I wrote the following as part of a discussion regarding the spiritual perspective of life as a musician.
Bob wrote:
> Hi Russ,
> I would cry if I witnessed an accordian being cut up! I've really come to
> appreciate that happy little instrument (in the last decade or so)!

I take it then that your patron saint is Our Lady of Spain?

There are a lot of musician's jokes that denigrate the accordian. It is a happy instrument. I think where the negatives come from is where a lot of musicians do not feel appreciated for their art and take that frustration out on an easy happy target.

Music is a lousy business. It is wonderful to be a player, but it is a terrible way to make money for many reasons. First of all, it takes what you do for love and turns it into Work. Life is ripe for disappointment when what you do for love becomes the means whereby you earn money to pay your rent and buy your food.

There are very few steady performance gigs. As Johnny Coppola (my hero) says, "There are too many dogs and only one - small - bone!" The competition for orchestral performance positions is enormous and creates situations that are truly inhumane. There are virtually no steady jazz gigs. You certainly can't begin to raise a family on what most jazz guys make.

I met a fine trumpet player on Sunday when I was playing for a Chinese funeral in San Francisco. This guy makes about $20,000/year as a musician. San Francisco is a place where a studio apartment in a sad neighborhood is $1100/month and VERY cheap share rentals are typically $700/month. Wages for musicians are a result of supply and demand. There are a lot of players and live music just isn't in demand anymore. We have too many other entertainment options.

Even for those people who "make it", the demands and conditions are terrible. Professional classical musicians have major problems with repetitive stress injuries. My wife (violin) is always nursing her bow arm elbow and both of her wrists.

Those jazz musicians who work to any real degree mostly do it on the road. I know a nice couple whose marriage broke up because the husband was on the road 10 months of the year. He was the drummer for Ray Charles and liked being on the road. He and his wife were a good match, but it's real hard to maintain a relationship under those circumstances.

I knew a guy named Al Nudo who was an alto sax player with the Stan Kenton band back in the 50's. The first two years he was married he saw his wife a total of 6 days because he was on the road all of the time. She was a singer and understood the situation and their marriage survived.

I think it is a great spiritual challenge for one to be a creative soul and to take that creative endeavour as a way to make a living. I think that we implicitly have expectations with regards to our standard of living and the amount of wealth we acquire in this life. We are continually bombarded with information about investing, buying property and material things. It requires an incredible amount of detachment to not be influenced by all of this. Couple that with the kind of money that musicians make for doing what they put their whole hearts on the line and you can see how so many musicians are unhappy and unbalanced.

So if you know a young person who aspires to a career in music, give them plenty of love and help them to realize the perspective they'll need to be happy.