Work Really, Really Hard

I was offered a year long, international tour with a major Broadway musical three Sundays ago. Dubai, Turkey, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and more. I had one day to decide.

I turned it down.

How’s that for an introduction?

The details of me passing on the offer aren’t the purpose of this particular piece, I’m sure I’ll address that in the future. Instead I want to detail what led me to get that phone call. I had been auditioning for that phone call since my sophomore year of high school and didn’t even know it.

I worked really hard in high school and my percussion teacher noticed it and helped me get into his alma mater. In college I worked really hard, and two grad students noticed and asked me to be a part of their graduate recitals. I worked really hard for their recitals and their professor asked me to play a gig with him. With every form of nervousness I said yes, of course. I played a couple gigs with that professor and did well.

He noticed and recommended me for a musical at a nearby theater. I worked really hard to make sure I had the music ready for the first rehearsal and then I played a fairly consistent run of the show for 2 months. The music director noticed.

Then a year later, that same music director gives me that potentially life altering call 3 Sundays ago.

Did you notice a pattern? I worked really hard and they noticed.

Are you someone who wants to be a professional musician?

Listen.

People will tell you you can’t do this. “It’s unstable.” “It’s not legitimate.” “What’s your backup plan?” “Are you sure?” “Maybe he’ll grow out of it.”

It’s probably out of sincere concern for you too. They want the best for you and all they’ve seen are the depressed, drunken, broke and broken artist tropes presented by movies and television. They don’t want you to be depressed, drunken, broke or broken so they’re trying to caution you.

What they don’t know are there are many thousands of musicians making a successful living in many thousands of ways. They don’t know those people are out there because those people aren’t making a lot of noise about it. They’re busy doing their work.

This was life confirming for me. This taught me that if I’ll just work really hard, I can get that kind of a phone call. Phone calls like that become careers. If I took that tour and aced it, I would be a part of the touring musical theater circuit. I could potentially stick to that for many years if I wanted to.

And don’t get it in your mind that I’m something special either. I’m no childhood prodigy. I started percussion in 7th grade. I had good teachers and I practiced a lot and I try to be a good person. That’s it. No fairy dust, just waking up at 5 am to practice when I was in college.

The more I live the life of a professional musician the more I realize there’s a straightforward formula to this. Work really, really hard and be someone people want to be around. If you do that, you can leave the rest to those forces that are out of your control. When those forces open a door, you’ll be prepared to cross the threshold.

When they tell you you can’t do it, smile, hear them out, say thank you and let it motivate you to prove them wrong. Friend, work really hard and nail every audition, even the ones you don’t know you’re taking. Soon they’ll be calling you instead of me.