As drummers we need to be diverse, in our knowledge of music, our technique, and our practice habits. This is a given if we want to have a long and rewarding career as a musician, but our need to be adverse is almost more imperative at times. I will write another article dealing with diversity, but this one is about how musicians face adversity to reach our musical goals (or gigs, in this case).
When I started drumming, I wanted to play songs, play in a band and have fun. These are pretty normal aspirations for a young musician, but after playing songs, playing in bands and having fun I realized that there is more to drumming than this. Throughout my career as a musician, I have had many great (and not so great) experiences, such is life. I have learned valuable lessons from the good and not so good musical endeavors. One very important thing that I have learned is that outside of learning songs, practicing parts, rehearsing, teaching and planning lessons, we as musicians face a lot of adversity.
This can range from an artist not sending you their material, giving you incorrect information about a gig (time, date, location, etc), having car problems on the way to a show, forgetting a piece of equipment. This list could go on and on for all of us I am sure, but this story is an experience I recently had, and though it may seem a bit extreme, having an open mind, laughing, and wearing comfy clothes helped me through this adverse situation.
IT STARTED ON A TUESDAY
So I am in a small town in central Saskatchewan working with 75 kids on world drumming and the 10-day project is going great. I finish up on Thursday with the students performing at their annual spring band concert, they are pumped. In this town of 220 people, I have no phone in my motel room (but have cell service), and can get an Internet connection if I take my laptop and park by the bank on Main Street. Don’t forget this is the music business and we need these tools to do our work.
It is lunchtime on this Tuesday and I have finished my first three classes, I check my cellphone when I leave the school and realize that I have eight missed calls! My first thought is there is an emergency at home, so I check my messages and have three from a good friend and musician in Calgary. This singer/songwriter is in a panic and I need to call him right away. So I call and he is desperate for a drummer this Friday night just outside of Calgary for a big show. It appears the drummer he had hired hasn’t returned his calls for two weeks and is off the gig (remember, this is a business and we need to treat it as such). I like this singer and would love to help him out, but the schedule is very tight. I am here for the concert Thursday night and planned on the three-hour drive being Friday morning. I ask him to see what arrangements can be made and to let me know as soon as he can by phone, as I don’t have time to drive to Main Street to check my email. My friend calls back and tells me the only flight available on Friday would leave at 5:30am from Regina to Calgary…yes, I said A…M. But I need to back up a bit. I forgot to mention that I already have a Saturday gig in Grande Prairie with another artist and am scheduled to fly out of Regina for that show on Saturday. Are you confused yet? I tell my friend that I will do his show if he can arrange my flight to Calgary on Friday—but not disrupt the scheduled second half of my Saturday booking from Calgary to Grande Prairie. He has his manager do some calling, and lets me know that it is taken care of, and I am to leave Regina at 5:30am Friday.
What am I thinking? Was this a good idea? 5:30 am!!? So I finish up my school program with an awesome concert on Thursday, the kids rocked my world. I left town at 10:30pm and arrived home at 1:30 am. I need to repack my clothes, pack gear that I will need for the two shows and make sure I can fit it on the plane. I pack and sleep from 3am till 4am and leave for the airport, check in and am off to Calgary. I arrive at 6:30am and get a ride to the singer’s house to sleep for a while and head out of town for our afternoon soundcheck. The afternoon goes well, and we need to chart a few more tunes for the show. I played on this singers latest CD, but we tracked the material a year ago and some parts are a little hazy. The show goes well, we hangout for a while, but I need to get some sleep and head back to the hotel.
The next day we get up early and drive to the Calgary airport for me to continue onto the next gig. This doesn’t go so smooth, as I am walking through the lobby of the hotel my suitcase zipper breaks! I pickup my clothes and other belongings, duct tape the bag together, and head to Wal-Mart for some new travel gear. I pickup a suitcase, repack in the parking lot, and we are on our way (note to self: always carry duct tape). I get to the airport, my friend and I say goodbye, and he thanks me again for doing the gig. “No problem,” I say.
I get into the airport to check in and am told that I do not have a seat on the flight! This can’t be true. My friend’s manager took care of this and nothing was to change for this flight. I am freaking out a bit, but need to get to Grande Prairie for my original gig. What now? After checking for a mistake in the booking, I realize I just have to buy a flight to get to this gig; there is no other way. Luckily there were still seats on the flight, although the cost is very high when you purchase a flight one hour before departure. I am on the plane, and I will make it for the show, and with new luggage I might add. Upon arrival I head to the hotel and then off to soundcheck and rehearsal, which goes well considering there are 3 players who haven’t played this show before. We play the show and it rocks, the 5:30am flight, broken luggage and flight fiasco are almost forgotten, we play music for these moments. We go back to the hotel, visit for a bit, but I have to tuck in, I have a 7:10am flight. I phone the front desk for a wake up call, and set my alarm on my phone, which I use all of the time on the road. Goodnight.
When I wake up, I am a bit groggy, and think I am seeing things when the clock in the room say 7:11am! As I jump up and bang my leg on the desk, I realize that my flight left 1 minute ago (@#$%!!!!). I know the people in the next rooms were not impressed with my language as I tried to find the phone number for the airline. I am very upset, as I haven’t seen my family for a week, the past couple days have been trying, and my leg is killing me (but I still have new luggage).
The gentleman with the airline is very supportive when I finally get through, and gets me on a later flight; I am to arrive home 12 hours later than originally scheduled. How did I sleep in you ask? I had two alarms. Well, this is what happened. For some reason, my trusty cell phone alarm did set right, and I did get the wake up call, but the ringer volume on the hotel phone was off! No one called me at the hotel, so I did not realize this. My apologies to the poor lady at the front desk that morning. So I have six hours to wait before I leave. What to do? What else might go wrong? I go to the mall that is close by to kill some time, and as I am walking around I remember a funny story my son told me last week. We were talking about these sweats he wears, and how he needed new ones. His rationale for this was great. He said that even if he is having a bad day, at least he is comfortable. Well I took his advice and bought some new clothes, now I am comfortable and ready for the rest of the day.
Finally I am off to the airport to catch my flight and get home to my family—this weekend is almost done. I get to the airport and head to the counter to check-in, I am still comfortable in my new clothes and have new luggage, but I am not done yet. As I am checking in, the girl at the counter informs me that I am on standby for one part of my flight, and that flight is actually sold out! She tells me that my only option might be to catch a flight out of Calgary tomorrow, but they are sold out too, so Tuesday is my next choice. I am panicking. Could I rent a car and drive home? Should I fly to a different location? Do I need more clothes? After pondering for about 10 minutes, the girl has done some checking around and realizes that the gentleman who helped me earlier in the day actually didn’t have me on standby; he put me in a regular seat and I was good to go (I think he may have bent some rules. Thank you).
I caught my flight, had a layover of five hours in Calgary, and arrived home at 11:20pm. All of my luggage and gear arrived safely as well, and my family picked me up at the airport. Getting home to sit down, see the cats, and just relax never felt so good.
I know this article was very far from educating us on drumming, but there is an important message in all of this. Even though we practice, rehearse, learn new songs and music concepts, and work very hard at improving our musical skills, sometimes there are things out of our control that we can’t rehearse for. We just have to keep an open mind, be prepared, and have comfortable clothes.
Jayson Brinkworth is a professional musician, educator, author and owner of Music In The House based in Regina, Canada. Find him online here.