December! ‘Tis the season for seeing old friends and digging out your winter gear, a magical time of year where everyone you know looks like they wear lipstick because they’re playing so much. Ibuprofen and tissue sales must skyrocket from us brass players alone! Between this incredible, lucky windfall I’ve enjoyed with end-of-year work, coupled with my new passion for labor activism, I’m afraid that my blog has fallen through the cracks! Today, I’m talking about a very important change that has happened to me, and I’m feeling pumped for the new year!
If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably know that my story is not simple or one-tracked. I made choices in my career that weren’t wise for breaking into a freelancing economy. I’ve won some auditions, but I didn’t diversify the work I took, and now I’m in the purgatory of wondering where my next job will come from. I take my playing very seriously and I know I will always things I need to fix, but I can’t break into that next tier of greatness. Some months I get called to sub four shows and other months, like this one, are overflowing with work. The biggest question in my mind these days is “How do I change my life?” Or maybe what I really want to know is: what can I control in a volatile market that seems to have no place for me?
Ten years ago I didn’t ask this question. I knew that, with hard work and dedication, I was too determined to be the last horn player standing. As time has gone on and left me behind, I’ve decided to stop putting my life on hold. I had kids, I made an album, and I decided to start speaking up for musicians just like me. I may not have musical street cred, but I’m smart and can articulate myself well. And I’m convinced that there’s just no more time to waste before many of these musicians leave the city and quit because they’re assuming that their workflow determines their talent or entitlement to being treated as humans.
I tried to do this through a short-lived web series I was trying, but I quickly realized that my network wasn’t big enough for what I was trying to do. I’m shifting my point of view to the biggest network for musicians there is: Local 802, which is responsible not only for communications to employed musicians, but to all musicians that live on their own islands throughout this city, sometimes even the country. And reader, I think I’m the person to do it. Plans are in the works on my end for something bright for Local 802.
Over the years, something changed and I had a real Elphaba moment. I realized that I will probably never be more established than I am now. I probably will never be famous, and I probably will never have a big job or a show. I am living my future now and, the longer I wait to do and say the things I want to do, the more I’ll regret the wasted time and the ridiculous shame I have of being myself. I decided to take charge of what I can, which is the way musicians talk to and support each other. I can stop other musicians from falling down the four-year wormhole that almost kicked me off of the horn altogether.
I have met some truly great people that share this goal, and I’m inspired by the many ways we can help this small world that we’re a part of. Musicians are a unique breed, but they’re all better when they’re connected. Activism in Local 802 has given me a new outlook on what it means to freelance in this city, and a real respect that the purposes behind unionizing are the most special socialist values there are.
I’m still stuck with the question of “How do I change my life?” It might be impossible in a field where your work options don’t always come from you, especially if you’re trying to honor your union status. Here’s what I can do: I can change the music world by connecting us to each other and, if I can’t undo what’s happened in my career, maybe I can change the landscape for other musicians. Maybe my legacy in this world isn’t on the horn, it’s with my colleagues, and with the musicians that will come after I’m gone.