A Word of Thanks to the "9-5ers"

Posted By on May 20, 2010

Over the past several years, I have travelled extensively. Whether I was on the road with the AHQ, the OPL, the VHD or alone as a soloist, I have enjoyed, more or less, quite an international performing career. Other touring musicians with whom I have spoken over the years have commented about how tough it is, keeping up your chops, your concentration and your sleep patterns. I have to admit that I have had times when all I wished was to get back home and have a “normal” day like everyone else. But you know, after a week of that, I just get bored.

But May is a month of holidays over here in Europe. And you cannot always know when shops will suddenly be closed. During a week performing with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam at the beginning of the month, I had some time in the afternoons to ponder this a little bit. It goes without saying that I desired to do everything I could to perform at a consistently high level every day. And so, I was extra diligent about following a special “on the road routine” that I have developed over the years.

You see, I am a man of habit. And I have become more and more so as I have gotten older. My breakfast habits, both content and time, help me to start my daily routine. My warm-up is the same every day, my lunch hour, my post-lunch short siesta, coffee afterwards, afternoon walk, snack and coffee before the concert, beer and food afterwards, they all serve to carve into the new scene or situation a dependable familiarity. And this helps me to adjust to new time zones, strange cities and ultimately, to perform at my peak.

However, what happens when I can’t find a suitable café? Or there are no “small dish” restaurants in the area around the hotel or concert hall? And it gets much more serious than that. There were all sorts of holidays going on in Amsterdam that week. I needed to get my white shirt pressed. I actually needed a new cumber bund. I have been using a special type of balm for my lips these days, and I was running out of the stuff. I really wanted to work out at a gym, something I also like to do when I a on the road, but there wasn’t one anywhere near my hotel.

And so, I would eventually locate a dry-cleaners, or a café or a grocery store that was open. And very often, to my surprise, the employees there seemed to be really bummed out that they had to work, especially on a holiday. Yet, they had no idea how important it was for me, for my performance, for the musical event of that evening, that they were indeed open. And I was so thankful!

Each day brought another special need for me. Those who have travelled with me on tour know that I have a relatively inflexible set of conditions I have to uphold in order to perform consistently (I say this laughing at myself as well as apologizing to those wonderful souls who have indulged me over the years.). I became aware of exactly how important these businesses and services are to me. And how indispensable they are to the hundreds of thousands of musicians all over the world who require their services in order to bring music and culture to the world.

A quick massage before a concert in Birmingham (I had a knotted muscle in my back that hurt when I played.), a cup of fantastic coffee and a piece of apple pie around the corner from the Concertgebouw an hour before the concert, a street market in Paris where I found some much needed black socks, a brass repair shop in New York (Yamaha in Manhattan, to be specific) who cleaned and repaired my over-used horn prior to an AHQ tour, a taxi driver who bypassed heavy traffic to get me to the immigration office in Amsterdam so that I could secure my work permit and tax number before continuing rehearsals with the orchestra, the franchise “Deli France” which one sees all over Asia, who serve good coffee and real croissants for breakfast, the drug store that carries antacids or lip balm or a replacement toothbrush. Even though I do see sometimes the looks in the faces of the employees. Sometimes, they really don’t want to be there. But I, for one, am truly thankful for them all. Their little services have helped me survive what has been one of the most difficult touring years of my life.

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