"Blackbirds of Broadway" 1999 Tour
How did I get this job and why did I take it?
How I Got the Job
The show's music director, Ron Barnett, is an old classmate of mine and was Spectrum's first keyboard player. Over the years, Gary Shaver and I have recorded for him and played in some of his shows that had live orchestras. When Blackbirds went into production, he knew that there would be a tour but did not have a reed player lined up to go. Gary Shaver and I split the job while the show was in Richmond at the Empire Theatre. The road player joined them in Roanoke, but decided to quit and return to New York rather than go on to Abingdon. In the meantime, I was already lined up to substitute for the road guy on two occasions. I had no intentions of leaving Spectrum, but when Gary Shaver offered me a sabbatical from the band, I could no longer resist.
In terms of qualifications, the number one factor that made me a good match for this show was skill on the clarinet. While I primarily work on saxophone, the ability to play good clarinet has opened a lot of doors. For those students who are switching from clarinet to saxophone: Keep up--or try to improve--your clarinet skills. Without them, you're just another sax player. This also goes for flute. You can click here for more advice on this subject.
Why I Took the Job
Frankly, I needed a break. After years of working a day job, playing in a band and teaching, I was tired and in need of time to work on a number of musical projects--including the Jam School portion of this website. Although it represented a cut in my total income, Blackbirds allowed me much time to work on my own projects while earning a salary comparable to my former day job. I carried a laptop computer on the road to work on arranging music in Finale, and completing the educational parts of this website.
Secondarily, I like to travel and this show was slated to spend a month in Europe. How many chances does a guy get to go to Europe and get paid for it? Not a lot. When I went to Ireland with Spectrum, I never thought that another opportunity--let alone a better one--would come my way. Going to Europe also brought with it a great opportunity to check out the local music scenes.
Thirdly, I really love and believe in this show and its company. Blackbirds is a fun show to play with a seriously talented cast, a first-rate band, and an excellent jazz-oriented score arranged by Danny Holgate. How could anybody resist it? Playing this show was enjoyable every single time. If you have to play the same old thing, night after night, for months on end, THIS is the book that you want to be playing!
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