[Dixielandjazz] Re: Sad Story

Elazar Brandt jazzmin at actcom.net.il
Wed Dec 15 04:01:53 PST 2004

Shalom Jazz Fans,

As a career musical hacker, I have to wonder what someone expects when he goes to study at a place like Julliard. I always figured
it's because they love to play, and they want to give it their best, and they will most likely be able to do something with it
career-wise. I don't know any school or any profession that gives guarantees for a successful career just because you came there and
got a degree, or even graduated at the top of your class. I graduated at the top of my helicopter pilot class in the US Army
(really) in 1973. Possibly could have had a distinguished military career and retired by now. But 6 months later the Viet Nam War
was over, and there was no gas, and I opted to take a discharge so I could go back to college, where, by the way, I got my only
formal musical training as my minor subject while majoring in religious studies. (If you want a guaranteed non-career in return for
your efforts, take up religion--not that the faith is not worthwhile [musical content: "I want to be in that number..."], but as a
profession, well, you gotta love it.)

And that's sort of my point. As I enter the second half of my first century of life, it seems to me that there are people who will
succeed in life to their own satisfaction at least, and there are those who won't, and it doesn't matter if they have degrees in
music or law or medicine or basket weaving, or from which university. Whatever you do, you have to love what you do, and bust your
butt to do it well.

I've reached the point that I won't work with self-styled musical pros who only play when they get paid what they think they're
worth. They show up late, want to leave early to run to another gig, refuse to play a couple extra songs for an enthusiastic
audience unless they get paid more. I had one guy walk off the stage before a show was over because we ran past the time I told him
we'd be playing until! Thank you very much, I have more fun (and so do my audiences) and make better music with my students, and we
still manage to find paying gigs while some of the pros are crying in their beer. I have indeed found a couple of seasoned
professional players who are the love-to-play type, who will work for whatever we can pay them, and I can count on them to show up
and do the gig with a smile and give it their best.

Maybe our profession requires a bit more hustling than some. Maybe not. I've spent more hours playing on the streets than I care to
think about. But that has built me a reputation, and has led to most of my other musical opportunities. Besides performing, I teach
private students, buy and sell and rent used instruments, sell strings and other musical accessories, do some light instrument
repairs, and I've learned some related forms of entertainment that pay, like balloon sculpturing, doing fanfares on straight
trumpets and shofars (ram's horns) and even a bit of clowning. Altogether, most months it adds up to about half my income, enough to
make my mortgage payment. I am fortunate to have some non-musical self-employment gigs that I also enjoy, that help pay the bills,
leaving me ample free time to myself as a bonus.

My latest news is, I've been working for several months with a few adult students on trumpets, and we stumbled onto an opportunity
to rise to the occasion and play a brass ensemble number at our local folk music club. Tomorrow night we have a couple of Israeli
musicians doing a concert of Simon and Garfunkel music. I wrote a simple arrangement of "The Sound of Silence" for 3 trumpets, the
guys took it home and practiced, and we got back together, and it sounded great. We picked up another fellow who had a horn in his
closet and recently took it out again, and he's joining us, so I transposed one part for F mellophone so I get to play with one of
my new toys, and add a bit of texture to the sound. So we'll be opening the show tomorrow night. In Jerusalem one will not find
brass ensembles doing pop music. Only symphony stuff. But my guys enjoyed doing this enough to commit to weekly rehearsals. We
figure if we can learn an hour's worth of music by summer, and start taking it out on the streets, there will be wedding and other
gigs to be had as people become aware of the possibilities.

The bottom line: life is what you make it. We can complain about the unfairness of it, but I haven't found anyone who's figured out
how to fix it. Nor do many care to listen to the complaining, much less pay for it, unless we can make it sound funny. So why not
just offer them good music instead? There are lots of ways to skin the cat.

Doctor Jazz Band
Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: +972-2-679-2537

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