Updated: Jul 25, 2019
July is always a busy month:
From assisting the summer-intensive Arts In Action Camp at the Hochstein School of Music & Dance, to performing with the incredible team over at Blackfriars Theatre for their production of A Chorus Line, this summer is sure to be a hit. Although I have played this show before, it wasn't until my last run a couple months back for Avenue Q that allowed me to take a step back and figure out what it is that I could do to better prepare for a show!
As a freelance musician, you just never know when and where the opportunity to play will arise! So naturally, you always have to keep your eyes peeled for opportunities and always be prepared for those last-minute gigs that put your sight-reading skills to the ultimate test.
So today, I have curated a list of my top essentials to carry along for any and all performances (particularly for pit orchestras).
In fact, pack two: if the first one breaks or the lead decides not to come out when you click the cap, you've got a spare.
Bonus: Pack a spare eraser or add on an eraser to the top of your pencil for all the post-show erasing you're going to have to tackle.
2. CIGARETTE PAPER
These thin strips of paper were my saving grace for Avenue Q, and they are bound to work wonders again for A Chorus Line. The G-sharp key on my alto saxophone snagged so much moisture and would stick terribly if - heaven forbid - I didn't play it for some time. It certainly doesn't help that I haven't taken it in since the time I purchased it (my own fault, I know) but little tricks of the trade like this saved me, a freelancer getting by month-to-month, to get through the weeks worth of working all day, followed by evening shows where I'm even more pressed for time.
Myth-Buster: Ever heard of the 'dollar bill' method? If you still opt for this method to get rid of sticky keys while playing, stop it immediately! Not only is the dollar bill super dirty from existing for years getting passed around from person to person, dollar bills hold moisture for a more extended period of time, which ends up being quite harmful to the mechanism.
Kiddos: These can only be purchased at gas stations, or rather any store that sells tobacco products. Must be 18 years or older to purchase. Explain this method to your parents and ask them to pick some up next time they're in need of filling up their gas tanks!
3. COTTON CLEANING CLOTH
This goes without saying...
One for each instrument, please. Continue to put them in with your laundry load from time to time for basic cleanliness and overall care for your precious, expensive instruments. I tend to leave my cleaning cloth in the top zipper pouch at the front of my my flute case.
Food for thought: please, please, pretty please do not use those cleaning rods that leave fuzzies everywhere. Better yet, if you have them...
1) Throw them away
2) If you don't throw them away, fine (I ain't your mama) but please do yourself and your instrument a favor and don't leave the moisture-packed cleaning rod in the body of your instrument overnight! At that point, you're just asking to give your instrument and expiration date.
4. SPARE REEDS
You never know when a reed is going to chip... or accidentally graze a backdrop behind you... But everything was fine because I had a spare reed to place the ruined one out of just before the show started.
If you're a trumpet player, it may be valve oil... Just switched from a closed-hole to an open-holed flute? Be sure to pack extra plugs for some of the trickier fingerings.
Bottom line: Come prepared. I know a lot of my closest woodwind friends tend to use the synthetic reeds while they're doubling. I, personally, haven't gotten a chance to try them out.
Reed friends: what are the pros and cons that you've experienced firsthand? I need to pick your brain!
My definition of accessories: individual instrument stands/pegs, an extra neck strap (based on an unfortunate experience), a stand light (with an extra set of batteries), small tools in case a screw needs tending to, etc.
Heck, some venues require you to bring your own music stand! Make sure to keep a spare in the trunk of your car, just in case! It's better to be over-prepared than unprepared for any and all circumstances!
Especially if you are attempting to begin taking your performance career to the next level, you must cover all of your bases in an industry as competitive as becoming a full-fledged musician with a reputable community such as Rochester's.
The more prepared you are, the better you'll stand out from the competition, as well as gaining a better sense of comfortability in case an incident happens: whether that be an instrument issue, or an accessory mishap.
As musicians, we're not just preparing for the performance while we're out there lo