How to Avoid Coming Off as an Unprofessional Singer, Vocalist, Music Directors, or Band Leader

Certain truths are not as self-evident as they may seem. Over the last twenty-three years as a professional guitarist, I have come across many musicians, both amateur and professional, who have been ignorant of just how unprofessional an impression they left on myself and other band members.

In most situations, musicians will not illuminate such faults for the band leader; however, they will invariably share the experience with other musicians they know. As much as singers and vocalists often receive the most criticism amongst musicians, there are plenty of other instrumentalists who commit the same faux pas.

Here are some simple elements to consider if you do not want to look incompetent or unprofessional in front of musicians:

  1. Details Concerning the Gig or Job: When you call another musician for a gig, make sure to detail exactly what is expected. For example, if you are a singer who expects a rehearsal or do not have arrangements for all of the songs, say so. Telling a musician about such important details only after he or she has agreed to the gig is absolutely unnerving.
  2. Rehearsals – Paid or Not?: If you require or may be thinking of requesting a rehearsal, consider the fact that most professional musicians expect to be compensated for rehearsals. To think that the musician is obligated to attend a free rehearsal is about as unprofessional as it gets. (If you require a rehearsal but cannot pay anything, have the decency to be upfront about it before the musician agrees to the gig.)
  3. Proper Arrangements and Legible Music Charts: Though singers and vocalists are most often in violation of this aspect, other instrumentalists may just as easily make the same mistake. Nothing comes off more haphazardly than not having accurate, clearly written (or printed) music charts. Sorry to say, but the short-hand chicken scratch scribbled onto some staff paper by a pianist does not pass the muster. If you do not have proper charts, then invest in a notation program or pay a copyist to create them for you.
  4. A Little Humility Goes a Long Way: Apart from sycophants, no one enjoys an arrogant or bumptious personality. You will usually get more respect and may even receive help if you admit that you do not know something or have not all the necessary materials (e.g. charts) for the gig. A person who acts as though he or she has everything together is often transparent; to carry on such an act only makes you look like a consummate ass.

As a band leader or music director, you probably want the musicians to play as well as they possibly can. Achieving this is difficult if the musicians have little or no respect for you. None of the four aforementioned points is particularly difficult to practice. In doing so, you will avoid some of the most common pitfalls that quickly lead to a less-than-flattering reputation amongst professional musicians.

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University Teaching App: PhD, Check; 20+ Years Experience, Check; Published, Check; $37.50 an Hour? Cricket

About two months ago, I interviewed for an adjunct teaching position as head of a jazz guitar department at a university in the San Francisco Bay area. The school had fewer than five guitar majors at the time and was a one-hour drive from my residence. Despite being guitar majors, each student received only one half-hour lesson per week.

As with all university positions, a PhD was preferred, though a Masters was acceptable. Extensive teaching experience, including experience teaching at the university level was a must. You also had to be recognized an accomplished professional guitarist, preferably with publishing credits to your name.

The interview started off perfectly well. The sample lesson taught to a senior went very well. I had no difficulty fielding questions about my experience as a teacher, my teaching philosophy, and ways I intended to recruit more students. Among my responsibilities would be creating a curriculum and attending juries.

Apparently, I would have to pay the $2.00 an hour parking fee and coordinate a teaching schedule with the students. There was also the chance that I would have to come in on one or two days to teach only one student for thirty minutes.

The final part of the interview revealed that I would only be paid for teaching lessons. No compensation would be available for creating the curriculum, attending juries and recitals, or spending time recruiting students. While this was a bit of a surprise, the final blow had yet to arrive.

The chair of the department took out a calculator and began going through the university’s convoluted breakdown of how many teaching units each student represents. He continued to make a number of calculations. When he finished, I looked down and saw a the number 75 encircled. “This is what you are paid per student, per month,” he said. I asked him to confirm the number represented the monthly rate, not the hourly rate. He nodded.

I quickly did some math of my own and realized that I was being offered $37.50 per hour before taxes, parking, etc. If one considers inflation rates, the pay rate was at least $10.00 less than what I was making 15 years ago before I had completed my undergraduate schooling.

Of course, I politely declined to go further, especially when I realized I might have to take about three hours of a day to teach one student amounting to less than $10.

Most of us are aware of the ever-increasing university tuition rates. Where is that money going? Certainly not in the pockets of the professors. The biggest losers in the end? The students, as always.

How is it that any academic institution demands of its prospective professors graduate degrees, extensive teaching experience, publications, et al and expects to get any self-respecting professor for such a meager wage?

As much as I love to teach, I feel that I should be adequately compensated for my skills, experience, and credentials as an educator. To accept less only foments resentment and contempt for the institution.

Why I Charge What I Charge: Understanding My Performance Fees

Many of my performances are at private events as a solo guitarist. A highly skilled guitarist with nearly 25 years of professional experience who can perform virtually any musical style, I have over 2500 live performances logged. I hold the highest degree possible in my field (i.e. a doctorate) and add daily to the literally tens-of-thousands of hours to time already spent refining my craft.

Despite these credentials, a fairly large percentage of prospective clients often take pause or question my fee when I provide a quote. I have encountered people who seem perfectly content with paying a well-established DJ upwards of $1000 for a couple of hours. Yet the same people do not understand how I can justify charging $600 for exactly the same amount of time.

Recently, I took a poll of 10 well-established DJs in the San Francisco area. I asked each to provide me a bid for two hours of music at a venue about 35 miles away; the average was $800. Typically, my rate under the conditions is $600-almost 35% less. So why is it that a skilled solo guitarist is perceived to have less value in comparison to a DJ?

Over the years, I have discovered that several misconceptions exist about me as a professional solo guitarist. I hope to clear up these misconceptions in the following paragraphs.

Many clients are surprised when they see how much equipment that I bring along to a performance; it is comparable to a DJ. While I play a modestly sized instrument, the instrument does not project very well when unamplified. Even an acoustic guitar in a large room is audible to those within a 20-30 foot range, but that is assuming everyone is quiet. When you factor in other noise and the conversation levels of those in attendance, the range drops to around 10 feet. If I am performing outdoors, the range drops even more.

Aside from bringing one or two guitars, the standard equipment I carry to the gig includes a guitar amplifier, speaker cabinet, and a PA with a mixer and microphones. Considering the time necessary to set up the equipment, sound check, and warmup, I need at least an hour before the beginning of the event. Therefore, a two-hour performance requires about four hours when factoring in the time needed to setup and breakdown.

When it comes to song requests, I do not charge extra for one or two that require me to come up with solo guitar arrangements. On average, I spend about 2-4 hours per arrangement and more time practicing the arrangement.

As a solo guitarist, I am responsible for condensing the parts of the singer, pianist, bassist, guitarist, and drummer into one instrument. Covering multiple parts on a guitar can be very difficult. In comparison, performing only the guitar part of most songs is a cinch.

An additional travel time fee is assessed only if the event is over an hour’s drive (one way).

To summarize, the following is an hourly breakdown when I am hired to perform for two hours and arrange two songs for the solo guitar for an event an hour away:

  • 4-8 hours of song arranging
  • 4-8 hours of practicing the arrangements
  • 2 hours of driving
  • 2 hours for setup and breakdown
  • 2 hours of performing

As you can see, quite a lot more that goes into performing as a solo guitarist for two hours than one might initially think; these, too, are factors when it comes to determining my fee.

The Live Music Climate: An Appeal to All Musicians

While the complaints of musicians in respect to what they are paid on gigs is not a new topic, I have recently heard more complaints from musician-friends than ever before. In some cases, these musicians perform at commercial venues (e.g. restaurants-bars, clubs, lounges) for little or no money. And these are excellent musicians, not second-rate players.

SHIRKING RESPONSIBILITY

The owner and/or managers are often the first to be damned by musicians for taking advantage of them and their fans who patronize the venues. Many of them want or, in some cases, expect the musician(s) to play for free or for a pittance. But as much as some musicians would like all of responsibility to fall on the shoulders of the owners, this is only part of the problem.

The majority of the responsibility for these expectations is on the musician-yes, that’s right, the musician. After all, the musician(s) is the one who ultimately accepts these conditions by accepting and performing the gig.

Is there a long line of plumbers ready to offer their skills and services for nothing or a few dollars if a club owner’s place has a plumbing problem? Hardly.  Is there an endless line of lawyers willing to give free advice if the club owner seeks legal counsel? I think not.

Yet when it comes to providing live musical entertainment, the many owner know that there are plenty of musicians who will perform for free. Sometimes the venue will offer the musicians free drinks and food in lieu of monetary payment, but this amounts to very little when you consider the actual cost to the venue itself.

As incredible as it may sound to some people, there is an emerging trend among amateur musicians (i.e. play music on the side) who will pay the venue to perform there!

“Well, it’s my right to play a free gig if I want!” No doubt. All I am asking if for you to understand the repercussions of doing so are not limited to only you; they affect all working musicians.

If your livelihood does not depend on music in any way, take a moment to imagine what your job would be like if you had a slew of amateurs offering to do it for free. How would you feel about it? Do you really think you would be able to easily find a company that offers reasonable wages for your line of work?

PERCEPTION IS REALITY

Sadly, the majority of Americans need to be told what quality music is; they don’t recognize it even when they literally walk right by it as was the case with Joshua Bell. The famed violin virtuoso’s experiment at a Washington D.C. subway station is evidence of this. (http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/bell.asp)

The monetary value live music has is one of an individual’s perception. The fact that live music is intangible compounds the challenge of establishing a value.

Musicians I know prefer to be paid a reasonable amount when they perform for a commercial business. But if so many musicians are willing to give it away to a venue for nothing, how can the perception of the average venue owner change?

A person may pay $100 for a mediocre seat to attend a professional live sporting event. Do you know of any professional sporting events that are $5.00 for a decent seat? If they were, who in their right mind would offer twenty times that? The buyer perceives that the ticket is worth $100 not because it is a universal law; the $100 is paid for a ticket because that is what experiencing the event live is worth to the person.

FREE RESPECT?

Love it or hate it, we live in a society in which most people correlate a person’s fee with their level of expertise. As superficial and presumptuous as it may be, most will respect skilled professionals more who charge a higher fee. The same goes for how many assess items in a store. (e.g. when comparing two televisions with identical screen sizes and features, most will assume the more expensive television is of superior quality.)

What does a musician say to an owner or manager of a venue when he or she is willing to play for little or no pay? Not sure? Here are some likely considerations:

The possibility that your group might consist of unskilled musicians who can barely hold a tune together; however, if that is the case, you won’t be performing at that venue again any time soon. The venue may even fire you on the gig if your music is that noticeably lacking. On the other hand, if your band is good or great, then your performances essentially become a cash cow for the venue.

MUSICIANS: YOU CAN BRING ABOUT CHANGE

Musicians must first realize that they can bring about a change by not offering to play for free or food/tips. If musicians started to set a reasonable base fee that is not negotiable, the perception that these owners/managers have would change.

Yes, I know how fun and exciting it is to perform at a venue and have fans come out to support you. There are other routes to go. For example: play house parties or rent a space in a local community center and sell tickets. Just as long as you are not performing for a commercial business, you won’t be perpetuating the current expectations of most commercial business owners.

ESTABLISHING A REASONABLE BASE FEE

So what is a reasonable base price for commercial venues to pay for live music? Over twenty years ago, the average three-hour restaurant gig in the Philadelphia area paid me, then a 17 year-old mediocre musician, at least $40. Weekend gigs (including Friday night) paid $50 or $60. In today’s money that is $65, and $80 or $95, respectively (http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm); this is about the absolute lowest that any commercial venue should be paying each musician.

BRINGING AN AWARENESS TO NON-MUSICIANS

Based on the interactions with non-musicians over the years, most patrons assume that the band is getting paid, even when they are asking for tips. Patrons consider the tips to be supplemental to whatever the musicians are being paid by the venue. I have come to find that non-musicians are often appalled when they hear that there are bands that play for nothing but tips. When these patrons pay a cover charge, they also assume that the majority, if not all of the cover, goes towards the band.

As much as musicians can bring about a change by turning down such gigs, the non-musicians who patronize such places can also have a tremendous impact by patronizing live music venues that pay their musicians a reasonable wage.

Two days ago, a guitar student, who is a senior a prestigious business school, said he never gave any thought to what live musicians make at a commercial venue. When he paused to think about it, he said, “I would think that each musician in a decent band receives at least $25 per hour with higher pay rates for better bands.”

He was astounded when I told him that some venues pay nothing, while others might pay $25 for the entire band for a three or four-hour gig. “No wonder musicians have difficulty getting paid when so many are willing to give their music away to those places for free. Which club owner is going to pay a fair price for live music when they can get it for free or for so little?”

UNDERCUTTING OTHER MUSICIANS

As musicians, we are our own worst enemies. No better an example of this may be found than in the musicians who undercut other musicians who are paid well by commercial venues.

Here is a common scenario: Band X plays a venue for $400 to perform from 6:00-9:00pm. Band Y learns of this while trying to get a gig at the venue and offers to play the same gig for $200. One month later, Band Z enters the venue and says that they will play for only $50. A few months later, every band is playing the venue for free, and what was once a reasonably well-paying venue is no more.

While it is not always the case, most often the quality of the music goes down as a lesser band undermines a more talented one. Many times these venues either end up going bankrupt or dispensing with live music altogether. As much as it may be satisfying to say that these places ultimately get what they pay for, it does nothing to address the root of the issue.

Not only do such practices destroy well-paying venues, it also fouls up every musician who wants a venue to pay a reasonable amount for their live music. Undercutting musicians sends a message to venue owners that live music is something for which they do not have to pay much if anything at all.

CONCLUSION

Until more musicians accept responsibility for their actions, the live music climate will continue along the same deplorable route it has been traveling. Do not play free gigs for commercial venues, and stop the practice of undercutting fellow musicians at venues that do pay reasonably.

What are your thoughts on this matter? Please leave a comment below.

Honoring the Memory of Mentor Jimmy Amadie

As my usual Sunday afternoon routine went, I sat down at Jimmy Bruno’s kitchen table and began to take my guitar our of its case. But this Sunday was very different from the previous lessons with my mentor. I had been Bruno’s student for four years, and, for the first time, he recommended that I consider taking a few lessons with another teacher based in the Philadelphia area.

Bruno sat down at the table and presented a book authored by the teacher. I looked at the cover: “Jazz Improv: How to Play It and Teach It” by Jimmy Amadie. Intrigued, I started leafing through the pages of the book.

“I just got this book; it looks great. Jimmy Amadie was a great pianist who had to stop many years ago because both of his hands gave out,” Bruno informed me.

I thought, “Why would I study with a pianist? I am a guitarist!”

He continued, “You might want to take a lesson and see how it goes. You can still take lessons from me, but I think it will do you good to get another perspective on playing. There are other approaches than the one I teach. I looked through Jimmy Amadie’s book and think he is really onto something.”

Despite Bruno’s appeals, I still felt a strong resistance to his idea. I had no desire to study with anyone else and could not see how a pianist could help me improve my guitar playing.

Coincidentally, my high school music teacher asked if I had ever heard of Jimmy Amadie a few days later. I told him I had only heard of him. Mr. Stairs then made the same suggestion Bruno had earlier.

Finding it uncanny that the two teachers whom I respected most mentioned Jimmy Amadie within a few days of each other, I decided to contact him. I asked Mr. Stairs for Amadie’s phone number; he jotted it down on a piece of paper.

The sun had set; dinner was over. I retrieved the piece of paper Mr. Stairs had given me. I picked up the phone and dialed the number. A man’s voice that I assumed to be Jimmy’s answered. “Hello Mr. Amadie, I got your number from Michael Stairs. He and Jimmy Bruno recommended that I call you to see if you’d be willing to give me a lesson.”

Amadie asked about my background and told me he would set up an evaluation for me to see where I was as a player. The arrogant voice inside of my head replied, “An evaluation? I told him I have studied with Jimmy Bruno for four years. Why would he need to evaluate me?”

With some reluctance, I agreed to Amadie’s terms. The evaluation date was set, and when I arrived I set out to impress him so much with my guitar playing that he would feel foolish for not wanting to accept me as a student from the beginning.

Jimmy greeted me at the door leading to his music studio. “Go in and warm up. I’ll be right there.” Upon entering his teaching studio, a grey foldout chair awaited me next to a small Ampeg amplifier from the 1960s. I plugged in my guitar and turned on the amp. My hubris ever present, I began to play my scales and arpeggios as fast as I could. I was confident that he would be bowled over by what he heard.” I did this for the next fifteen minutes, stopping only when I began wondering why he had not yet returned.

A couple of minutes later, Amadie entered the room. “Okay,” he said as he sat down in a green rolling chair, “let me hear you play a tune-any tune.” Without a single remark about my warm up, he reached over and selected a cassette tape next to his tape recorder.

“You are going to record me?” I asked.

“Yes, that way I can refer back to your playing,” he responded. “Jimmy Bruno had never recorded me during our lessons,” I thought to myself with some annoyance that stemmed from not receiving the reaction I had though I would receive.

An uneasy feeling came me as I knew that I was about to be recorded. “What tune are you going to play?” Amadie asked. I thought for a moment. “I’ll Remember April,” I declared. “Okay, you got it.”

I started into the chord-melody I knew so well. Fewer than ten measures into the song: “Stop, try it again,” he said. Slightly annoyed, I started again only to find myself interrupted even sooner the second time.

“Just play the melody-forget about your arrangement,” he said. I began trying to play the melody but quickly faltered after my first mistake.

His facial expression bore no resemblance to the one I had imagined before the lesson. He had a look of concern, even bewilderment at times. His final request: “Solo for me.” I felt this was my big opportunity to really dazzle him. I played as fast and fiercely as I could before he stopped me at the bridge of the song.

He leaned back in his chair, adjusted his glasses, picked up a pencil, and pressed the eraser under his chin. He looked up and away for a moment and then back at me. I knew he was about to say something that was going to be anything but complimentary.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, Prez, but your playing is completely in left field. In fact, I don’t think I have heard someone play worse than you. For one, your time is all over the place; you don’t know the basic melody to the tune; you only have your arrangement.”

He paused again and continued, “Look Prez, there are two kinds of players: the players who think that music serves technique, and the players who have the technique serve the music. Clearly, you are in the first category. You have all these chops, but the music is secondary. No one cares about your technique if you can’t tell a story-if you cannot communicate musically. Plus, when your time is bad, no one will want to play with you. The biggest drag in the world is to play with a cat who has bad time. Listen to the recording–the tape doesn’t lie.”

As we listened back, I could not help but wonder why I had adopted such a stupid attitude. I felt I deserved the pointed criticisms. He stopped the tape and asked rhetorically, “Am I saying something?”

Disheartened and annoyed with myself,  I nodded my head. He got up and patted me on the back, “Don’t worry, Prez, you have a lot of work ahead, but I will help you.” His assurances made me feel only slightly better. Shortly after leaving his house, I was filled with an intense desire to do whatever I had to until my musical shortcomings were rectified.

For the next ten years, Jimmy Amadie became much more than a teacher; he was another mentor, another father, an inspiration, and a great friend.

His genius as an educator was not only in developing concepts for improvisation and harmony; understanding that music, as with life, does not exist in a vacuum. He also espoused practicing under “game conditions”: creating a context as close to the one you would face outside of the practice room during a performance.

I am forever indebted to Jimmy for inculcating so many life and musical lessons during my time with him. As much as I miss him, his indomitable spirit and passion remain and continue onward through me, and those whose lives he touched. Thank you and much love, Prez.

Eternally yours,

Seth

The Meaning of Music from the Perspective of a Romanticist

In his book The Romantic Generation, Charles Rosen devotes an entire chapter to fragments in Romantic literature and music. He states that, “The work [of art] is not intended to convey the artist’s experience as directly as a telegram, or to substitute his memory for ours: it is made to be filled with our experience, as a vehicle for the feelings of all who perceive it.” I have not come across a more concise definition of the function of music (and art in general).

Many writers have tried to read in between the notes of a composer’s work. Such writers (unsuccessfully) attempt to decipher the intention of the composer in hopes that the listener will understand why one note or chord was chosen over others.

This kind of specious spoon feeding is far more detrimental to a listener than helpful. This is especially in regards to non-programmatic music, because it suggests that there is a correct way for the listener to interpret what is heard.

As much as it may offer certain insights into the background of a given composition, correlating the composer’s life with his or her work is not necessarily relevant in understanding it. The reason is simple: music and art are not created only at the conscious level. If this were the case, it would be highly unlikely that the depth found in a seminal piece by a composer such as Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto” would be present. Moreover, it is impossible to ever know exactly what Beethoven was feeling or thinking at the time the composition was penned despite what may have been occurring in his or her life at the time. Even if we were to know precisely what the composer was thinking, it still does not account for the subconscious elements that will be invariably infused into the composition.

If a composer had a specific program in mind for a work, it provides only a general framework or background for the listener. The program itself does not fill in all the pieces which would prevent or deny the listener from forming his or her own impressions. A work of Romantic literature does not create a world for the reader independently of him or her. This world must be created by the imagination of the individual, regardless of how the artistic medium (e.g. literary, musical, etc.).The listener is just as much a part of the composition as the composer who conceived it. This applies to both programmatic and non-programmatic music alike.

If absolute music is to transcend the written word as Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and others felt it does, is it not contradictory to attempt to guide a listener through a composition? The entire notion of suggesting or telling the listener what a composition is about is antithetical to the idea that the individual is the focal point as those practitioners of Romanticism did..

The individual does not refer only to the composers and virtuosos of the Romantic era; it also refers to the listener. The composition is designed to invite the listener into exploring his or her own personal feelings. If a composition is performed well, the responsibility of gleaning impressions is entirely up to the listener. If the listener fails to get anything out of the experience of listening to a composition being performed, it is more than likely the failure of the listener.

One of the great delights art offers is its ability to undergo different stages of metamorphosis throughout the life of the observer. In this sense the composition lives vicariously through the listener. It changes throughout time and thereby exists, as the Romantics perceived, in the past, present and future.

As much as hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the age of ten was an ear-opening experience, the affect of the piece on me is very different for me today.

Calling the composition a vehicle for the feelings of the listener, Rosen astutely captures the essence of music and art. There is no question that the way in which a listener perceives a work is a reflection of the person. It is unlikely that someone who is vacuous and guarded will gain as much from hearing a great piece of music as someone who is cognizant. To become an empty vessel into which the composition can be poured and digested takes courage and much faith.

In response to the scientific-based philosophies of the Enlightenment that preceded it, Romanticism sought to reestablish the magic and mystery in art and life. Any attempt to deconstruct art and music to a lowest common denominator only sterilizes it. Music and art do not present mathematical equations. On the contrary, they present personal equations possessing a multitude of answers. If a single, invariable answer existed for every work of art, there would never be any need to return to it later. The vehicle which Rosen speaks of is, in turn, reduced to nothing more than an equation that has only one invariable solution.

What magic can possibly exist for a listener if the goal is to dissect the composition into pieces without ever acknowledging its synergistic whole? Deconstruction not only strips the wonderment of the composition or piece of artwork, it also denies the listener or observer the element of self-discovery (and rediscovery). Ultimately, the individual must determine what the work means on his or her own without any external interference.

A Most Rewarding Performance

Anyone who has made or attempted to make a living pursuing their art knows it is far from the path of least resistance. At times, I have felt that musicians have a thankless task and wondered where exactly they fit into the society. Are we merely entertainers or is something more to it?

Every so often, I have a performance that affirms, in every way possible, my decision to do what I do for a living.

Five years ago, I was called to perform for a gentleman hospitalized at the City of Hope. His girlfriend hired me to perform as a surprise birthday present for her boyfriend, Turk. He was a jazz enthusiast, and she felt the live music would elevate his sprits. I suggested having an acoustic bassist accompany me. She agreed, so I hired a great bass player and friend, Jiro Plutschow.

Turk’s girlfriend said she would not be present for the performance. Although she informed me that he was very sick and could not get out of bed, it was not until Jiro and I arrived when we realized how terminally ill Turk was.

When Jiro and I arrived, we were ushered into his room and, at the first sight of him, I froze: he was hooked up to nearly every medical machine imaginable. As horrible as he looked when we entered the room with our instruments, his entire being lifted up when he realized we were going to perform for him.

The nurse took some pillows and used them to prop him up so he could better see us. After we took out our instruments, I told him, “We have been asked to come here and perform for you on your birthday. We hope you enjoy what you hear.” When we finished the first song, Turk was in tears and asked the nurse to hand him his diary that he began keeping after being admitted into the hospital.

I found it very difficult to maintain my own composure, but somehow I managed. Throughout the performance, Turk would write in his diary. Every so often, he would stop writing to tell us about his illness, and how he had not felt anywhere near to as good as he did since being hospitalized four months earlier.

Shortly after we began playing, other patients began gathering outside of Turk’s room to listen. To describe the feeling I had is impossible. Never would I have imagined that the music we were playing would have such an effect.

Before leaving Turk, we asked him to please come out to a performance when he was better. He smiled and promised he would. As much as I hoped I would look up one day during a performance and see him, a part of me felt this was the only time I would ever see him.

Two months later, my phone rang; it was Turk! He called to inform me that he was out of the hospital. He said our performance inspired him to get out of the hospital. Apparently, his recovery astounded everyone.

He asked when I would be performing again. I told him I had a performance the following Saturday. As you might have guessed, he fulfilled the promise he had made at the hospital.

Turk passed away a half a year later. Although his girlfriend did not inform me of his passing, a friend, who had initially referred me to her, did. My friend added that Turk’s girlfriend felt the music was a large part of Turk’s recovery. At the time we met Turk, it turned out the doctors expected him to live only another week or two. Turk ended up living over a half a year.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson: just because music cannot be measured in a laboratory does not take away from its potential as a healing agent for the body and spirit alike.