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Quitting when it's not in your nature

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Jay_Bass, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. Jay_Bass


    Jan 2, 2012
    Hello everyone, this will be a long post, so bear with me:

    I am in my senior year of high school, and I was personally recommended to participate in a major drama/musical production this year by the head music teacher, who has since moved on to pursue her own musical aspirations. Basically, the school's dramatic arts teacher (whom I had never spoken with) told me that I had been recommended for the part based on my abilities displayed in music class last year.

    This was a big deal for me, obviously. Being recommended out of absolutely nowhere for something that you are passionate about? Dream come true. The first rehearsal was promising, they band leader that the school hired to accompany the drama production was also told that I was the recommended candidate for the job, and we were excited to work with each other. He told me that this was the most major production that our school has been involved with in years, and I could expect to play with a full orchestra for a series of 4 back-to-back performances.

    Flash forward a month or so: No such "full orchestra" exists. Our band consists of two trumpet players, a flautist, myself on electric bass, and our band leader who plays piano at rehearsals but will only be conducting during the performances. It's a sorry excuse for a band that is involved with a large dramatic production, to say the absolute least. Rehearsing once a week for 45 minutes is another big disappointment, it's not nearly enough.

    That's not the entire problem though, because I am finding that I am not exactly up to the task either. I know how to read sheet music effectively, and I've worked with band leaders several times, but I think the expectation for the musicians was set a bit too high this time. It personally takes me a lot of time to internalize sheet music, and I prefer to memorize as much as possible so I can watch the conductor for the cues. I don't even have a drummer to lock in with, so my attention to the conductor really seems to be overpowering my ability to internalize the music. It's becoming very stressful and I'd prefer to not be associated with a failure of 4 musicians without a complete rhythm section attempting to support 50+ actors.

    Of course, the big dilemma comes with the fact that I was personally recommended by someone who I've worked with in other productions and gained a lot of respect for. Quitting would be a major disappointment, but I am quite literally unable to take this seriously or perfect my skills at all. I've performed live with many groups, played many different genres, and it is my passion to do so. I've never turned down a gig. Music is a source of pride and passion for me, and in this case it is letting me down big time.

    How would you guys go about putting and end to this? With a few things in mind:

    1. The personal recommendation and the respect that comes with it.

    2. The fact that only 4 musicians were able to accept the challenge, meaning that the drama teacher needs all the help she can get.

    3. The 50+ actors who are (apparently) rehearsing very well and are looking forward to a great show, even though they aren't aware of the sorry state that the band is in.

    4. My own personal struggle and, ultimately, my inability to live up to the expectation.

    Sorry for the extremely long post, but all your help is appreciated!
  2. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    When does the show begin? Is there enough time for a replacement to be found?

    Are you doing your homework? 45 min with the quartet is nothing, how invested are you?

    Reality check. It's a high school musical. Parents and students are not going to demand their money back because the bass player was a little shaky in the 16th measure of the second number.

    No drummer? Get a metronome with a light and place it where all band members can see it. See if you can get together more often without the music director.

    Suck it up and play the show. It may be one of your best memories in years to come.
    That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
  3. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    I agree with charlie. Don't quit. Sometimes things are hard, but how will you ever be "up to the task" if you quit and lose the opportunity to grow in your skills.

    I'd recommend putting more into it and trying to find a percussionist and possibly more musicians to join. Find ways to overcome your personal challenges, Don't create more of a challenge for the remaining band just because the end result is not shaping up to meet your expectations.

    And regarding those expectations, so the show and the band might suck to you, you don't know how others might react to your little group. Some people out there might find the small musical ensemble original and charming.

    I'm sorry, I just don't see a good reason to leave.
  4. Oraflora


    Apr 18, 2005
    Minneapolis, MN
    The best and most profound moments of musical growth occur when you are "forced" into that moment where you are uncomfortable.

    Sounds like you know things may be shaky, but learn your parts as well as you can. Know that there will be some parts you may need to ride the root note instead of playing the part written so you can keep time with the director/turn the page/keep others in time (or improvise as you see fit).

    Take the challenge and see how well you can pull it off - yourself and the rest of the 'orchestra'.

    I had a similar experience, and don't read music all that well. The audience didn't seem to mind that the band was 'shaky'. I got several compliments on my playing, as did the rest of the band.

    The music director may have been the most incompetent of all the musicians, and that's saying a lot - none of the group excelled at playing the music as written. But, I did my best and grew quite a bit as a musician and also gaining confidence in playing bigger/more professional shows - can't wait for another opportunity!

    Stand by your commitment - you may be surprised how things fall into place and sound good as crunch time before the show approaches.
  5. You're probably doing better than you think.

    If you need to vent your self-doubt, do it with the music director but do it in the framework of asking for more practice time or simpler lines. DO NOT QUIT.

    Don't fail high school though, that'd suck. Writing "Hi guys, I'm in my second senior year..."
  6. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    I appreciate your feelings. However, you'd better not quit. Do your homework, display a positive attitude, and do whatever it takes to learn your part. I'd love to tell you differently, but the truth of the matter is in the real world there are times when you are lucky to get one 45 minute rehearsal before the gig. Memorizing isn't paramount, but knowing how the music goes is. When you work with a conductor, think about using your ears as much as your eyes. Also remember this: being together is better than being right. You are there to support the actors onstage, which is where the drama should be ;.)
  7. I agree that you shouldn't quit. This is a memory in the making.

    Having done a couple of plays myself (as an actor and a musician) I can tell you it almost always seems to suck right up until opening night. However, once it all comes together during the show it's one of the most rewarding experiences you can be part of.
  8. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I'm largely a non-reader. I find that the sooner I ween myself from the music the more musical I am. Not having to look at the music will free you to watch the conductor, which is an absolute necessity when you're in a pit.

    Place the music stand so you can look up to see the conductor and glance down at the page or your bass as necessary. Make sure your environment is working for you not against you.

    Do your best. It's good experience.

  9. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    If you're having trouble counting time without a drummer (and you have a conductor), then you need to work on your time. I've played many, many shows without a drummer, and where I'm the only part of a rhythm section - if you can't hold your time, then that's the first thing you need to build on. Also, make sure the music stand is right by your conductor, and you're facing him directly. Make sure you barely need to look away to see him.

    Bring the score home for a few days and read through it while listening to the pieces, and you'll internalize the music more. Whenever I have a surprise gig, I read the score with the music a few times and write my cues in for the other instruments.
  10. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000

    As I was reading the OP, all I kept thinking was: "High school production, real serious business!" Perhaps Glee is starting to make people think that high school productions should be the equivalent of a Broadway show. :D

    The size of the ensemble is not surprising, especially if you're at a small school. During my senior year of high school, I was in the pit orchestra of our production of Grease. On the first rehearsal, the room probably had about 12 or 15 musicians. Most of the people never returned. Our eventual ensemble was two trumpets, sax, clarinet, drum kit, the director on piano, and I played bass and guitar. Similarly, I played in jazz band. Their were four guitarist on the first day, as well as me playing bass. When it came time for performance, I was the only stringed player. Bottom line, most high school musicians aren't up to the task of something like a production or they aren't willing to put in the work.

    Being in Grease and jazz band was incredibly beneficial. Grease was the first time I ever read charts, and I've probably never had my playing increase so much in such a short amount of time.

    However, it is odd that the director won't be playing piano during the performance (or have someone else play). With an ensemble that small, I can't imagine what the music is going to sound like without a harmony instrument, unless the arrangements work well with a minimalist approach.
  11. pudgychef

    pudgychef In Memoriam

    Jan 22, 2005
    Chongqing, China
    rise up and conquer the challenge before you! If you start side-stepping difficulties now (regardless of how you frame them) it will be a lot harder to conquer challenged when the stakes become a lot more serious as an adult.

    Grab the bull by the horns, get the music under your hands and let the lack of a drummer be your chance to step up and provide a killer foundation for your fellow players

    When you get older and look back - it won't be the things your tried (and may have stumbled on) that you will regret - it will be the challenges you didn't face or commitments you backed out on that will bother you....
  12. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    ...I also forgot to add that I fail to recall anytime that I improved as a player when I wasn't being challenged somehow by the music or the situation.
  13. Jay_Bass


    Jan 2, 2012
    Maybe I should have made this more clear: I was asking how to approach the act of quitting, because my mind is just about made up already.

    I know it's a high school production and therefore less serious, and I know that it could be a wonderful experience. However, it's not. It is the most sorry-state "band" that I've taken part in and the audience won't be worried so much about my playing in comparison to theirs. It's a whole band failure, and I don't want to be associated with it. In the beginning, this spelled a great live music experience and a learning opportunity, but now it looks a lot more like a colossal failure.

    I don't appreciate "suck it up and play" comments either. Countless threads appear on this forum every day about our fellow bassists just "knowing" that it's time to call it a day, even if it disappoints them. How about a little help in that respect?
  14. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I'll admit it was disconcerting for me when I started playing without a drummer regularly. I found myself trying to play too much to try to fill in the missing stuff in my head. Once I learned to step back, play the music (not the bass part) in my head then listen to what my thought a "cool bass player" would play and mimic that, my playing simplified a lot and everything got better. My "cool bass player" is a lot more syncopated, leaves rhythmic holes and uses stronger tones mostly and uses the spicy stuff much more judiciously.

  15. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I think this is different from those threads because you aren't looking at a long term commitment. This is a great introduction to what it takes to be a professional musician. I'm sorry, I'm going with "suck it up and play."

  16. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    Bluto: Hey! What's all this laying around stuff? Why are you all still laying around here for?
    Stork: What the hell are we supposed to do, ya moron? We're all expelled. There's nothing to fight for anymore.
    D-Day: [to Bluto] Let it go. War's over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.
    Bluto: What? Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
    Otter: [to Boon] Germans?
    Boon: Forget it, he's rolling.
    Bluto: And it ain't over now. 'Cause when the goin' gets tough...
    [thinks hard of something to say]
    Bluto: The tough get goin'! Who's with me? Let's go!
    [Bluto runs out, alone; then returns]
    Bluto: What the **** happened to the Delta I used to know? Where's the spirit? Where's the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you're gonna let it be the worst. "Ooh, we're afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble." Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I'm not gonna take this. Wormer, he's a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer...
    Otter: Dead! Bluto's right. Psychotic... but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part!
    Bluto: We're just the guys to do it.
    D-Day: [stands up] Yeah, I agree. Let's go get 'em.
    Boon: Let's do it.
    Bluto: [shouting] "Let's do it"!
    [all of the Deltas stand up and run out with Bluto]

  17. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    I agree. I was in your shoes many years ago and decided to stick with it. Glad I did.
  18. Jay_Bass


    Jan 2, 2012
    Haha, it will be far from the greatest night of my life, it will end in embarrassment for myself and everyone involved. The very same dramatic arts teacher organized a complete flop of a musical the year before I enrolled in the school. Due to embarrassment, she held off doing another musical until now, and I'm telling you, it's going to happen again.
  19. ChrisB2

    ChrisB2 Bass... in your fass

    Feb 27, 2008
    TalkBass > Off Topic
    No one misread your question, they all just answered with "I wouldn't."

    You can ignore them if you want, but do yourself a favor instead and start accepting the advice of those older and wiser than you. Or learn everything the hard way: mistakes.

    Good luck! :hyper:
  20. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Good point. Having this on your resume/CV is going to keep you out of Berklee and you'll never land those sweet session gigs in LA and Nashville if people get wind that you were actually part of this travesty!!!

    I say this as a perfectionist who doesn't like be in crappy musical situations: suck it up and play...whether my advice is appreciated or not. :rolleyes:

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