Thought some of you might get a laugh out of this....the twelve year old son of a family friend has an assignment due in a couple of days, a profile of a profession that he may want to pursue in the future, which at the moment happens to be 'musician' (crazy little feller!). I thought it might be entertaining to blog my emailed responses....I was surprised at how long it took me, as I really wanted to get it right for him. I also started wondering what I would have made of this if someone had told me all this stuff when I was twelve. I probably wouldn't have understood it really...
Questions for Michael:
Michael, as part of an assignment for school I have to look at a career that interests me. I have chosen a musician as I like music. Part of the assignment is asking some questions of someone who works in the area.
My Mum suggested that I ask you!
Did you have to go to TAFE or Uni. If so, for how long?
Yes. I studied at Australian National University in Canberra for four years, and completed a Bachelor of Music (Jazz Studies) with 1st class Honours in 2000
What age did you start playing at?
I started playing piano when I was seven years old.
Do you play in a band?
I have played in many bands over the years, but as I am a freelance musician, currently I am not a regular member of any band. At the moment though I am in the process of getting together a couple of small ensembles.
As a professional musician, is this enough to support you? (my mum suggested this one!)
Unfortunately no, although it possibly could in the future sometime (I hope!).
Have you always played the one instrument?
No. Through high school I played the tenor saxophone in a concert band, rock band and jazz ensemble and later studied it as an elective for two years at university.
What do you have to do in your job? What does your job consist of?
Being a freelance musician consists of many different facets, usually depending on what type of performances or ‘gigs’ you want to do and the style of music that you want to play. Types of gigs can vary wildly. They can be regular or one-off, and can range from a blues band in a club in a nearby city to a solo piano gig in a hotel just around the corner.
Meeting lots of people and making contacts among fellow musicians is very important as these people will hopefully hire you for their gigs and you will hire them for yours.
Freelance gigs usually fall into two groups; either you are hired by somebody or you are the bandleader and hire other people to perform with you.
When hired by somebody else to do a gig, you might be called by the bandleader, or you might be filling in for somebody else in an established band, which is usually called ‘depping’. Many different aspects of the gig need to be considered, including things like the style of music to be played, whether there will be a rehearsal, the time and location of the gig, what kind of band is playing the gig, what kind of musical equipment needs to be taken, appropriate dress, whether food and drink will be supplied, and of course the amount to be paid and method of payment, whether it is cash on the night or cheque.
The nature of many of the freelance Jazz gigs that I do is that sometimes the bandleader running the gig may not have a regular band or may require a different combination of musicians than what they’re used to playing with, which is why a long list of musical contacts is very useful. Often, because many freelance Jazz musicians know a generally similar repertoire, bands can be formed specifically for a particular gig, often with no prior rehersal. This can sometimes be a challenging situation, but also very exciting!
If YOU are the bandleader, then of course it is up to you to organize your band, keep a track of all those things involved with the gig and stay in contact with the people you have chosen for your band as well as the venue and the person who is paying you. Being a bandleader requires a lot of organization and phone calls but can often be rewarding.
Did you start playing at a young age? If so, did any of your friends play as well?
I started playing when I was in year 4, late primary school, and have been playing ever since, so yes, I suppose that was an early time to start! From what I can remember, none of my friends played piano at the time.
Do you have any tips for me?
If you stick with the music you love and work hard at playing it well, then you can’t go wrong!…
What is the best thing about playing music for a job?
Working long and hard on something that you love doing and being able to make money from it. Also, experiencing those moments where everything comes together, when you’re playing with a great band (or sometimes just by yourself) and the music sounds amazing, you’re able to make people in the audience feel something emotionally, and most importantly that you’re having fun with it.
What is the worst?
Sometimes as a freelance musician, if you are attempting to make a living solely off performing, then often you have to do gigs that you may not prefer to do, playing styles of music that you may not. But then sometimes that’s all part of the adventure…
Thanks Michael. Hope I can listen to you play one day. Luke PJ Smith