Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Open Letter

I am by no means a professor of music at any conservatory, notable or otherwise. But if I were, I may offer these words of inspiration to my students:

"You probably subscribe to the notion that the people you listen to and admire are successful and well off, that they have 'made it.' More likely, they live in Section 8, have no health insurance, and compete for the same 50-cent restaurant gigs that you do. Welcome to the life of a jazz musician in the 21st century.

"You will never have a chance to play any of these tunes you're practicing right now except at jam sessions, which will be populated with obnoxious jazz school kids, such as yourselves, and young lions, both of whom you will learn to despise. Neither will you make any money from playing these tunes. Rather, you will be paid moderately well for making up expendable parts to Russian techno tunes you've never heard before.

"You will not be judged on whether or not you can play 'Donna Lee' in all twelve keys, but on whether or not you know the horn line on 'Ladies' Night.' Practice all you want, through the night and into the morning, but the guy who gets the gig will get it not because he practices eight hours a day, but because of his skill in conversationally fellating the bandleader — and also because he knows the horn line on "Ladies' Night."

"You will know all the words to 'I Will Survive' long before you win a contract with Blue Note. While the guests who demanded 'I Will Survive' feast on filet mignon, you will discover the magic of the "bandwich" in the kitchen.

"You will no longer see the tuxedo as an indication of class and distinction, but a mark of servitude. You will continue to wear yours for years after it loses buttons and wears out. After a while, you will no longer be offended when people ask you for another basket of rolls and will just learn to ignore them.

"You will play bebop, but no one will write about your performance in the same ecstatic voice with which Kerouac wrote about seeing Bird. That was 50 years ago. Bird is dead. No one will write about you.

"And remember, what they say is bullshit: Musicians don't get the chicks. Investment bankers do.

"Never give up on your dreams. There's always room for excellence."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I returned to the city at 6am Monday morning from a whirlwind tour of Russian-Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs. Can you tell? To be continued...

3 Comments:

Anonymous jjm said...

Dave -- kind of liked your first version better than this later, edited one, especially the phrase 'Section 8' was great.. also 'nonsensical lines to russian techno' is new in this version and i remember the first version being snappier...

11:33 PM  
Blogger David said...

good eye. I kinda liked Section 8 as well...

1:11 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I think the lack of good writers with an equivalent level of substance pumping through their veins as that which was likely pumping through Kerouac's most of the time *might* be the reason you don't stumble across much inspiring bebop-lit.

But I've been wrong before.

8:29 AM  

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