Monday, May 17, 2010

36 Days Until NMA Reunion

So you're probably wondering why I gave up playing in the first place. I mean, why would a guy who obviously loves music as much as I do just --- quit --- playing. Well, here's the deal:

I retired in '92 as an MUCS, assistant leader of the Navy Band in Memphis. I had completed 21+ years of performing (mostly crap) all over the world. I enjoyed being a CPO. In fact it was the finest thing I had ever done --- maybe the finest thing I will ever do! But I was tired... bone tired of dragging my amp, my band, and myself from point A to point B on the planet Earth just to play (mostly crap) for people who, for the most part, could care less. Yes, there were the good gigs when we were actually listened to and appreciated. It was these gigs which allowed me to jolly myself along for so many years.

Anyway, when I retired I said to myself and my invisible alter-ego, "No more crap! From now on only good music for people who listen and care." I got a gig as Chorus Master/Music Administrator and Company Manager for Opera Memphis. Sure, I had to deal with divas with attitudes, choristers with attitudes, orchestras with attitudes --- even audiences with attitudes, but at least it was good music and all the above listened to what was being performed --- and cared. Heck, I used to get to play some minor "buffo"comedy roles with the opera, usually the town drunk: you get to sing a couple of lines and make the audience laugh. Just my cup of tea. All was good and I had finally "made it", being a part of great music for good people, but after a couple years with Opera Memphis I moved on to be Director of Operations for the Memphis Symphony. It was here that I started circling the drain, so to speak.

Listen: On the plus side, if you enjoy being an assistant leader of a Navy band, director of operations for a professional orchestra is as close as you will ever come in the civilian world. On the minus side, a D of O position will eventually kill ya unless you were born on Vulcan. You see, the D of O position in an orchestra is a lot like being Mrs. Brady. The "kids" (orchestra) are constantly trying to play "mom" (me) off of "dad" (the administration) in order to get more money, better music, more money, better working conditions, more money, etc. While "dad" is constantly insisting that "mom" makes the "kids" shut up, behave, and do their chores. It's easy to see why such a situation can burn a guy out. At symphony orchestra conventions, I met with other D of O's at other orchestras. The talk amongst us was always, "Well, after my divorce, I..." or "Well, after my heart attack, I..." The D of O gets a whole lotta pressure without a whole lotta satisfaction. I found myself dealing with all the crap so that others could make great music. You can only jolly yourself along for so long before ya pop. And pop, I did. My doctor said "Get another job, or die." So I did. I became Executive Director for a couple of humane societies --- another tough gig and another sad story.

So I quit playing. No time. No energy. But now that I am semi-retired, everything has changed. Some guys go fishing. Some guys buy an RV and travel. Some guys sit around the house vibrating while talking about the "good ol' days". This guy, however, has decided to do what I shoulda done in the first place. You know, they say that the difference between a blues guitar player and a jazz guitar player is that the blues guitarist plays three chords for a thousand people, while a jazz guitarist plays a thousand chords for three people. But hey, it's all good. I'm semi-retired. I can do whatever I want! It doesn't matter that I wont make a lot of money at it. The point is that from now on I will be playing no more crap!

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