[Dixielandjazz] What's a Musician worth?

Ministry of Jazz jazzmin at actcom.net.il
Sun Jun 17 23:44:53 PDT 2007

Shalom Jazz Fans,

Here in Israel food is an important part of most events. Our customers vary
greatly between those who don't think about the band and could care less if
we eat or drink, to those who are so intent on feeding us that we have to
fight them to let us play between courses! We also always try to befriend
the servers and staff of the place while setting up, and often they will
look out for us if, for instance, the buffet table is cleared before we get
a break.

We don't usually have to argue about whether the band can eat. The question
is, when. Obviously the band cannot charge the buffet table while the guests
are lined up. We generally keep playing until all the guests are settled at
their tables with their food. I try to arrange a program or schedule with
the host in advance of the gig. Remember, most private customers don't do
this party planning thing often, if at all, and so I often find that my help
and suggestions are appreciated. I ask them if there will be any speeches or
other presentations by the hosts or guests, and when they plan to do this. I
let them know that toward the end of the meal time, and before dessert, is
usually the best time to do this, as they will have the guests' attention,
and it falls half way to 2/3 of the way through the party. I mention that
this is a good time for the band to take a break (and I offer them the use
of our battery powered amp and microphone if we will be using it), and then
I ask if the band is invited to the buffet table, or if they will be served
a meal. I try not to wait until the event to settle this question. If there
is any hesitation, I just tell people that we need to know if we should eat
before hand, or if we need to bring something to eat during our break
(emphasizing that, yes, the band does need to break every hour or so).

Al larger gigs where we have 4 or more players, we have experimented with
rotating the breaks. For instance, keyboard and one horn play while the
banjo and other horns eat. Then we switch. That has worked nicely. Keeps
music going but with a change of pace, and the players on break don't need
to rush to eat their meals.

Over here in our desert climate, people know that we have to keep drinking,
and so they generally are pretty good about offering drinks to the band. We
usually don't do alcoholic drinks during the gig, except for maybe a beer or
glass of wine. My Russian guys may take a shot of vodka. Since they have
never overindulged on one of my gigs, I don't police them.

For any event, even a full blown wedding, I keep in mind that we are not
there to eat, we are not getting paid to eat, and we are not guests. First
priority is to earn our fee that we think we are worth, and ensure that
people leave the event happy. That's what we're there for. As a horn player,
I don't like to stuff my face anyway in the middle of a gig, and then have
to get back up and play 2 more hours. When we get fed during a gig, I eat
light anyhow. Just need a little something to keep going on longer jobs.

Above all, I keep reminding my players that our show runs from the moment we
arrive until the moment we leave. We don't stop being the band when we're on
break, or setting up or packing up. We keep the energy up, keep smiling,
stay in uniform, etc. If guests want to talk to us, it's a good time to make
contacts for possible future gigs. At no time can we drop our guard and turn
into a bunch of hungry, tired dudes. Seems to me that's really an image we
don't want to project.

Elazar Brandt
Dr. Jazz Dixieland Band
Tekiya Trumpet Ensemble
Jerusalem, Israel

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Anthony [mailto:santh at pacbell.net]

... Sometimes, very rarely, the client would
say it was ok to eat after the job and most of the guests had disappeared,
but usually the buffet had been cleared by that time, so it was kind of an
empty offer.

... I always insist on providing my guys with something to eat and
to drink if the job is more than 2 hours and includes a meal for the guests
(like weddings typically).

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