21. January 2008 · Comments Off on Phreeway Philharmonic · Categories: Announcements, Ramble, Watch

Or is it Freeway Filharmonic?

Oh. Wait. Wrong on both counts!

But be sure and check out the KQED show on the Freeway Philharmonic. It’s not the life I lead, but it is quite typical of many of my colleagues and friends. (I play primarily in Opera San José and Symphony Silicon Valley, with Ballet San Jose and AMTSJ thrown in on occasion, which are all less than a 10 minute drive from my home. Yeah, I do other work as well, but those are the main gigs.)

In fact, I know Kale and Robin (quoted below), Meredith Brown (horn), Bruce Chrisp (trombone) and Karla Ekholm (bassoon). Meredith is a regular in Symphony Silicon Valley. The others have all subbed with groups I’m in. This is the typical life of a musician in the Bay Area who doesn’t have a full time gig in a major orchestra like those Big Folk in San Francisco. How one has a family and does this is beyond me, but I know they manage. Somehow.

This is from the KQED site:

Freeway Philharmonic

“Music is my spirituality, my personality, my ecstasy…when it’s good, there’s nothing better and if you can do this for a living, good gig.”
Robin Bonell – cello

Freeway Philharmonic follows seven San Francisco Bay Area freelance classical musicians as they perform with regional orchestras across Northern California. Unlike musicians who have a permanent position with a major symphony, these musicians live from one season to the next. The film depicts their efforts to balance a love of music with a road-warrior lifestyle that often requires traveling hundreds of miles a day to rehearse, teach and perform. These individuals have an unrelenting desire to perform for a living, sometimes at the expense of their families and well-being. The film shows the dedication, perseverance and rigorous life of the musicians, while they grapple with their desire to succeed on a difficult career path and come to terms with their limitations in their quest for artistic accomplishment.

“It’s really hard for small to medium sized orchestras to stay afloat – it’s a tough industry.”
Kale Cumings – trumpet

In addition to profiling the individual and often interconnected stories of the seven musicians, the documentary illustrates the state of music and the arts in local communities across the country. In common with many small arts organizations, regional orchestras struggle with funding. They rarely have enough to hire permanent artists; instead they fill their chairs with freelance musicians contracted to perform from season to season. Each year thousands of conservatory-trained musicians end up in these arrangements, serving the cultural needs of small communities across America. Without these individuals, regional orchestras in cities like Marin, Santa Rosa, Napa, Berkeley, and Stockton, simply would not exist.

Many of the freelance Freeway Philharmonic musicians came up through public school music programs. Now they are ambassadors for music back to those same schools. With music programs disappearing from schools everywhere due to insufficient funding and a shift in educational priorities, players often contribute by teaching and performing for students. They are trying to fill the gap left by limited public music programs and to be role models for the next generation of musicians.

I know that just this past week Meredith had several three service days. (A “service” is a rehearsal or performance.) The three services weren’t all in the same location, either. Ouch! And then there are those long drives home in the middle of the night.

When I’ve been hired to do shows up in San Francisco I learned to occasionally book a room up there merely for my sanity. It wasn’t a vacation, to be sure, but it saved me hours of commuting and it was nice to be “home” within minutes. Of course it meant I had to pay for that room (but yay for Hotwire.com!), but it was well worth it. Now, with no children at home, I think I’d stay even more frequently, despite the cost. When I was searching for a photographer for The Wedding one photographer wanted to charge us $500 for a room and meals for both her and her assistant. She suggested that I knew what it was like to do a job and how I needed to then crash. And of course I DO understand … but it certainly never meant that any group would pay me $250 for housing and food! (We did pick a different, and absolutely fabulous, photographer—I recommend you turn down your sound first if you click on the link— by the way. I read her blog frequently these days, and I’m excited to have her for The Wedding.)

But I ramble … I manage to get off track pretty quickly, don’t I? (But hey, when I find someone I think has talent I like to promote them … it’s not all about music all the time!)

I just found the trailer for the show. Cool!

Be sure and catch that KQED show. I know I plan to!

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