As many people know, I have been deeply involved in my career forging a modest living playing jazz piano for about a half a century now. The vernacular term for us longtime workers is, of course, “one has paid his dues.” Although I have been able to make my mortgage payments, taxes, utility bills, and buy food for the past few decades it wasn’t always just from playing music. The reality of being a starving artist demands the need for a plethora of “day jobs” to work as we carve our niche in the business and create a demand for our product. This situation also gives the artist an appreciation for any good paying jobs playing music that present themselves.
Most working people have the need for steady employment as we are basically living pay check to pay check to cover the cost of living. The old saw that goes “death and taxes are inevitable” should have an addendum adding the word “inflation” to the phrase. As an artist, steady work is definitely not the norm, rather “feast or famine” would apply here. From time to time, some artists hit it big like a sculpture that scores a series of large commissions or a writer that sells a screenplay. But these incidences are rare. The concept of playing Lotto or betting on the horse races come to mind as artistic careers are not usually something to bank on for any serious dough.
Over the years, there have been many really great engagements for myself and my band. When these gigs come along, I would always tell my wife, “Honey, there is a God after all” to express my personal joy. In reality, I feel that we deserve a few truly good gigs as it compliments and confirms my conviction to my craft. By the way, during the current COVID-19 virus I applied for unemployment compensation via SAWS or Secure Access to Washington State. To my surprise the organization recognized that my endeavors are legit and sincere as they sent me several checks to help cover my living expenses. Once again, I said, “There is a God.”