The Music World: Should I, Could I Be a Part of It?

“I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.” ~ J.S. Bach

DSC00387Friend: Hey Jim.  Based in large part on your enthusiasm, I plan to drive over to Spokane on Thursday to horse trade for a like new Yamaha pro 62 II Alto.  Guy there would like to have one of my Yamaha wind synths (WX-5), so I’m working a partial trade.  I’ll also likely pick up an Otto Link to go with the Alto, assuming I do the deal at all.

Before I drive 600 miles and spend a lot of money, I really should ask – do you still feel there is a need for another Alto player in our area?  You feel good Altos are more in short supply than good Baris, for example?  I’d hate to spend a lot of money on a horn and then not find an opportunity to play it.  As you know, my interest would be to play with a group like EMJO or MJJO with a more challenging and up-tempo book, as opposed to what I’ve been hearing from some of the other bands in our area. ~ Gary

Me: I firstly want to say, that making money is not in the equation for most of us. It might be for you, as you are a pro or semi-pro player (depending upon your definition). So other than resale value, and that instrument you have selected is good for that, it’s all about the value you get from playing. I know you probably know that, but I just wanted to make that clear.

PGSQ2017PracticeThe guys who have played at your caliber and whom I know, tend to own sop, alto, tenor, and bari saxes. They also have a clarinet and/or a flute. There are so many that are my close friends and they have *way* too many playing opportunities. For example, one joined DoctorfunK, two play with the Jazz Police, and so on. These are paying gigs, but not enough I suspect to cover your home utilities costs.

It you like playing lead alto and *can*, you should have an alto sax. If you love playing bari sax, then we need more of them on the Eastside. However, if you are ~3 years from retiring from music performance, maybe you would not get the benefit from these additional instruments. 

I can’t promise you will find a home with the 30+ big bands in the Seattle area. But I suspect if you network, cover some free gigs to meet the many band owners and players, and if you are are willing/available to sub, then you would be able to find that perfect band or two that you’d want to be a part of. And there are over 20+ theater houses doing musicals on and off throughout the year. So there are those jobs.

Me, I thought the pit jobs took too much time and didn’t pay well enough for a hobbyist like me. I did two shows with the Second Story Rep in Redmond and then decided it wasn’t for me. But the experience was worth the time and effort of slogging 3 to 5 instruments to the pit for 5 to 7 shows plus a two month of practice sessions.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my musician friends, and there are so many, are the bestest. Lovely people, they are very talented and hard working. These are people I would have never met had I not returned to music after a ~30 year break. I adore these people and they make my life fuller and better.


Here’s what I ended up doing. I created my own jazz combo (4-horn), big band, sax choir, clarinet choir and sax quartets. I also help three other big bands get up and running, two of which are still playing. I also had many community band projects including a summer band and ten years on a community band board. After a whirlwind ~10 years, about three years ago I downsized to playing in these select groups, my favs: WCB, MJJO, and the Professor Gadget Sax Quartet. I sub 10 to 20 times a year with other bands/groups. AND, I’m not half the player you are.

So that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. Good luck.

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 Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra), and enjoy time with family and friends.
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