When are too many bands a thing?

Six years ago, I wrote a post called the perils of having too many bands… and at the time I thought I was coming to an upper limit, but little did I understand our capacity to reorganize time when pressed. The image above is a collage of many of the groups I’ve had the pleasure of performing with last year, and doesn’t come close to including a number of pick-up or sideman gigs I took. In the well over 200 events I performed at in 2016, I played with nearly 40 different configuration of musicians and performers in dozens of genres.

As I mentioned in that perils post, weekends are premium performance times with Wednesdays and Thursdays a close second. Touring regularly can help fill up weeknight openings, but that’s just one way to fill up schedules. Much of that depends on what type of market in which you’re working. For example, I’ve been playing a number of children’s show, many of which are in-school performances, so I’ve managed to fill up time which don’t normally fall in the weekend/weeknight rage.

Performing “Plain Jane” with the Louisville Ballet at Wheeler Elementary

As I stated in the perils post, in-school performances is something I’ve been wanting to do for sometime–something I’ve long wanted to do ever since I nearly took an audition with Tales & Scales back in 1996. I’ve barely scratched the surface of that potential market, as I’ve only played events during 40 or so weekdays (there are up to 262 weekdays in a year with 200 or so being during a school year).

Given all the experiences over the years (well, decades even) of seeing and performing children’s shows, as well as teaching children, I’ve been slowly developing one for my interactive video/cello project, Camera Lucida. As I’ve long been interested in music from all around the world, and since I’ve really been wanting to explore music from my homeland of Thailand, I’ve decided the production will be about Hanuman: the Monkey King in the Thai Epic, Ramakien (the Thai version of the Indiana Ramayana story).

The benefit of this project is that I get to eliminate one of the other issues I brought up in the perils post, and probably the single biggest problem with working with a number of groups:

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’ve spent so much time working with others’ schedules in my own busy one, and this past year has been the worst given my increased performance (and teaching schedule), that doing what is for all intents and purposes a solo show, I can eliminate so much of that. Also, there’s the added benefit of working on a project that I really believe in and not trying to drag others into doing it. Really, this is what I’ve been doing with exploring other projects and groups over the past few years. When I realized it would be easier to find other like-minded individuals to work on a new project or direction rather than trying to shape the direction of groups I’m already in, that alleviated so much tension in my (and probably others’) lives.

That I’ve been able to achieve some measure of success with new projects as I have with older ones shows me that it can be done. It’s just a matter of taking one to that next level by focusing on it more.

Will that stop me from playing with so many other groups? Not very likely, since I love the variety of things I do and wouldn’t trade it for anything, More importantly, by focusing on children, I can start shaping the tastes of future audiences!



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