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Saxophone Lessons Learned
How to get the Good Gig

Used by permission from Greg Vail .com :: Written by Greg Vail

You have to play to the level of the job you want, not the one youíre on.

I was working dinner theater shows in the 80ís. Anyone that has ever done these things knows you will end up playing the same music night after night for months on end. It can be a bit boring and I was dealing with this frustration when confronted by an interesting and life changing concept.

The Bass player on the shows was a very strange guy. He had been a homeless alcoholic a few years earlier and was now dry and very eccentric. His name was Dean.

I started hanging out with him because he knew all the great thrift stores in the area and always wore the coolest old clothes. He took me all over and I got some really cool old stuff to wear at these shows, every night, sometimes 9 shows a week. He also knew the really cool places, total holes in the wall, to eat, so lunch was never boring when on an excursion with Dean.

One day, out and about with Dean, he shared an interesting thought. He said too many musicians play down to the jobs they are on. He said that, even if they had been more talented than the job they were on, that they would start to play down to the job they now played. He said it became self fulfilling prophesy.

He told me he had learned that you have to play at a higher level than the bread and butter gig you were on. He shared about a teacher that told him he had to play to the level of the job he wanted, not the one he was on.

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As he explained it, it made really good sense. He said, if you play down to this musical level around you, no one would ever walk in and see you as a guy that should be on the big stage doing a big show. If enough people walked in and think you are amazing and going to be a big star one day; one day someone will be offering a great gig; the kind of gig you really want to do next.

It took a little while to set in, but I realized he was totally right.

I started taking this little dinner theater like a union, Broadway show. I found myself working with the tuner on those doubles, recording performances and practicing parts I thought I played fine just last month.

Over the next 6-8 months I worked my way out of that job. When I finally left the gig, the leader was calling me Greg Bail cuz I was never there anymore. He just gave the gig to the regular sub that was doing 80% of the shows, and I was out of there, making 3 times the money, and grateful for all the practice time.>

It was some months later that I ran across that music director and he told me Dean was gone. He had done an audition for the China National Symphony and got a job playing double bass, moved to China, lived in one of those boats in a port city, married a beautiful Chinese girl and was really digging life.

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I was stunned for a minute but then it made perfect sense to me. He was back to visit a year later and looked me up. We just laughed as I reminded him of the story he shared with me. It has been years now since I last heard about Dean but I do think of him every now and then and wish him health, happiness and continued success

Thanks Dean for sharing not only a concept, but being a great example.

Play to the level of the job you think you should be on and you will be. Keep the dreams alive. Put a picture on the wall and you will see it happen. I know I have, time and time again.

(c) Copyright 2004 Greg Vail Music

Greg Vail is an active recording and performing Saxophonist in the Jazz and Gospel Music genres, out spoken writer and webmaster providing help and support to the Saxophone Community.

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UPDATE :: JULY 30, 2005

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