From the Orchestra Library

I Lost December

Posted in The Business by kschnack on December 28, 2009

Well, I didn’t plan to take a 4-week break from writing the blog, but December got the best of me.  This is probably not unusual for people in our business; in my case, I just seem to have taken on more than I could fit in.  There’s really nothing new about that, still working on the old “balance” thing.  And I find that it never fails to pour when raining.

Holiday concerts aside, and despite the much-appreciated time they gave us off at work, there weren’t enough hours or days to adequately handle everything to which I had said “yes.”  Obviously, the source of the problem is…….moi.

Vacations from work have often meant a kind of “busman’s holiday” for me, in that I play church gigs and with other organizations — and have been known to use summer vacations playing in festivals.  As a full-time orchestra librarian with the DSO, the free-lance work brings in a bit of extra money to be sure, but, more importantly, it keeps me playing.  It’s not easy for one’s chops to be at their best when not performing every day. Like many other librarians, I want to maintain my playing right along with the musical skills needed for my day job.  Besides, I enjoy sitting down with colleagues to play (as long as it’s a decent gig with decent music at decent pay — picky, picky)!

This December there were a lot more churches in the DFW area hiring musicians than last Christmas. So it seemed prudent to take the work while it was there.  I know folks who make a sizable portion of their entire annual income over these weeks, and it’s a positive sign when the churches are able to bring in the players.  Good for both the congregations who benefit from worshiping with special music and the musicians who need the income.

Playing as much as I can also helps me back in the library.  You might  be surprised to know how often I draw from my experience as a player when preparing parts or making decisions about materials for the orchestra.  And it also keeps me in touch with what the players have to go through to stay at their peak.  Although in one sense you never forget “how” to play (like riding a bicycle), you can obviously lose dexterity, flexibility (both mind and fingers), controlled technique, and even confidence if you don’t stay in shape. And, let’s face it, I’m not practicing 2 or 3 or 6 hours a day anymore.  A life in the orchestra library commands most of one’s time, energy, focus, and, yes, even creativity.  Odd as that may sound.

So, like everyone else, I’ll be trying to get back on that treadmill now that the holidays are winding down.  The show must go on.