Author: Evans, Bill

Professional Musicianship 101: Be A Good Multi-tasker!

I always chuckle inside when I hear a non-musician comment about professional musicians being lazy, or not having to really work very hard. This kind of statement is frequently accompanied by a comment like, “Hey, you guys call it ‘playing’ music not ‘working’ music, right? It can’t be very difficult.”

Then there are those times where you’ll hear folks say that being a professional musician must be about the best career imaginable: musicians get to live their dreams, travel all over the world, and make music all of the time, all day, every day and do all of the assorted fun things that musicians are supposed to be doing. I’m not really sure what all of those things are, but I imagine that they’re a lot different whether you make your living playing rock and roll, jazz, classical or bluegrass.

I do know one thing about choosing this music thing as a career: regardless of whatever career level you have achieved, you have to be a great multi-tasker to accomplish all of the things that actually will allow you to get in a van or on a plane and go somewhere to play music for a paying audience AND come back home with enough income to pay the bills.

I remember Béla Fleck telling me years ago that he feels like he spends more time on the phone talking business than he spends actually playing the banjo. I know I’ve certainly had those days myself, but probably not nearly as often as Béla. If for some reason, I couldn’t play music, I’ve thought about how I could put to use some of the other non-musical things that I’ve learned along the way that help to make a musical career possible.

I could be a pretty good accountant, a detail-oriented personal assistant, a money-saving travel agent, or a savvy musical instrument appraiser. I could also probably be a decent personnel manager, a motivational speaker, a contract negotiator, a conflict resolution specialist or a non-profit fundraiser. If I had to, I could probably hang my shingle out as a copy editor, or maybe as an advertising executive or as a newspaper arts reviewer. If my musical career had taken a slightly different turn, I might have the skills to be a diesel mechanic, recording engineer, web and graphic designer, photographer, substance abuse, debt or marriage counselor, pre-school teacher or even a summer camp director. I’ve also realized that I probably could be really, really good telephone solicitor or used car salesman. Now that’s lonesome.

While most folks who read these daily messages know that there’s a lot more to being a great bluegrass musician than just getting on stage and playing, keep in mind that it’s not only the long hours on the road and the many hours of practice that enables a musician to make it to your favorite stage. There’s also some great real world multi-tasking happening that also makes it all possible.

Bill Evans
Posted:  8/27/2010

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