So it’s only November 15th and already I’m knee deep in Christmas Crazy. Being the on-staff Music Director at a church I have the lovely responsibility of preparing all of the music for our whopping 11 Christmas Services (I know, that’s a lot of services) and 6 rehearsals. With a track list of 18 songs to arrange/orchestrate and chart for a full rock band plus strings and brass/woodwinds, I’d safely say that I have my hands full at the moment.
Oh, did I mention that rehearsals start on December 6th? That means the score needs to be finished by Friday of next week. I hope. Woof!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining one bit. I love what I do and I love getting the opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills towards something of this size. Believe me, it’s an honor! But as much fun as it may be, it’s super stressful, what with deadlines and schedules and technical failures and gigs and transposing instruments and my ears feeling like their going to explode from all of the transcribing that I’ve been doing…
Okay, enough complaining 🙂
One thing I’ve learned throughout this journey is that you have to find a way to sneak some real fun in there. You can say all you want how much of an honor it is and how passionate you are about it, but at the end of the day you realize that you’ve been staring at a computer screen for 8 hours and the job still isn’t done yet. Not even close. So how do you deal?
How do you deal with the craziness and the stresses of being a musician? Maybe you’re in my shoes and you have a million songs to transcribe (maybe I’m overreacting a bit). Maybe you’ve got a lot of songs to learn, or maybe you’re nervous about a big gig coming up, or a lesson you feel unprepared for with a teacher you really respect, or maybe the gigs aren’t really coming in this month and that’s affecting your finances.
I’ve actually been in all of these scenarios before, and in some cases I’ve juggled them (all of them, actually) simultaneously. It’s tough, but you can get through it. I could say things like, “Just think of how lucky you are!” Or, “This is what you wanted, remember?” Or, “Don’t give up, you’re almost there!” My favorite is, “Think of how awesome it’s going to feel when you look back and it’s all done!”
I tell myself a lot of things to help me get through it all, but do you want to know what helps me the best?
No, not the things you paint yellow and pink during Bunny Season. I’m talking about the kind of Easter Eggs that Wikipedia defines as an “intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature in a work such as a computer program, video game, movie, book, or crossword.” My works are littered with these things; my music, my books, lectures, videos… I don’t know why but I really need the laugh when I’m in the thick of it working on this stuff. Most of it you will never notice it, but it’s there.
I just finished penning the melody to the main theme of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York into the turn-arounds of my arrangement of Jingle Bells. And I laughed to myself for a solid 10 minutes once I realized that this melody would work over my changes, and then I laughed even harder when I thought of how great it would be if anyone realized it. And then I laughed even harder when I thought of how great it will be that 99.9% of everyone listening to it will miss it.
They’ll probably also miss the hook from Take on Me in God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Williams’ Jurassic Park theme in the background of Amazing Grace. I can guarantee that Somewhere Over the Rainbow and the Top Gun Anthem will sneak their way into it somewhere, because they’ve managed to make it into almost every body of work I’ve ever done. One time my guitar player dared me to play Eddie Breckenridge’s ostinato line from Thrice’s Staring at the Sun into every song in the set, and I did. Just so that we could all laugh while the audience had no clue. It’s a game that I play and I love it. It’s a fantastic distraction, a good laugh, and a creative way to deal with the stress of being smack in the middle something that makes you feel like you’re in way over your head.
What do you do to deal with the stress of coping with musicianhood?