Freeway Philharmonic

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Many musicians travel a lot for work. Like any job requirement, this comes more naturally to some people than others. I personally struggle with it, so I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned so far.

  • With few exceptions, remember it’s a business trip, not a vacation. If you do nothing but play your required services while you’re away from home, you’ve wasted that many days of valuable time. Plan a schedule just like you would any other work day; have projects that you can effectively tackle from the road and put in the requisite time. You may not have your piano, music library, or other resources you’re used to having, but don’t let that be an excuse for sitting idly. Worst case scenario, you’ve still got your instrument, and you can get some focused practice time.
  • On a similar note, find ways to make the time you actually spend in transit useful. This will depend on your mode of transportation; if you’re flying or on a train, you can study scores or read research. If you’re driving, you can still study recordings. Remember that Rachmaninoff learned to play his third concerto while on a ship without a piano en route to New York for the work’s premiere!
  • Keep your necessary items close at all times. This week, my flight schedule was upset by severe weather, and while I made it to rehearsal on time, I didn’t get my luggage until the next day. Thankfully, I had checked my clothing rather than my instrument, and I had stuck my music for the first rehearsal in my trombone case rather than the luggage. It was stressful for me, but I had what I needed to do my job.
  • Don’t sacrifice your health. It can be easy to grab fast food in the car twice a day, but you’ll pay for it. Music performance is a physical job, and part of our responsibility is to maintain adequate physical fitness to play the music on the stand. In addition to the obvious long-term health concerns, lethargy and dehydration can kick in after only a day or two of abuse. Drink water, eat vegetables, and breathe fresh air.
  • Keep your mind focused on the advantages of the work you’re doing. The first day or two of the trip can be a fun change of pace, but after that, the annoyances of travel start to accumulate. Remember why you’re there — why you took the gig in the first place — and consciously make the effort to let the small stuff slide.
  • Keep excellent records of your expenses. Every dollar you spend on travel is tax deductible at $0.55/mile (as of 2014), and every meal you eat while on the trip is 100% deductible.