Monday, March 11, 2013

Paid to play

I got paid to play last week. Not a giant deal, in the grand scheme of things: a mostly pick-up orchestra, accompanying a community choir at their big concert. (All Mozart -- a fun program.) But it was a big deal for me. I felt the expectations were very high. My fellow musicians were very good, and had generally been gigging together on the various musicals that come through. And the quality was much better than my usual orchestra, and better still than the university orchestra I get to play with. But the big difference to the university orchestra is the amount of attention we received. We were the ringers, the hired guns. We're supposed to show up, play really well with no rehearsal, and then go home. The small number of rehearsals we had before the show were almost entirely spent on the choir -- the choir, who had been rehearsing this music for months already. The hired guns were supposed to figure out how to sound great on the fly, just by listening to each other. In the university orchestra, the rehearsals are pedagogical, with the conductor acting as professor and coach, instructing the students what to do. In this orchestra, we were professionals, and were supposed to figure it out ourselves, without wasting the choir's rehearsal time.

It wasn't the first time I've been paid to play. I'd done a few gigs in high school. But that was a long time ago -- I was probably 17 the last time I got a check for playing bassoon. I gotta say, it was incredibly fun. Stressful, sure. I tried to be in top form, as focused, prepared and professional as possible, but before and during the sessions. And being around excellent playing makes it easier to be excellent, as well as making it more obvious when I wasn't. It was great fun to do, to just be there, being a part of it. And then there were times my mind wandered away from the music, to giddily thinking, "I'm being paid to do this!" An incredible feeling.

I didn't learn the amount until after I'd gotten home. It's more than I expected, to be  honest. I would have been happy if it had covered the cost of parking. But I can do the math, and be reminded of how difficult it would be to make a living as a freelancer. Still, it was fun to do, when I don't need to try and make a living from it. Hopefully, I did well enough that I'll get a call again sometime.

1 comment:

  1. You all sounded really great. It was a very enjoyable concert.