PERIODS OF INACTIVITY
I was talking about this issue with some of my students in Holland. As they were getting ready to leave school for the summer break, I suggested that one of the biggest challenges of freelance musician life is the “boom and bust-yness” of it. (And no, I don’t mean anything sexual by that.) It’s the way we careen from periods of intense activity where there is hardly time to look at the music for the next gig to periods where things slow way down and you have open vistas of time--time to practice, to compose, to pursue whatever business goals you might have made for yourself--but time that stretches forward without deadline--time that can be a challenge to use wisely.
Of course, everyone is different on this score. First of all, a lot of my friends have kids and that changes everything--free time isn’t often in the cards for players balancing their work lives and home lives. Then there are some musicians who are amazing in their productivity. Working with Michael Mossman at Queens College has taught me a new level of shame--the man never wastes a minute. I’ve heard him describe a tour where he was traveling around Europe in a van and he used the time between gigs to transcribe a Slide Hampton Octet record. Now, I’ve transcribed some octet music, and I’ve also traveled around Europe in a van and believe me, the former doesn’t immediately come to mind for me if I am doing the latter. Then again, there are some musicians whose lives are so overflowing with gigs, concerts, travel and the like that they never have any down periods. Again, all I can say is congratulations. I am proud of my career and my accomplishments, but there are definitely down times in my schedule.
So we’re all different. And comparing yourself to others misses the point. I continue to try to get better at making the switch from performing to practicing, writing and all the things that I don’t get to do when things get crazy. Which (hopefully) they will. Or not.
Of course, when things get really crazy blogging is the first thing to go so here is another upside of having a little free time. If things get slow enough, I’ll probably try to write another book.