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 cross over the 150 show mark this year (with three months still to go) and since I’ve had a couple of slow weeks I’ve been reflecting on how I’m still spending close to half my gigging time playing for dancers as I’ve been doing over the past decade or so. As I prep my Bach and the Muslim World project/recital, I’ve been exploring another world of dance (baroque) and how that the movements of a baroque suite are comprised of dance movements and how that relates to the dance movements of Turkish Fasıl, Arabic Waslah, and North African Nawbah. Before concert music became a thing, music most often served dance.
In my previous post about tools for the 21st Century Musician, I discussed improvisation as probably the most useful tool musicians can be using. In a way, technology is even more indispensable. Unless our voice is our primary or only instrument (and even then there are exceptions), then nearly everything we make music on is the result of some level of technology. Whether we’re talking about the technology of carved bone flutes and dried skins over a wooden frame, or the highly advanced craft that luthiers use to carve/mold stringed instruments, or the ability to build circuitry or program for electronic instruments or computers, there is always some level of technology involved in the making of musical instruments.
So, why aren’t you in a band anyway? One of the things I think all Classical Music students (especially performers) should be required to do is play in a band. No, this doesn’t mean they should take up a guitar, bass, drums, or sing. What this does mean is that it should become an integral part of the performing experience–even if for just a semester. Learning the ropes on how to put together a set, getting booked, and dealing with a non concert hall type of venue would do more for teaching kids about the business of music than a class would, I’d think. Along the way, students would also be able to dispel a lot of myths about the Pop Music scene that we romanticize as a result of media representation or unrealistic portrayals of the industry through engagement with big name Pop Superstars.
I just found this wonderful video of Taiseer Elias teaching Arabic music at the Perlman Music Program in Jerusalem during the PMP residency last year. There needs to be more training programs like this for classically trained musicians!