"How much does it pay?"

A common theme at jazz school (and other art schools) is constantly being pressured by classmates to "be unique" or overly "distinguished" within a small, already exclusive field of music. This leads to elitist and entitled behaviors born of insecurity. Some examples of this include the refusal of young musicians to:

  1. play with certain people,
  2. play at venues that aren't "nice" enough
  3. play certain types of music
  4. play for too little pay

Beginning with the first point, this doesn't necessarily refer to people you've had exceedingly negative experiences with, but more to people who aren't "good enough" by your own 19 year old grammy-band making standards. Something to remember is that if you're someone who's got a head start on the music game, you sound good because of the circumstances of your early education which has consisted of 15 years at most. Other people who go to your "jazz school" haven't been as fortunate as you, but the thing you both (hopefully) have in common is that everyone is trying to improve. Do not be the talented young asshole in your fundamental classes that either doesn't ever come to class, or thinks everyone sucks because they're less <insert narcissistic adjective here> than you. The only person holding you back in your "Ear Training 2A" class is the person you see in the mirror everyday at your ever-so-early 10:00am jazz history lecture where you're probably gonna be on facebook the whole time anyways.. In conclusion, if someone who hasn't been as fortunate as you in their musical upbringing asks you to play a session, give them a chance or rather, give yourself a chance because in the long run, you'll probably learn more about life (and things that matter a lot more than nailing the changes to giant steps) from helping them improve than they will from you.

If you're still reading, then you probably already know what I'm going to say about the second point-- No venue is "below" you or unworthy of any note you'll ever play. I understand how badly certain venues treat their musicians but this isn't a rant on crappy venues. This is a rant about people who will turn down an opportunity to perform potentially inspiring music simply because they refuse to play at a venue that's not good enough. I promise you, a huge amount of your favorite musicians on this planet have played at the trashiest places you can imagine, and they're only as good as they are because they did those gigs. If you want to get a week at the vanguard, don't be too full of yourself to play at a sketchy uptown club every now and then. Part of being a musician is performing. If you're not grateful for every opportunity you get to perform, then you mind as well stop practicing and either become a composer or producer (both of which are perfectly valid career paths). Again, I'm well aware of how terribly some venues treat musicians but refusing to play at a venue when given an opportunity, is not a good way to get better opportunities down the road.

The third point (young musicians who refuse to play certain types of music) is perhaps the most ridiculous and unwarranted. If you're a music student, and someone offers you a chance to perform music that's out of your comfort zone or even musical preference, turning it down is only going to stop you from learning literally anything. I'm not referring to cases in which the music goes against your moral or religious beliefs. I'm referring to cases in which you're too uncreative to figure out how to play a solo-saxophone beatles cover for a $200 wedding gig. (Yes I've done that before).  In otherwords, give everything (especially yourself) a chance. You can learn a hell of a lot from playing music that you're not comfortable with or that you usually don't enjoy. You were called for a reason, it's not your responsibility to make them enjoy what you come up with based on their expectations especially if you've never done what they're looking for before. Side note: There's nothing wrong with recommending someone else you know for a gig you get called for that you sincerely think they'd be better equipped to handle.

Finally, the last point and perhaps the most important of them all is thinking about compensation. The way I like to think of this point is; determine what fair pay for a musical commitment is based on how humanized you will be for the commitment. In other words, if you're trying to build a reputation as a musician with a true voice rather than a <insert instrument name here> player, take every possible opportunity(regardless of pay) that gives you the necessary freedom to showcase that voice. I can say first hand that the level of certain bands (musically and otherwise) I've been asked to play in (for virtually no pay) has been far beyond anything I've ever been a part of. Moreover, I was likely the youngest member of both bands. This is because the leaders of both bands were fantastic human beings that humanized every single player they called. One of these band leaders said that the best players they've ever asked to play their music have never asked about pay, yet they keep coming back to play. That said, if you have the funds, ALWAYS pay your musicians for their time, but if you don't, reach out anyways because paying someone in respect is exceedingly more valuable. Most of the time, people will forget about money, but they won't forget the experience. Finally, I feel obligated to say that being called by other musicians (especially whom you respect) is a compliment and honor. Being called by weddings/parties/events/other non musicians is business. If someone compliments you, responding to them by asking for money isn't a very nice thing to do, and most definitely will not result in you receiving more compliments.