Well, I am sure we’re all familiar with the way technology can throw a monkey wrench into the best-laid plans, and that’s happened here. We were going to have our “dynamic duo” Jon and Dana take the first couple of posts in this series, but since were having a hard time getting WordPress to cooperate with them we were EXTREMELY lucky to have Matt Flumerfelt write his post up early. So today we’re going to kick off our “Working Musician” series with Matt talking about how he squeezes a few extra minutes out of his day to hone his skills while keeping the wife happy and making a few dollars in the process.
Striking a balance between music and work has been a real juggling act, but I’ve found some ways to keep in practice as a musician I wouldn’t have found if I hadn’t been forced by lack of time. For example, I realized the time spent driving could become useful practice time and started carrying a mouthpiece in the car and playing on the way here and there. I also sometimes carry my horn in the front seat and play at the stops. People are often amused to see the guy beside them at a red light playing the trumpet while waiting for the light to change. Formerly red lights seemed to take too long to change but when I’m playing they seem to change too quickly—which shows how what we’re doing affects our perception of time. I carry a straw in the car and use it to do embouchure exercises. If I have a break at work or during my lunch break, I go outside and do some warm ups etc. I also carry drumsticks in the car and practice rudiments on the steering wheel.
My wife isn’t one who enjoys hearing trumpet or drums, which I also play, so my practice is restricted mostly to those times when she’s at work. I have arranged my schedule so I have some free times several mornings a week during which I can practice. I also have some silent exercises I do at home while she’s there. I realized that if you are determined you can often find a way to work around obstacles. This has the drawback, however, that if I need to work more and earn more—which is often the case, I’m faced with the decision of finding employment that will eat into what little practice time I already have, and so it acts as a disincentive, and I feel torn between the need to provide for my family and to maintain my skills as a musician.
Music gigs have become scarce as a result of changing demographics and a sluggish economy so opportunities to play don’t come along like they used to. When gigs do come up they usually don’t pay much but the money still helps and I take whatever chances I get to play out. I play some free gigs as well just because it reminds people I’m available to play and maintains a certain amount of goodwill in the community. I teach trumpet and drum lessons on the side at a local music store, and that, too, provides some opportunities to keep my skills sharp, while earning some money. Making money playing or teaching is an ideal situation. My wife doesn’t really like me gone in the evenings, but if it brings in money, it’s easier for her to accept. The problem is that it just isn’t lucrative enough to let go of other employment.