Tuesday, June 03, 2008

when gigging is a crime

The other day, Jason Heath posted a long confessional piece about his addiction to freelancing, and the often ridiculous lengths he goes to keep taking every gig he possibly can. It's fun reading for anyone who's burnt through some miles with the Freeway Philharmonic:

Instrumental Junkies, part I

I definitely can sympathize with Jason's irrational tendency to gig himself to death, and the emotional torpor of not having any gigs coming up. That's my situation right now, since the CPO season is wrapping up next Saturday -- and I'm legally required not to work for any other employers. That's what my Canadian work permit says, but it's still agonizingly hard to turn down a fun, interesting, or well-paying gig -- legal or not.

This last weekend I was offered a gig with the Player's Chamber Ensemble, a local chamber ensemble organized around the Lily String Quartet. They're a cool bunch of people, and it seemed like good times, the weekend after our season ends -- except for that nagging voice:

"Don't take that gig, you'll be depriving some worthy Canadian!"

That's the reason for that work permit restriction, and it makes a lot of sense. No one wants to see a foreigner swoop in and take good jobs, especially when he's just doing it because he's bored and needs to fill up his schedule. It's arguable how good a job this is ($100 for 4 services doesn't sound especially good) -- but the point is, some Canadian should get a fair chance at it, and I'm not a Canadian.

Luckily I found I had a convenient excuse -- a camping trip next week, which would have forced me to miss the first rehearsal -- and they seem to have found someone willing and legal to play instead. The whole episode made me realize how bad I am at turning down gigs, and how I almost need a really compelling reason to do so -- more than just not enough money, I have no way of getting there, or I dislike the repertoire. It usually has to be something pretty serious, if not life-threatening.

I decided to write a little Cosmo-style survey to help readers determine their own tolerance for turning down gigs. Give yourself one point if you would turn down a gig for each of the following reasons:

  1. over 30 miles (50 km) away
  2. over 60 miles (100 km) away
  3. over 90 miles (150 km) away
  4. less than $120 a service
  5. less than $60 a service
  6. less than $30 a service
  7. don't like the repertoire
  8. don't like the conductor
  9. don't like your stand partner / section colleagues
  10. would have to miss best friend's wedding
  11. would have to miss a great party
  12. would have to miss a new episode of "The Office"
  13. your car is in the shop, you'd have to take transit
  14. your instrument is in the shop, you'd have to borrow one
  15. you've been hospitalized, you'd have to break doctor's orders


10-15 points: a picky gigger-- you'll turn an orchestra down if it so much as looks at you funny

6-10 points: somewhat selective -- but you'll still juggle some priorities to do a gig

1-5 points: an instrumental junkie -- time to get help

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