Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Marshall plays oboe!

I enjoy watching the summertime TV show In Plain Sight, and I was tickled when the most recent episode revealed that one of the main characters used to play oboe! Honestly, the writers did a good job--if I had to guess what the character of Marshall Marshall Mann would play, it would definitely be oboe. He totally has a dorky, slightly OCD oboe personality.

Friday, August 12, 2011

musical practicalities

Another thing that's been bothering me lately: things I wish I'd learned in music school. Basic, practical matters about how to live life as a musician. For example: taxes. Taxes for a freelancer are so confusing. There are so many different income sources, many for just a couple hundred dollars, and then there's what you can deduct and what you can't, and what category to put your deductions in, etc etc. Northwestern offered little seminars on these things, but I always said, I'll wait until I'm in grad school til I think about those things. Which is fine, because I probably would have forgot anything useful I'd learned by the time I actually had to pay taxes 3 years later. But I guess I was assuming that USC would have similar offerings, which of course they don't, because their music school is a bureaucratic mess that seems to be slowly disintegrating while all the money continues to flow into the ethically-challenged football team. Oh and into Colburn. So anyway, I never learned that stuff.

Nor did I learn that in Los Angeles, if you own your own business (and yes, being a freelance musician is considered owning your own business in terms of taxes), you have to apply for small business license from the city. Now, if you apply for it and you make less than $100,000/yr, you don't actually have to pay taxes as long as you show the city what you make. If, however, you don't do anything, you owe back-taxes on the pittance you made, despite the fact that if you had done your paperwork on time, you would owe nothing. Cool, huh? And a complete waste of hours trying to figure this stuff out. Not only that, but you must divide your earnings into teaching and performing. More fun.

Finally, I was in my car the other day and Marketplace was on NPR. It was the part of the show where they take questions from listeners about their financial situations. One of them was from a guy who was 28 and had worked a job for a few years where he had started a retirement fund, and was now going back to school. He wondered what to do about his retirement fund. At the same age, I thought, $&#*, I don't have a retirement fund! I don't know anything about retirement funds! Because my income doesn't come from any one source, I have no plan in which my company matches what I save or some sort of investment package. I don't how much I should be saving per month now, or what's normal for people, or what then end goal is. I know the musician's union offers something, but the number of union gigs I get in inconsequential, so I doubt the union would be much help. So for now, I'm probably just going to save what I can and hope for the best. The present economic situation isn't exactly helping my peace of mind, either!

So anyway, go Northwestern for actually making an effort to help people with these things, and boo USC for not doing so. But really, I think it would be great if there was some sort of "Musicians' Econ" class offered at music schools that was mandatory to graduate. Because it really would make life easier.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

musician etiquette

A while back I was having a discussion with some fellow LA freelance musicians on musician etiquette. I wanted to blog about it but haven't had the creative energy lately, until now. Here is a list I created for my middle school students about what kind of behavior is expected of a professional musician (and therefore what they should aspire to). Essentially, the list boils down to 3 things: 1 don't be a jerk, 2 use common sense, 3 be responsible.

Musician Etiquette

1.) Always be on time.
In a professional situation, you will not be hired again if you are late!
2.) Always come prepared.
Your colleagues will not appreciate it if they have worked hard to prepare the music, but you have not, and you keep the group back. This behavior would also cause you to not be hired again!
Always make sure you’ve brought everything you need: instrument, music, pencil, reeds, whatever you need to play.
4.) Resist the urge to play the hardest, fastest, loudest music for your instrument when warming up.
Real musicians warm up with scales and long tones, and the surest way to seem amateur and unprofessional is to play unnecessarily difficult music when warming up. Real musicians find this both juvenile and annoying.
5.) Never talk down to or denigrate your fellow musicians.
This is unthinkably rude and a sure way to make sure you will never get hired again. Do NOT point out a colleague’s mistakes or correct them in any way. They most likely know their mistake, and if not, let the conductor correct them.
6.) Try not to talk in rehearsal unless necessary.
Never talk loudly. Raise your hand if you have a question for the conductor that will pertain to the whole group. If it will not affect anyone but you, talk to the conductor after rehearsal to avoid wasting the ensemble’s time.
7.) Do not do other things, like read or play with your phone, during rehearsal. It’s rude and will cause you to miss entrances and musical directions.
8.) Always arrive early to performances.

9.) At performances, always wear appropriate clothing: nothing that will get you noticed for what you are wearing.
People are there to hear you play.*
10.) At auditions, do not try to “psych out” your competition.
Keep to yourself, warm up in a way that will serve you well, ignore those around you who are also auditioning, and remember that you want to win by playing your best.

*A note about #9: This is particularly for girls. There have been a lot of women in music who've had to put up with a lot of &$*# over the years in order that women today can perform in orchestras and win jobs fairly. To dress in a way that calls attention to something other than our playing, particularly in an orchestral situation, where our male counterparts are wearing suits or tuxes, is disrespectful to the women who fought for our right to perform as equals.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why would anyone want to play the oboe??

So, I haven't posted in a while. But this is a good video to start back with.