As I continue my discussion about the solo artist and the never-ending need to adapt and improvise, I thought of my December 2010 tour. Starting off the tour with four dates with Tim May in Florida and Alabama, then playing two solo dates in Tennessee and North Carolina, then driving through the winter storm that blanketed the area, I caught back up with Tim and his partner, Gretchen Priest-May to fly out of Nashville for the western part of the tour. The switch from one to three in the mix made me realize I had better not forget that I was no longer traveling alone.

Prior to the tour, we had arranged our flights to sync up and I met them at the Nashville airport after dropping off my smaller rental car. I had to keep reminding my brain, which is usually on a single automatic pilot at the airports, that I was now traveling with others. This actually was helpful because Tim and Gretchen watched my luggage while I shuttled over to pick up the rental car – big enough to accommodate us, and all of our instruments and luggage. I was now responsible for driving four hours to Rock Springs, Wyoming, after driving in from Knoxville to Nashville, flying through Las Vegas and landing in Salt Lake City. We arrived in Rock Springs, I slept for five hours, and we started the tour very early the next day by playing at three different schools. The temperature adjustment from Florida to Tennessee and then to sub-zero digits in Wyoming immediately locked up my nasal passages and I was worried I would sound like Elmo. The usual set up, break down, loading and unloading of an entire sound system, plus all of our instruments at each school and often not even quite knowing exactly where we were going next, was magnified by three and by the newly fallen snow. We would be repeating this scenario five days in a row.

With no break for our voices and our fingers, the students filed in and out, one class after another. Prior to the first class we realized that we were missing a power cord for our entire sound system and had to cannibalize a video projector for the missing part -all with 10 minutes to spare before the first set of students filed into the auditorium.

With no warm up, we launched into our set and corralled the kids’ attention. Jingle Bells to J.S. Bach to folk, classical, ragtime, Celtic and Bluegrass music filled each hour along with a slew of typical questions ranging from “How long have you been playing?” to “Have you ever dreamt of being famous?”

Besides adapting quickly to new styles of music with friends to accommodate their repertoire, it seems that efficiency, optimization, navigational skills, and focus with calm are brought into play as a norm necessary for the solo artist who finds himself working in a group. My entire point could easily have been misinterpreted here as whining, complaining, or looking for an attaboy. But the truth is I would imagine, like anyone in their own fields of choice, it is really the constant challenges that test us all, and when we adapt, overcome, and improvise we are presented with another quiet sense of a job well done.

 Photograph of Tim May and Richard Gilewitz taken by Steven Goodman
© Taras Oceanographic Foundation


Originally posted 2010-12-18 03:58:07.