Being not the boss
There's a problem with being competent and having energy and a lot of ideas: you end up being boss. For the last quarter-century I've been boss or manager of almost everything musical in my life. I found the repertoire, made the arrangements and/or transcriptions, bought the source recordings, did the musical library research. When I thought it was time for a Christmas Revels type annual show here in the Triangle, I started one. I auditioned singers and created two (why did it have to be two??) choirs. I found instrumentalists, I arranged rehearsals and wrote publicity and got photos taken and took comps to the radio station and did interviews. I sent the promo packages and made the phone calls.
I chose the music for the cds, and arranged for the recordings, helped the engineer and did the mixing and post-production. I either arranged for album covers or did them myself, I wrote the liner notes and negotiated with the suppliers and paid the bills.
As performances approached, I'd be driving around delivering keys, picking up extra mic stands, renting equipment; moving sound systems; putting up posters I'd designed and printed.
Sometimes I was in the backyard at night fall happily making gigantic ass's heads (or Boar's Heads) out of paper maché or sewing medieval garb and making hennins, several at a time, at a furious pace. Sometimes making props was the best part.
The night of a show I'd be watching anxiously as the crowd trickled in. Would the people who told me they'd be sure to come actually do it? I took every empty seat personally. Often, often I moaned to myself: "Why do I do this?"
I sometimes felt jealous of, for instance, Ken, who often said:
Or Robbie, who would say:
However, when Zed got sick five years ago, all of this stopped. I lost interest in making things happen for my band Mappamundi and since then we've just floated along, limply, enjoying whatever opportunities still come along of their own accord.
When Zed went off to college this fall, I developed a new goal: "to be involved in some musical activity of which I'm not the boss."
One day there was a listing on Craig's List for an a cappella early music group and so I joined the Duke Collegium Musicum.
I don't work at Duke any more so on rehearsal nights I stand outside the door knocking till somebody in the music building lets me in. I am almost the only non-music student there and am older than all the singers - and older than the conductor (who has a multiply-pierced ear), too.
I've enjoyed watching this nice conductor struggle with the same problems I have with my Triangle Jewish Chorale. She never knows who will be at any given rehearsal, for instance. Only at ONE rehearsal was everybody present!
She gets thrown when people complain, even little itsy-bitsy complaints. She says, with a stricken voice, "Oh, I'm sorry, I can't do anything right." I've thought this wretched thought so often! And I, too, agonize pointlessly over little kvetches.
She has trouble figuring out how to say "LEARN YOUR PARTS, YOU LAZY SLOBS!" in a nice peaceful way. I have that problem too.
Saturday night we presented a concert of music by William Byrd. I got to stand in the back row amongst the basses and tenors. This is the place to be: the cute young lads in the back row have strong young voices, strong and beautifully in tune, it's Perfect-Fifth City back there, ahh they made me so very happy.
Reasons why not being boss is great:
- You can stand in the back row with the basses and tenors;
- No need to prepare the score, just learn your own part;
- Other people who haven't learned their parts are not your problem;
- You just have to show up for rehearsals and performances. No worrying about publicity and interviews and photo shoots. No worrying about whether other people show up on time.
- If the crowd is scant, not your problem;
- Don't have to buy the treats for the post-concert party.
This is a very successful experiment. And the music was beautiful.
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