After relocating to a new area, whether it be for employment, school, or just to move, we are faced with a similar problem- How do I get established in this new area? For a musician to get established is different from other activities. If you want to play baseball, you visit the cities Recreation Department. If you were active in your local Boy Scouts programs, you make calls to that organization. But where do you go and who do you contact to start playing music with others on your instrument in these new surroundings? To a seasoned veteran, we have our usual check list and for the new comer to this activity, I will give you the tried and proven methods for getting your musical performances started again. I will address these exercises at both the professional and amateur levels as not every musician will want to play full time. Some of you may only need to play with others for the sheer enjoyment of the activity.
What should I do to begin performing again in a new area?
• Visit the local music store– usually the operators of music stores have the information that you are after. Plan on spending at least an hour visiting with the instrumental person in the store and ask as many questions as you can think of. The more questions you ask, the more interested they will be in you. Let them know that you are serious about playing in their town and don’t be afraid to mention that you are not looking for a full time playing job. This would indicate to them that you might be competition for their paying gigs.
• Visit with the high school band director– Band directors are usually involved with everything going on in the area which is related to instrumental activities. They are most often the director of the community band if there is one in the area and are always looking for new meat for their sections. This will also be the person with contacts with the gigging crowd which could turn out to be a nice money maker for you.
• Look up the organist at the largest church in town– Church organists are usually connected to or are the musical director of the church and are often in need of a player for their services. In addition to the “freebees” and lower paying church services, the organist will also be your contact for the more lucrative weddings.
• Find out which musician is working the most– This is the first thing a new musician to an area wants to establish. Your first move is to make contact with the most respected and most working player of your instrument. After you have made contact, ask if you could take some lessons from him/her. Once you have established a good teacher/student relationship, you should be asked to play some of his/her jobs which they either don’t want or can not play. From this one person, you should begin to add more and more players to your list who can help you with more work.
• Universities and Colleges will broaden your marketability– Schools of higher education can be of benefit to you for within these walls should be a tremendous amount of music going on. Contact the instrumental director and let him/her know that you have recently moved to the area and are wondering about concerts they may be performing in the near future. Share your background and soon you will be on their mailing list for upcoming concerts. The more often you are seen at these events the faster you will be absorbed into the university/college activities.
• Introduce yourself to the members of the American Legion post– This could turn out to be an area for making additional money for they often use trumpet players to perform taps at grave side services.
• If your area supports a chapter of the American Federation of Musicians, contact them– Although the Musicians Union is not as strong or even as active as it once was, this would be a visit you need to make. Unions have never helped me get a job but they do know all of the union players in their local and that would be helpful information for you.
• If all else fails and no one can or is willing to help you, do it yourself– The world is filled with what has been called “comeback players”. This is a recent development which has been fueled by the internet. Thousands of former players are now searching the internet for information on how to get back into playing. Some are asking the usual questions such as to “what valve oil they should use”?, but in many cases these were very accomplished musicians who, for what ever reason, dropped out of the music world and are now wanting to reenter. A quick search of your area (Internet and/or newspaper) could unfold a number of players like yourself who want to get together with someone else to play again.
Making a move to a new area can be unnerving but if you have the desire to play your instrument, after visits and phone calls, you may be surprised at how fast you can be back playing again. When my wife and I moved to Branson about ten years ago, I had retired, sold all of my horns and donated all of my music to the local high school. When we arrived here, I had no intention of ever playing again. Someone heard that I had moved to town and asked if I would share a program with a local choral organization. I had not touched my horn for several years and now had to get in shape to play a recital in three weeks! I played the recital and from that concert, I went on to play most of the shows in Branson which use horns. If there is hope for an old man like me, there is hope for everyone.