/2 hour
down time between) for about $25. Not worth it, you say? Waste of time? You should have seen the hall full of students stopped in
their tracks to listen, smiling, clapping, dancing, grooving along with us, lining up to take cards. We got a paying gig for our
trio playing for an outstanding student awards ceremony out of it, and we're getting calls for New Year's Eve. No, sir, I don't turn
these little jobs down. They can be a gold mine.
So don't give up. Get out where the young people are, and play for them for free if you have to until you get a few of them hooked.
Have business cards and CDs ready. Have an instrument or two that you can let people try out with you on the spot. Washboards are
great for that. But I've had some success with horns too. Teach a kid to play one note on cue, then play a song where you can
feature him on that one note for a "solo" and watch him, his family and friends, and your whole audience light up. Let a kid who can
count to 4 strum the banjo while you play the chords. I've done whole songs that way with kids under 10 years old. You might just
end up with a new student, a customer for a horn, and another young soldier in the ranks. You never know until you try.
Happy holidays to all,
Doctor Jazz Band
More information about the Dixielandjazz