So, as I mentioned in the previous post, there is an embarrassment of riches as far as performing options are concerned, if you’re willing to think outside the box. The past few years I’ve been playing the Sci-Fi/Fantasy circuit. I hesitate to call it the “Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention circuit” if only because some of the best paying gigs I’ve gotten recently happen to be at organizations outside of the Convention circuit proper.
And some of that has started to creep into the so-called ‘high arts’ realm with organizations such as Symphony Orchestras playing themed shows dedicated to particular Sci-Fi or Fantasy franchises (e.g. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars) as part of their pops seasons.
On the whole, however, there’s always been music at conventions–even if it only consisted of filk music. Part of the Klingon schtick is as much act as play and the idea came to me as a whim after il Troubadore started playing Sci-Fi conventions at the request of some bellydancers. We decided we needed our own act and schtick, thus was born the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project.
Ok, so I talk about the short series of events from bellydancer request to Sci-Fi convention to developing a full blown Klingon Band personae as if it’s an everyday thing. But seriously, for me, it is.
That’s the specific issue at hand here. Over the years I’ve heard all manner of musicians grouse about the lousy economy and the lack of work. And here, I’m talking primarily about those musicians who do not hold full time or professional positions as musicians–this includes freelancers, but also just your normal everyday band musician. I know I’ve brought up this issue plenty of times in the past, but don’t want to flood this post with a ton of links.
The issue at hand is precisely how to get work as a musician (if you don’t, as I said earlier, already hold a position as a full time musician in some institution). The issue at hand isn’t how to get work as a classical musician, or how to get work as a rock musician, or how to get work as a bluegrass musician. It’s how to get work as a musician. Period.
And that requires thinking outside the box of the style of music you happen to be comfortable doing! For example, I’m very much not comfortable doing pop music in general and yet, in the past decade I’ve probably performed about a thousand shows at rock clubs with rock musicians, playing all manner of rock/pop music on bills with hundreds of other rock/pop musicians.
And Klingon music? Well, that’s really not that different-the way I look at it (and any other style of music) is just that it’s, well, music–just happens to be music in a different style and in a different language than what I normally do. Not that I normally do music in any style or any language, per se. I just do music.
As a result of having this openess, I’ve picked up several different skill sets that you wouldn’t normally associated with, well, any particular musician. I mean really–what kind of category of musician would include a description that says “must be able to sing in Klingon and a few dozen terrestrial as well as extra-terrestrial languages, while playing the cello. AND must be willing to play several instruments, sometimes including the main instrument. AND must be relatively proficient and fluent in dozens of musical styles from all over the world, including highly experimental styles and genres”–?
Recently, the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project had the opportunity to play a Klingon Wedding. In some ways, this was no different than all the non-Western Weddings, Holiday events, Engagement parties and whatever, that we’ve played. Next April we might have an opportunity to play another Klingon Wedding. But as is the case it’s a choice between two different Sci-Fi conventions, and with me, I also have the opportunity to play some wonderful Symphonic repertoire with the local IUS Orchestra. This is the position I’ve been in for years now–having to choose between various gigs in musical genres/styles that have next to nothing to do with each other. I believe it’s still the case that I turn down as many, if not more, gigs than I accept.
Granted, many of those gigs are weekend gigs–which is prime time for shows. But as I’ve taken on a much heavier teaching load the past couple of years, many of the opportunities I have to turn down are due to my teaching responsibilities. I’m still on the fence about that issue.
On the other hand, if I were just a classical cellist looking for work, I would be in a much worse position than I happen to be in now. The ultimate trick is finding ways to perform during “non-prime” times. And that’s where the educational component comes in–in-school programming is prime-time for, again, those musicians that think outside the box. I’ve done a few such programs over the past few years, but classically trained musicians often have a bit of an edge in this direction since there is almost invariably an outreach component to their activities. As I slowly work up solo material, I’ll eventually start getting my foot more into the door for these kinds of shows. It’s an area where many musicians make a full time living and in many ways, this is the direction I prefer–performance/education. It’s what I do naturally with the groups and performances I already do, so it’s really hardly a stretch for me, anyway.
So, in some ways, it is ridiculously easy to make a living doing music in this day and age. The opportunities are endless and only limited by the imagination. But in some very important ways, it is the most difficult time to make a living doing music, since our entrenched ideas about what it means to be a musician can get in the way more than a depressed economic climate or the taste of a fickle public.
This doesn’t necessarily mean I advocate a more entrepreneurial approach to marketing oneself–in many ways, branding yourself (or your music) as a product can be just as useless as limiting yourself as a musician (and really, they are just two sides of the same coin) to the richness of opportunities. Sure, there are always personal mitigating circumstances to completely letting loose into the world of music. But if that ‘world of music’ is already limited in scope then we have primarily ourselves to blame for any lack of “making it.”
We can’t control the world, but we can control our own perceptions of ourselves and of the world.
David Cultler’s Savvy Musician Blog, which complements his book, “The Savvy Musician”–tons of useful tips for the enterprising musician: http://www.savvymusician.com/blog/
Greg Sandow’s Blog is a wonderful read on the cross-pollination happening throughout the world with classical music. While I may disagree about his doom and gloom forecast for Classical music (as well as the consequent ‘rebirth”), many of the stories he tells of enterprising musicians can be a model of inspiration for the most jaded of us: http://www.artsjournal.com/sandow/
Aron Zelkowicz posted a recent blog about the “F-Word”–Freelancing! http://cellobello.com/blog/self-discovery/the-f-word/
Joel Conner’s Blog, “Living the Dream: Artistic Living,” charting his bid into making a career out of playing music: http://joelandrobert.wordpress.com/category/artistic-living/. His latest blog post is incredibly inspirational.