Last night I was meeting and rehearsing with my Central Asian music and dance project, Raks Makam, and tonight I get to meet and rehearse with my String Quartet. The previous night (Tuesday) I rehearsed with the IUS Orchestra which, as I said I do in alternation with the Klezmer group, The River City Klezmer Band, every Tuesday. Tomorrow night I meet with my Arabic band, Ahel El Nagam, and the bellydancers we’re playing for this Sunday to run through things.
Around this time last year I first started playing with the Klezmer group and my Balkan band, Kermes (now on hiatus) as well as intermittently with the IUS Orchestra. I started a new project with Celeste–a “Vintage Experimental Goth Music and Dance duo” called Secondhand. Raks Makam had been on hiatus for a bit since Taletha, my then partner, relocated to Colorado but is not back into the full swing of things with new collaborative partners.
My solo experimental noise act, Noiseman433, which had been on hiatus four a few years, was resurrected last year for a show opening for The Enigma last year and has been performing pretty regularly since. Reminds me that I have to update the website!
As you can tell from the above (which is a bit abridged) I can hardly keep up with what I’m doing sometimes. In some ways it was simpler between 2008-2010 when the two (three) active projects I had, il Troubadore and Ray Price (Ahel El Nagam), made it much easier to keep track of things–especially as the priority levels were different back then. While I was touring around the US with Ray Price, even my teaching schedule had to take a back seat since getting to and from the tour bus (which meant a long 9 hour drive to Texas) and then being stuck on the road for longer periods of time meant I had a little less freedom. il Troubadore was still my main project, but it did feel a bit strange to go from over 200 shows a year with that group to about half that while doing other performing work.
But even then, as is the case now, the single biggest issue of having so many performing options is simply there’s a premium on performing times. Weekends are prime time–I still have to turn down more gigs than I get (in general)–it’s an issue of having so many musical projects competing for my time now, while back in ’08–’10 it was an issue of two or three incredibly active groups competing for my time. The result is the same.
So if weekends are premium performing times, that leaves weekdays. With a full time project (such as playing for Ray Price) the weekdays weren’t so much of a problem when I could manage to get on board for many of those medium to longer stints. But going the solo route is another obvious solution. And as I’ve mentioned I’ve been developing that kind of performance direction lately. Wednesdays and Thursdays work better for me (and I think these two days would fall just under the premium performing days of Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays). Mondays and Tuesdays have never really been great spots for any but the full time performing musicians, but I leave those days to teaching so the issue is moot for me. But the percentage of shows I get for Wednesdays and Thursdays are just a step below the weekend gigs.
But there is a whole block of premium performing time I still haven’t managed to tap much.
For some time while I was working on developing Raks Makam, it was with the express purpose of doing in-school programming. Some musicians make a living just doing educational shows for kids and that was where I wanted to focus the efforts of that particular project. Now that it is back amongst the living projects, it looks like that may become a real possibility again. Also, the solo work I plan to use as another way to develop school programs. It’s a huge untapped reservoir of performing real estate that I just cannot look away from and it’s about time I took advantage of it.
The real peril of having too many bands is being subject to the collective schedules of the collaborative partners in them. Their day jobs, performing schedules, personal schedules–all of these can influence how much the musical project is available for performances. And this can be as much, if not more, problematic than having groups compete for those premium performing times.
I hope to solve the dilemma by filling that other premium performing time and at the same time hit an audience that far too often gets left behind in the rush to fill venues with adults whose tastes are, more often than not, going to be much less malleable and set.