Um, hi. It's been a minute. (Several, actually.) But I'm finally feeling close to back to normal after what ended up being a fairly intense six or so months, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to get back to some semi-regular blogging.
This is a post I've been meaning to write for a while. It takes its inspiration in part from the musicians who again and again provided some outstanding performances at this past summer's Festival, but it's truly directed at any musician who has committed themselves to pursuing the performance of music as their main career.
I decided a long time ago, for a variety of reasons, that performing professionally would not be my main focus. After completing my Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance at the University of Toronto, I had a good few years as a freelance musician and private teacher. But at a certain point I took an honest look at the time and energy I was putting into my instrument and realized that the drive to do the work required to make a go of the freelance lifestyle, long-term, wasn't there - especially when looking closely at the efforts of my musician friends and colleagues.
I have the greatest respect for anyone who decides to go all in and pursue the craft. What we see and hear - at the Festival, in the clubs and theatres, on the radio or online - is only the end result of years of commitment to mastering an instrument, and then applying that mastery to the creation of art. We see and hear only a small portion of the actual work involved...and the payout is not great - as one musician once wrote to me, "deflation is only a small problem in the context of the collapsing universe" - so we should be ready to support musicians in their endeavours wherever and whenever possible. For their efforts we (as a society) benefit from some fantastic art.
In my work at the Festival, I have to say "no" far more than I say "yes". There are a variety of reasons that acts do or do not get booked on a Festival stage - budget, certainly, but also venue availability, musical fit, a search for variety year-over-year - but it's rare that it's a fundamental question of quality. I'm hearing excellent music every day, all being made by musicians who have poured themselves into what comes through my speakers. It's always a drag to not have more room in the lineup, but whether an artist ends up on a Festival stage or not, I respect the time and effort required even to get to the point of making a submission.
We're heading into our busiest time at Festival HQ - we're about to launch the Special Projects, the first Geary Lane Jazz Series show is Saturday night, our monthly Friday nights at Sassafraz continue, and we're wading through our neck-deep wish lists in the hopes of securing some great international acts for next year's Festival. It can start to feel like a bit of a slog...but through it all, I'm so thankful to get to do what I do - as an Artistic Director and a band leader, I work with fantastic musicians without whom the Festival (or my big band) would not exist.
And so I say, thank you musicians.