Aug 2013

Traveling to gigs in Europe


When I am in the United Stayes I live in Northern Kentucky. Most of the time I am gigging I am playing within at 60 mile radius of Cincinnati, Ohio. I travel by car to most of my gigs. Being in Germany is entirely different.

The distance between my gigs in Europe, although mainly in Germany, are greater. It is comparable to traveling from one state to another for gigs. Very impractical going by car in Europe where gas is about $8 a gallon. Therefore, I find myself going by train more than by car or by van with other group members. With the hi-speed trains one can cover 100 miles in less than an hour. Once one arrives at the train station mass transit can usually get you to the gig. That could be by tram or bus. Also, I find myself walking more. Unlike most of the U.S., Europe’s mass transit systems are setup very well and can usually get you from one place to another quickly at an economical price.

As I type this blog, I am on my way, by train, to Osnabrück, Germany for a recording session. I left Neustadt am Rübenberge at 6:48 a.m. and had a train change in Wunstorf. Between trains there was a 25 minute wait. I then got on another train going to Osnabrück. Total distance is a little over 100 miles one way. I will arrive around 8:48 a.m. If I had gotten a train after 9:00 a.m., I could purchased a regional train ticket which allows me to take regional trains all day within the Niedersachen area for 23 Euro. Since I had to catch an earlier train it cost me 23 Euro for 1-way. I will have to purchase the a return ticket today since I needed to get an earlier train. So, traveling costs can vary depending on the times one needs to travel. If I would drive to Osnabrück and back it would cost me about 50 Euro or more for gas, plus I could not relax and enjoy a ride on a comfortable train. And, there is wear and tear on a car too. So, going by train has not only economical benefits, but also allows one to be productive while enjoying a ride.

I am getting close to my destination, so I am going to shut down my computer for now. More blogs to come...

Thoughts on performing today.

I was honored this spring by being inducted with the first group of musicians into the newly established “Northern Kentucky Music Legends Hall of Fame.” Thanks to everyone who was involved in establishing this tribute to the musicians, living and past, that helped the music industry in Northern Kentucky.

Receiving this honor made me reflect on a musical career that actually began when I first played trumpet on stage with my father’s wedding band when I was around 9 years old. I remember at the end of the gig I got an envelope and inside it was $5. The $5 was the icing on the cake. I was satisfied with just having the opportunity to play whether I got any money or not. It was the start of a career in which I have seen and experienced many changes.

When I started to play trumpet I always wanted to be a versatile player and play all kinds of music. I wanted to be proficient in all aspects of playing the trumpet and respected by my peers. I never had to be told to practice. I enjoyed it and still enjoy it today. I am not one to only play one style of music. I enjoy the challenge of playing a variety of styles properly. When people ask me what kind of trumpet player I am, my response is, “I am a trumpet player.” Usually, people want to label a player as a one-style player; jazz, classical, pop, rock ’n’ roll, latin, country, etc… I am a trumpet player that wanted to play music whatever the genre. This musical approach has helped me throughout my musical career. Once one is labeled it is hard to get calls to play in different styles of music. Versatility is the biggest key to my working in music today.

When I started playing full-time, when I was 18 years old, the music business of playing was entirely different. There were a lot of places to play with large groups (8-10 pieces). The groups I played with, Cops and Robbers and ATL, varied between 7-9 people on stage and we went “on the road” from 1974 until 1983. At that time a group would play the same nightclub 5 or 6 nights a week in a city for 1 to 3 weeks and then go to the next city and perform. We would usually stay on the road for 12 weeks and then come back home for a week off. We could have worked 52 weeks a year if we chose to. You could be with one group and work enough to have a good life. Times have changed dramatically since those days.

Now, most of the playing are one-nighters. No longer does one play a club for 1-3 weeks and move to another city. The budgets have been cut to where a 7-9 piece group is too expensive, or are paid an amount that the pay after being divided 7-9 ways may cover travel costs. So, what does one do if they want to be a middle-class working musician? Adapt to the market.

There are many venues that have live music, but they can afford 1-3 or maybe 4 piece groups at the most. That means that instead of going in as a large group have a variety of musical offerings. Since I am a trumpet player I usually would have to have at least a duo, piano/guitar and trumpet and then a trio, quartet, quintet, etc… Learn to sing too. I need to work on my vocal chops more. LOL. Anyway, what I am saying is be adaptable to put together groups that places can afford.

One must also be open-minded to play all styles of music which increases the chances of employment. Be versatile on your instrument and be aware of different musical styles. I enjoy playing in different musical settings and it has introduced me to a variety of musical cultures.

Probably, one of the biggest changes is that instead of only playing in one group you have to play in a variety of groups which can cause some scheduling stresses. Currently, I have around 6 groups I work with on a regular basis. One of my goals in the next 9 months is to have my own group again playing some original music. That is a work in process and it seems I have been trying to accomplish that task for years.

So, to sum it up, the music scene has changed a lot since I started, but it is still possible to make a living playing even if you are not “a star.” Riches may not be in the materialistic/economic sense, but with a quality of life and experiences most people only dream about. I have done well by being a musical side-man to many artists that demanded playing in all styles of music. It requires hard work and creative thinking. The more you put into it, the more successful one will be. Well, I have to practice now. More to come…