When performing in a college setting I could program any type of music I wanted to play and there were always people in the audience to listen no matter how ridicules the music was. After I graduated from college I had a big reality check. When I moved to Louisville, Kentucky I had formed a new saxophone quartet. I had no professors helping me; I had to do everything on my own. I had I no idea what to program and how to go about getting gigs. I had read several articles, but by people who don't perform in the real world who are strictly academic and there approach didn't really work. I not only wanted to get a working quartet going, but wanted to perform as a saxophonist with several groups.
When I first got to Louisville in addition to my job, I went around and made many contacts at several big name stores in the area. I handed out business cards and talked to them about getting gigs in the area. Other saxophonists at first are reluctant to really recommend you, because sometimes a new player might be a threat to their current work in the city. One individual told me to contact the musicians Union and attend some of the meetings to meet other players and board members, so I did. My first year I took a resume and demo CD to the Louisville Orchestra and they immediately blew me off saying they already had their players, but to check back in a year when they would be having saxophone auditions so I did just that.
Meanwhile, quartet was working and programming music. I was making several contacts with corporations, weddings planners, (pays great), nursing homes, coffee shops, other concert bands in the area, conventions, and colleges. The goal for the quartet was to make money to commission new pieces, pay for travel and lodging and buy new music we finally realized we had to program music around the audience we were playing for. It increased appreciation for a sax quartet, they were entertained and educated and they recommended us for other performances and venues. As time went on we gave performances at governors school for the arts, at Louisville Youth Orchestra concerts, coffee shops, solos with concert bands, played at colleges, played for weddings and corporate functions, clinics at high schools and many others. Each performance we had to program for the venue. Many people think we must make people listen to our music, but sorry that will empty the auditorium faster then anything.
A year after contacting them, the Louisville Orchestra had auditions and I was among the few at the top to call. So then I started getting all these calls for saxophone to play with the orchestra. Then my work with the symphony spread to the opera and they called me to do a performance with them for 3 weeks. The manager called me and said practice the music it had several solo parts. They had not heard me in a solo situation yet. When I rehearsed with the symphony everyone was unsure about me, but after I played the first solo the conductor stopped and said “bravo saxophone amazing tone and control your tone will fit nicely with the soprano vocalist”. I also did not limit myself to just classical performances I have done many pop concerts with orchestra. The more you perform well and earn your reputation the more likely they are to call you back. Once you have established yourself then you are set for performances. It took me about 2 years to really get established in the area. I had also played for some pit orchestras, but I decided to spend more time with quartet, soloing, and other ensemble work. After you get established you can decide what gigs you really want to take.
Also after I first moved here I emailed a composer named Erich Stem who was recommended by a friend of mine Perry Goldstein. We talked once but didn’t meet until 3 years later when he heard me play at Indiana University Southeast. We had coffee, talked about a quartet commission and a possible CD in the future. That CD became reality this year and is now available. Erich Stem and I have become good friends and I value his musical genus. After that he wrote a sax quartet and percussion piece for me and now is writing a solo work and this summer a piece for saxophone and orchestra. Am I making a living performing? No, but am I making money yes. My main source of income is teaching and I love teaching others very much but I must have the balance of teaching and playing. If I’m going to be practicing several hours a day I want to be able to put that to use in the real world and make money doing it. So far I am doing what I love to do. It was a big learning experience for me after college and I want all of you reading this to have ideas on how to start playing outside of college, once you reach that point.
I play with both professional and amateur groups. I love them both for the friendships I make and the different levels of music making they create!
If you have any further questions please email me.