Free Lance Musician

After the last notes of the last piece of the last show of the musical I have been helping with at Grand Haven High School, the interminable thank-you’s began. I wonder what happened to my old high school drama coach’s idea that you never break character. The thank-you’s started with behind the scenes people and ended with a huge hurrah for the adult director. Good Grief.

Anyway, the pit orch conductor shook my hand as did the young pianist who sat behind me all the time.

I had a long day of playing music yesterday.

Started out with a cellist playing a Haydn cello concerto with me playing the transcription of the orchestra part. This went pretty well.

I am always struck by the vulnerability of high school musicians. They are caught up in figuring out the world. A mixture of high hopes and discouragement. All felt intensely.

After this I met a young violinist who was to perform a Telemann concerto. I found the piano soloists warm-up room and managed to get us some time to read through her concerto. She had only contacted me a day or two before. Her accompanist had canceled.

I found out later that her accompanist was involved with another pit orchestra in Muskegon for the musical “Les Miz “and had to play a matinée. Ended up backing out of solo and ensemble commitments.

I found out that my Telemann violinist had only been playing for two years. She played extremely well for so little experience. The run-through went pretty well. But when she performed for the judge, she was very excited and went very fast and changed tempos on me. The judge was kind of an idiot. He increased her nervousness as we waited for a page to bring him some necessary forms. He commented on how big the young woman was for her age: “Grow ’em big up there in Muskegon, eh?” She was obviously embarrassed as was I.

Other highlights of my solo and ensemble day included

1. People being nice to me. This may strike you as odd, but by the end of the day I noticed that people were very nice to me. Strangers saying hi and smiling. I have been wearing my long hair down due a recurring head/neck ache I have had since my trip to China (fatigue? alcohol withdrawal? terminal cancer?). The lady in the cafeteria at the school where the festival was held undercharged me for my salad (“They charge so much because the kids pile it high. You just have a 2.00 salad there”).

2. The flute player I have been accompanying nailed her solo. She was playing as difficult a work as I heard (in person) on Saturday: Poulenc’s Flute Sonata, mov 1. It’s a lovely work and actually a piece of the flute repertoire. This player tends to play buy diazepam in turkey well in rehearsal and then get very nervous at festival. But she played musically and confidently. I was disappointed in my own playing on this one because I made new mistakes probably due to my own fatigue. Bah.

3. The other last minute player I accompanied played a big concerto movement that we didn’t manage to get through for the judge. (they stop you if it’s too long) This was the other kid whose accompanist canceled on him. Both of my last minute people were ninth graders who played pretty well. This kid’s performance time was a bit later in the day so I had a couple of hours to kill. I corrected my quizzes from college and then listened to my podcasts of On the Media and some of This American Life.

4. I ran into several people from my past lives including Mr. Riekow my daughter Sarah’s old orchestra teacher (Hi Sarah. Mr. Riekow says hi and that he still has the Elvis Costello CD you gave him. I guess he really remembered you. Last time I saw him he just kept walking. I think this was because I was working with the Holland High School Musical which was sort of a renegade project that didn’t involve teachers from the school like Mr. Riekow. I still haven’t gotten paid for this).

Also saw a young saxophonist I know who had put together a jazz ensemble with students from two schools. He described for me how they had done all their homework about authorization for such a thing. But the judges still insisted on reconfirming their legitimacy. Good grief.

I met this saxophonist playing in the pit orchestra for Holland High School for the show I never got paid for. I guess some good came of that experience. His ensemble played a medley (it sounded like he arranged it) of tunes including some Ellington and other standards. I admire this.

Last night the director of the pit orchestra showed me the amount of the check I will get for playing for Grand Haven High School’s musical. It’s around 1 K and is just about half of what I owe Uncle Same for taxes this year.

I have mixed feelings about taxes. I think people should kick in for services for government. I also almost feel like a sap because I declare all my extra income. It is this extra income that causes me to have to pay extra each year. I guess it’s really a small price to pay for my feeble attempts at personal integrity.

Recently one of the people being nice to me asked me what I do. I came up “I guess I’m just a free lance musician like so many of them.” Hm. That’s good. Maybe I’ll stick with that for a while to answer that question.

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