Who Do I Think I Am?

Interesting question..... I think I'm a semi-retired woodwind player, temporarily (42+ years) living in Los Angeles.

My wife thinks I own a chain of successful pawn shops, which is how I explain all the instruments I have,  and the continually growing inventory. (I keep on buying and not selling...)

My auto insurance company thinks I'm a retired Minister, not musician.

My late mother thought that I was a good son with Multiple Issues.

While I admit to having played various Give me the opportunity to play "In The Mood" multiple times in one night, and I'll be there.Real Woodwind Instruments for money for just over 42 years, playing for TV, Film, Records, CD's, and Live 'Broadway-ish' Shows, my True Passion is to play music for people to dance to, or, even better, to eat to, while they speak loudly about how they have to speak loudly to be heard over the Music. Give me the opportunity to play the lead alto part on "In The Mood" multiple times in one night, and I'll be there, free dinner, or not!

(Please Read This Disclaimer)

One day, about ten years ago, I was starting a show at The Pasadena Playhouse, playing clarinet, trying to make a semi-honest living in The Music Business, as synthesizers and better players tried their best to put me out of work. On my music, were some cues for chromatic harmonica. They asked if I played Chromatic Harmonica and I said "No", but when they explained that I could wear a cowboy outfit, including  A Hat, I changed my mind (soon to be under The Hat) and said that I'd give it a shot. After all, how hard could it be?

In a word: Yeah, it's harder than the Real Instruments. (And I play oboe.)

I mean, look at the silly instrument: You blow air In and then, suck it right back out. (Harmonica players tend to frown on using the word "suck", and call it "draw", but it's still sucking.)

There are no new "suck" jokes about harmonica, so don't even try, and campfire jokes are for diatonic harmonica, so. joke-wise, that's a dead end also.

Then you've got that button thing to deal with.... it seems when you push it IN, all the notes are a half step off....  I eschew The Button. (I really don't eschew it, but I do love the word "eschew", which, I've recently learned, has little or nothing to do with food.)

In any event, I called my friend, Tommy Morgan, whom I'd ignored for years while we worked together as part of the woodwind sections on more than a few TV shows and the occasional celebration of a Beverly Hills Bowling Alley Opening, and asked him to help out.

He came over, looked at the music and told me which keyed chromatic harmonicas I should buy, Buy two of each, they aren't all that reliable.saying "Buy two of each, they aren't all that reliable, and when you get some experience, you'll probably do it all on the C chromatic". (He was right, and I now have two sets of chromatics in all available keys, sitting in my room, and I play everything on the C.... go figure.)

I had no idea that, to Harmonica Players, Tommy is a Deity of some magnitude, and the fact that he came to my house to teach me impressed more than a few (3) of them.

Truth be told, I think that he just didn't want me to visit his house until he was sure I didn't have the typical Serial Killer Tendencies that are considered Normal,  or even Mandatory, for Oboe Players.

NOTE: I am, among other things, an Oboe Player, but the jury is (literally) still out on that "serial killer" thing.

I ended up playing that show for six weeks, as half of an on-stage guitar-harmonica duo, we were asked to play less professionally playing tunes from the show with one of the actors, Tom Wilson, from Back to The Future, a comedian, but a good guitar and, it turns out, tuba player as well. and then running down to the pit just in time to play the clarinet solo that was the opening number of the show. Kind of daunting for me, but, apparently, we got better around the fourth week, when we were asked to play "less professionally" (no problem). Apparently it wasn't supposed to be a Polished Act, just a couple of cowboys playing Show Tunes...... but not in a "Brokeback Mountain" way.

For those six weeks, I was the busiest chromatic harmonica player in Los Angeles. Eight shows a week for six weeks, after having total experience at the instrument of only a week, plus however long the show had been running. (Sorry for the Math.)

Then came another six week show for the same director, where, out of guilt at what they'd put me through on the first show, they wrote a part for chromatic harmonica, with no cowboy hat.

I don't remember that show at all.

After that, my next chromatic harmonica gig was one that Tommy got me, playing second chromatic harmonica with The Los Angeles Philharmonic. I was one of five chromatic players, and got to play with Tommy, Michael Burton, Bill Barrett and Ron Kalina. We didn't have tryouts, but still, I got to play second harmonica. (My mom may have called Tommy to be sure I got a Good Part.) The piece was by Kurtag, and, although, technically, (according to the pianist) a piano feature, they had the five of us scattered around Disney Hall, dressed like concert-goers, and rising to play at The Correct Time. And we did. It was my first experience with double and triple stops on the chromatic (or on any other instrument). It was also my first experience with The L.A. Phil's payroll department, who sent me a bucket full of money for the five day gig. 

The money is gone, but the bucket and I still share the Memories.

No wonder more than a few of the L.A. Phil members are Republicans.....I think about $120,000 a year salary is the political tipping point. I know it will be for me.

So now, some eleven years later, I'm having a great time learning the instrument and  playing my version of jazz on chromatic harmonica, practicing more and making less money than I ever did on The Real Instruments. The cool thing is that I'm still in a Tax Bracket. The uncool thing is that the IRS knows that I'm still in a Tax Bracket.Soon, I'm hoping that Tommy will allow me into his home

Soon, I'm hoping that Tommy will allow me into his home. I think time has proven that, although I do own an oboe, I have managed to sublimate any oboe-related serial killer....."Dexter"..... tendencies I might have.


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