Finding Music Performance Opportunities

image I got a email from a Sax Professor and repair tech asking for playing opportunities for an adult returning to music performance. I thought I’d capture my response so that I can point to it again (rather than redraft it) as I get these requests many times a year.

The groups I play with in the Redmond (Eastside part of Seattle) have *long* sub lists that can be both frustrating at first blush and interesting as to the possibilities. The number of people wanting to join got so big a couple of years ago that we had to institute an audition process. But all is not lost. Consider these options and from a hobbyist like me who mans the 2d alto and tenor chairs mostly:

1. The complete list of Community band in the US and around here is at I search on the string ‘WA’ and then work my way through the list. With over 1100 community bands listed, that’s the most efficient way I know to search. I know that Monroe and Shoreline were looking for clarinets and saxes last year. I joined the community band to start networking with other hobbyist musicians. Concert band isn’t my thang, but it catapulted me into jazz in a big way.

2. Create your own sax quartet. I did this and now have ~12 people who rotate in during the year. Last year we actually gigged three times. Here is one of the videos: All I had to do was procure the music and start pokin’ around for sax players in my part of town. I actually converted my wife into a sax player from her primary instrument of clarinet. My collection of sax quartet charts is now over 100.

3. Create your own Big Band. I did this a number of times and now run the Microsoft Jazz Band at work performing 4 times a year and the Pacific Cascade Big Band performing at swing dances monthly. These groups have the longest sub list of anything I do. And my personal library of jazz charts is over 200.

4. Start playing to Aebersold Jazz play-along books if you aren’t already. Great for developing those solo chops. If you’ve never done this start with the ‘Maiden Voyage’.

5. Open mics are around town like at Crossroads of Bellevue in this part of town. I don’t do this kind of thang because I prefer to play an hour or more of music to playing one song a night.

6. Just start taking lessons and see if your instructor can hook you up with playing opportunities.

It may take you some time to get into the network of fellow musicians interested in the kind of music you prefer. But I believe it’s more about the journey to where you want to be than getting there. Along my trip I’ve started up jazz combo like the Dissonance that gigged about 8 times a year. After three years I gave up on it even though we were getting gigs. I am sooo an intermediate player, but there are a lot of us out there. And if you have organizational and networking skills like I do, it can be easier.

BTW, I’m taking two lessons a week and have for the last three years or so. I started playing after a 29 year hiatus and found out that I probably never was a very good player even though I played first chair throughout high school. If you are pretty good on your instrument, start with the Community band list (item 1 above) to find a community band in your part of town and work it from there.


About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra, and enjoy time with family and friends.
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