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Discussion Starter #1
I've got a bit of a conundrum, and I thought I'd put it before folks that have been around the block a bit more than I have. (I apologize that this isn't sax related, but it is music related).

I'm the bass player for my university's big band. I'm not taking it for credit, because I work here rather than going to school here. I basically do it for the fun and experience. However, I do gig around town from time to time on bass.

Last Monday, I got a call from a swing band that I had subbed in for before saying they needed a bass player for a gig on Oct. 16th. I checked my schedule, nothing was going on, so I said sure, no problem. It was a gratis gig because they were playing for the folks that give them rehearsal space, but they also told me that the bass seat was mine if I wanted it because their old bass player was retiring. I thought this was great!

Well, I went in to jazz band class at the university the next day, and received the syllabus (first day of class). Lo and behold, we have a concert on Oct. 16th. Mind you I was not privy to this information before this day. I spoke to the director of the jazz band and told him that I had already agreed to a gig on the 16th, and he was obviously upset (unfortunately bassists are rather rare in this area).

He started telling me that my first responsibility was to his jazz band and that I should have known that there would be a concert coming up. My argument was that the other swing band technically called first, and that in a professional situation, he who calls first gets the bassist. He's pretty much being a jerk about it, and while I appreciate his frustration, I don't want to call the other band back and say "Hey, I got called for another gig that day, can you find a sub for me?" I don't want to let either group down, but it seems like someone is going to lose in this situation. Mind you, future gigs with the first swing band will be paying gigs...I'll never get a dime out of the university jazz band. So I'm at a loss, and was wondering if any of you had any advice. Thanks very much!

Jim
 

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akumaJFR said:
I've got a bit of a conundrum, and I thought I'd put it before folks that have been around the block a bit more than I have. (I apologize that this isn't sax related, but it is music related).

I'm the bass player for my university's big band. I'm not taking it for credit, because I work here rather than going to school here. I basically do it for the fun and experience. However, I do gig around town from time to time on bass.

Last Monday, I got a call from a swing band that I had subbed in for before saying they needed a bass player for a gig on Oct. 16th. I checked my schedule, nothing was going on, so I said sure, no problem. It was a gratis gig because they were playing for the folks that give them rehearsal space, but they also told me that the bass seat was mine if I wanted it because their old bass player was retiring. I thought this was great!

Well, I went in to jazz band class at the university the next day, and received the syllabus (first day of class). Lo and behold, we have a concert on Oct. 16th. Mind you I was not privy to this information before this day. I spoke to the director of the jazz band and told him that I had already agreed to a gig on the 16th, and he was obviously upset (unfortunately bassists are rather rare in this area).

He started telling me that my first responsibility was to his jazz band and that I should have known that there would be a concert coming up. My argument was that the other swing band technically called first, and that in a professional situation, he who calls first gets the bassist. He's pretty much being a jerk about it, and while I appreciate his frustration, I don't want to call the other band back and say "Hey, I got called for another gig that day, can you find a sub for me?" I don't want to let either group down, but it seems like someone is going to lose in this situation. Mind you, future gigs with the first swing band will be paying gigs...I'll never get a dime out of the university jazz band. So I'm at a loss, and was wondering if any of you had any advice. Thanks very much!

Jim
IMHO, the band director is in the wrong. You're not his student. You have a prior committment. Too bad if he doesn't have another bass player. He needs to train some!

Though when you say you work there, what do you mean, exactly? Is the band director your boss?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Oh no, I work at the help desk full time. Nothing to do with the music department. I'm beginning to think I should have just told him I'd be out of town that day ;)
 

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akumaJFR said:
Oh no, I work at the help desk full time. Nothing to do with the music department.
OK then. Professionally, the band director has no ground to stand on. Is this some sort of "ivory tower" problem? In my universe, bands substitute members all the time because somebody or other has more than one thing going on; band leaders generally have a list of backup possibilities. Of course if bass players aren't common where you are, his bench may not be very deep. But I wasn't kidding when I said he ought to be bringing along a future generation. . . . he's an educator, right?
 

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These things are always a tough call.

When I have questions that are yes or no like this, I flip a coin. I don't always follow the results of the coin toss, but I know that I've made a decision I can live with.
 

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But IMHO there's no decision. The committment has been made, and it's a prior. So the band director needs to accept that graciously.
 

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I agree. Sounds like you're doing it to help him out. If there were a student to fill your spot, I'm sure you be out. So tell him to start doing what he's paid to do.... teach. And bass..... should be easy. All the girls want bass players.
 

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The band director has a point. You made a commitment to that group which was in place before this gig was set up.

At this point in time you need to pick one or the other and get on with it. In college I stepped down as concertmaster to let a performance major get some experience with the reality of the job. I played with the group but as a utility player rather than my previous role. It was an ensemble based on learning the music and the roles of the various positions within the organization.

If you have a gig, let somebody else get the experience with the college group.

The local groups I perform with now accept me knowing that if I get a call the night before the concert for a paying gig that I am out of there. My job comes before a freebie. You need to play on the terms you agreed to when you joined the groups.
 

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Carl H. said:
The band director has a point. You made a commitment to that group which was in place before this gig was set up.

You need to play on the terms you agreed to when you joined the groups.
Well, there's justice in this view. We don't really know what kind of commitment had been made, exactly, do we? If you were a student, there would be one kind of responsibility to the school unit. In this case, I'm not so sure -- but if you and the band director had agreed that you'd always be available, then I'd say Carl is right. My guess is that no such agreement was in fact made -- you'd be nuts to agree to that. Given that the band director is using "ringers," I'm of the opinion that he would need a) to let non-student members know WELL in advance of the gigs that there are committments coming up, and b) be prepared to be flexible where the non-student members are concerned.

As to whether there OUGHT to be non-students involved at all is yet another matter altogether. Personally, I'd say ideally not. But that's a separate question, I think.

It's one thing to hand out a syllabus at the beginning of term with commitments on it for student consumption. Non-students' lives are different.
 

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Carl H. said:
The band director has a point. You made a commitment to that group which was in place before this gig was set up.
The problem with that, though, is that I can't really plan my schedule around something that MIGHT happen. I MIGHT have a gig on that Thursday, so I can't take a gig for the next 3 months. I think what upsets me about this is that the band director ISN'T taking this graciously like he should. He's making me feel like the unprofessional one, but it seems to me like he's being a sore loser, which makes me rather upset. I'm about ready to tell him where he can shove it, but I'm trying to be professional here ;)
 

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Talk to the swing band bass player who is "retiring" and see if he will do one more gig. If he will, go to the swing band directer and tell him your situation. If it's ok with him, do the school gig. This seems like a one time problem and after you know what is expected of you by each group, things will iron themselves out.
 

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Regardless of the school's director's dictum that everyone has to show for his group, YOU made a prior commitment to the first group. Your position should be you honor the commitment OR come up with a sub for that one in your stead.

Value-wise, the "swing band" group has the potential for other paying work down the road, while the college group does not. (Based upon my experiences with "lab bands" and "jazz bands" at various schools over the years, it's more of a refuge for those who like to play music than it is a viable operation designed to pay its own way.) Skate on the swing band now (going back on your commitment in the process) and you're not likely to be the one that they call for paying gigs in the future. The college group may not want you either if you say you can't play due to a prior commitment, but there is much less money in the offing there (i.e., none).

If someone bails on me without an equal or better replacement, they then don't get called back, period. I've got too many problems with the booking and business side of music as it is, and I don't need to be worrying about whether this trombone or that sax is going to show.

Usually, it's not the musicians that are the problem in this regard. Each generally knows a number of others that can sit for them, and often these folks are glad for the work. I've had more problems with vocalists in this regard than with anyone else.
 

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In my experience often -very often- problems like this arise because of a lack of clear communication. Speaking as a long-time band director and also as a player, there has to be an agreement going in.

I play in the regional symphonic wind ensemble and played for some years in the university big band, as well as with various pop groups and my understanding as a player from the very beginning was that whoever books a job first gets my commitment. It works both ways and I mean if I say to director X that I have a firm commitment to a performance he knows that I will not cancel on him at a later date.

Looking at it from the other side, I never -never!- commit one of my bands to a performance without first checking to see who is going to be available and who isn't. That's just common sense and it also lets the players know they're not going to be harassed for not playing somewhere if I book a gig first and then try to cover my butt later.

It's true that a person's loyalty is to any band they make a commitment to but that doesn't mean selling your time into bondage. Your time is not something the band director has a carte blanc right to and he needs to be considerate, in turn of his players, as well. The way I would see it, is that if one has made a comittment to a band then if two performances come in on the same day, you defer to band A. But if you've already made sure with band A's director (and again here's that word "communication") that a certain date is clear and you book yourself on that date, if he comes in later with a performance on that same date you are in no obligation to cancel your other date.
 

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Two ways to look at this.

First, your commitment to either organization extends only to the schedules as published at the time you have to book or turn down a date with someone else. Period. The school band director would know this if he had any experience as a professional performing musician in the commercial marketplace. His attitude is unprofessional and self-serving.

So, from a purely professional perspective, the right thing to do is honor the first commitment. You could find a sub, but the swing band invited you and wants you in their band. Sending in a sub sends a signal that you aren't that interested in a more permanent commitment.

The second way to look at it is to ask yourself which group you want to play with permanently and do whatever you need to do to lock in that chair. Only you can make that choice.

From all you've told us, the choice would be an easy one for me. Play with a swing band that will include paying gigs, or play with an amateur band as a hobby for no bread with a director who shows little consideration for the needs of others? No brainer.

Whatever you decide, you should try to get a qualifed sub to cover the other gig, although you do not owe that to the school band director except as a courtesy. Perhaps the guy who is retiring from the swing band can fill in for you with the school band.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks everyone, I really appreciate all the responses on both sides of the issue. You've really helped set my mind straight. I'm going to email the director tomorrow morning (after I've slept on it and gotten the anger out) and let him know I'm going to stick with my initial commitment.

Thanks again!
Jim
 

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akumaJFR said:
Thanks everyone, I really appreciate all the responses on both sides of the issue. You've really helped set my mind straight. I'm going to email the director tomorrow morning (after I've slept on it and gotten the anger out) and let him know I'm going to stick with my initial commitment.

Thanks again!
Jim
In my book, that's the right decision. Good luck!
 

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Al Stevens said:
Perhaps the guy who is retiring from the swing band can fill in for you with the school band.

Al, I was thinking the exact same thing as I made my way thru this thread, but you beat me to it.

BTW, I think you made the right decision. there was no gig scheduled with the Uni band when you made the commitment to the swing band. period.
 

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Recall too that the university group serves one person pretty well, that being the director/teacher. He is getting paid, and that you are there (as an auditor, in lieu of being a student) says quite a bit about how well he can draw folks to his group.

Without angering too many in the academic community, I have to say that playing in college groups was probably the least rewarding of all of my musical experiences. With a few exceptions, most of the directors that I knew over the years seemed as if they had been stamped out of the same mold. It might be that the job made the man, rather the other way around, but they all seemed to be alike.

The best experiences that I had with school groups were with orchestras. Most of those were not out of the "band director mold", probably due to their being string players for the most part. In any event, I so avoided the first type as to never take a music course post-high school.

Nothing wrong with teaching music, but it can put people in different relationships than other musical groups. The college/university director has a different objective than the commercial group, and it's natural for him to have felt the way that he did.

You, however, are what this is all about. Do you think for a minute that, if a better bass player came along, he would tell them "I'm sorry, but that slot's already filled"? Most of the musical directors that I've known wouldn't hesitate for a second before dumping you for a prettier set of musical skills.

You made a commitment to a group that planned something based on that commitment, and it's up to you to either honor it or find the replacement. The university guy may feel otherwise, but that's the way it goes in the "real music" world. Academicians often have limited experience in that world...
 

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akumaJFR said:
The problem with that, though, is that I can't really plan my schedule around something that MIGHT happen. I MIGHT have a gig on that Thursday, so I can't take a gig for the next 3 months. I think what upsets me about this is that the band director ISN'T taking this graciously like he should. He's making me feel like the unprofessional one, but it seems to me like he's being a sore loser, which makes me rather upset. I'm about ready to tell him where he can shove it, but I'm trying to be professional here ;)
In a case like this, whatever you decide, there is always a chance someone may not take your decision graciously. This is a fact of life which we all have to learn to live with. Of course you want to be professional about this but as long as you can live with whatever decision you make and are not treating anyone unfairly, go for it and move on.
I suggest you stick to your swing band commitment but make it clear to the school band director that you can be still available for future gigs if you have advance notice. He may never call you again but this way you don't close that door entirely.
 
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