30 days of Freelance Trombone

trombone bellI often meet new people.
Hey, I’m a sociable guy!

One of the first questions people naturally ask each other when they first meet is, “What do you do for a living?” Pretty standard question. Whenever I respond with, “I’m a musician, I play trombone”, people look puzzled. I don’t blame them! How many trombone players do you think people meet here in Indianapolis? I’m guessing not too many. Naturally people are curious about how one goes about making a living playing a musical instrument. After thinking about this myself, I too am curious about how diverse and varied my playing career can get. Anybody who freelances will play with many different groups and play different styles, so my list below is in no way unique or special. Below is a list of gigs I’ve done from February 15th through March 15th. This list is mainly to satisfy my own curiosity, and to demonstrate that all of us ‘freelancers’ have to do in order to piece together a living! It ain’t all champagne toasts and catered dinners. There’s some work involved!

Anderson Symphony Orchestra, Bass Trombone (Conn 72H):
We played Ruslan and Ludmilla, then two sets of great orchestral music with Sandi Patti.

Michael Feinstein Big Band, tenor trombone (King 3B):
This was a full evening of great big band arrangements of George Gershwin music fronted by the always entertaining Michael Feinstein.

Kessler-Dole Quartet, tenor trombone:
A new quartet that Mike Kessler and I put together in order to play some original music, rock/funk, and different takes on jazz standards. A working knowledge of standard jazz tunes including Cole Porter, JJ Johnson, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Jobim (to name a few), was required for this gig. Plus, it was a lot of fun!

Red-Hot Whisky Sippers, tenor trombone:
Another quartet, this time partnering with my good friend and guitarist Bill Lancton, plays an older more traditional ‘New Orleans’ style of music. We also play a lot of groove based music. Lot’s of soloing is involved in this group, plus some plunger work. This band played 5 different gigs during the past month.

Sunset-Stomp Jazz Band, tenor trombone:
This band is a very traditional type of Dixieland jazz band. The charts are simply lead sheets and the horns (clarinet, trumpet, and trombone) collectively improvise their parts. This is a new(ish) technical approach for me and is something that I am happy to develop!

Seven Pleasures, tenor trombone:
7P’s is a funk band/hip-hop band with a DJ and a full horn line. It’s funky, it’s loud, and it’s high energy! Mostly original music with this band, I really had to flex my muscle memory to remember all the melodies/harmonies from long ago!

Paul Berns Dance Band, tenor trombone:
We played for the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir Fundraising Gala and it was a blast. This is a well written book for 3 horns and rhythm section. We provided music for lot’s of dancers. There wasn’t a lot of soloing, just tons of sight-reading!

Second-line, New Orleans Funk, bass trombone:
Around Mardi-Gras, I get called to play in these second-line/marching type bands to play the role of the tuba. Playing funky bass lines on the bass trombone is fun, but extremely tiring.

B-town Bearcats, tenor trombone:
Here is another Dixieland type band I had the opportunity to play with on Fat Tuesday. Again, a front line of Clarinet, Trumpet, and Trombone collectively improvising the harmonies around the melody.

Obscure Neil Young Night, tenor trombone:
Finally I got to play some Neil Young tunes with Bill and LuAnn Lancton! I had to transcribe a few tunes to get the horn lines down in order to participate, but it was all worth it!

Cinderella the Musical, Large bore tenor trombone (Yamaha Xeno):
Playing in pit orchestras is a lot of fun. I never wanted to be on the stage, but I loved playing the music for musicals. There is just something nice about being in a dark and cramped pit orchestra making beautiful music. We had 4 rehearsals and 3 performances of this musical.

Jared Thompson Quartet, bass trombone:
Here was another Mardi Gras type of gig where I played bass lines on the bass trombone. We did more jazz standard repertoire on this hit, and I tried to make the bass lines funky.

Elevator Up!, tenor trombone, tuba, bass drum:
This duo plays all pop music from the 60’s to Disco, 80’s, 90’s and beyond including the pop favorites of today. I play simultaneously trombone (or tuba) and bass drum. Yes, you read that correctly. There are lots of mutes involved, humor, not much soloing, so it’s  a chop buster, but probably the weirdest and greatest gig I have every played. (We do play the second Tuesday of every month at The Chatterbox Jazz Club.)

Recording Session, large bore tenor trombone:
This session was with a brass quartet. We added some brass to a pre-recorded organ and choir tracks for an upcoming publication or album, I’m not sure which. The brass players in this town are all top-notch so it is always a pleasure doing more classical music every now and then!

Copywork, Finale 2011 laptop computer:
I sometimes will do copywork for extra money. For the musical Cinderella I played, a couple of the tunes needed to be transposed down a whole step and they asked me if I could do that, so I agreed to do the transposition. It only took a couple of afternoons to enter all the separate orchestra parts into the program, transpose it, format, print and tape each part. It’s an easy, yet mindless task.

Butler Youth Jazz Project: an 8 week, once a week session with area high school students where I rehearsed charts, worked on chord/scale relationships, and gave some brief jazz history lectures. The 8 weeks culminates with a big concert at The Jazz Kitchen.
University of Indianapolis: I teach 4 credit hours of a class for non-music majors called Intro to Jazz. This semester I have a total of 57 students between the two sections. I love teaching this class and exposing so many students to the importance of America’s classical music, JAZZ.
Private Trombone Lessons: I only have a couple of private students, and I’m looking to add a few more students this year. I truly love teaching students who work hard, have intellectual curiosity, and are serious and passionate about learning trombone.

Well, there it is. A month’s worth of gigs and teaching in one list. Each week is like a variety show of work, which certainly keeps things interesting!

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