Earlier this year (February) I took a job playing in a local production of "Oklahoma". It was a great experience. I honed my reading skills, learned to play under direction and with stage cues, and branched out stylistically. I also learned a bunch from the other musicians (piano, drums, trumpet, and violin) who were all very accomplished musicians. Worked out so well I'm doing it again. Dress rehearsals for "The All Night Strut" start this Sunday. It's a musical revue of swing/pop music from the World War II era. The band is smaller (piano, bass and drums), so everybody's playing has to be on -- there's no place to hide. There are about 17 songs (I say "about" because stuff is being cut and added all the time), most of which call for walking lines on at least part of the song. This is a new idiom for me, and it's been a great learning experience. Playing written walking lines is a great way to learn how they're put together. Lots of songs in lots of different keys, usually with 2 or 3 key changes per song, just adds to the challenge and the education. This is a second case of me taking on a job that is probably a little above my skill level that forces me to work hard on reading, technique, timing, and listening to the stage performers and other musicians. I can't think of a better way to improve, and I highly recommend taking on a challenging job to anyone looking for motivation to practice in a lot of areas.