Today's post is a little different. The following is part 1 of a three part short story I wrote recently that combines some of my own experiences with the experience of other musicians I know, with a healthy dose of fiction tossed in. It's a story about pursuing dreams and how our dreams sometimes sharply collide with the realities of day to day life. I don't want to give away the end, because there are a few more posts to go, but I think a lot of you will be able to relate to my little piece of fiction. I hope you enjoy it.
Here's part 1, of "A Musical Tale":
When Jonny was a teenager he had a dream of making it big in the music business. He used to spend hours and hours practicing guitar in his bedroom, while his peers were out drinking beer and doing what teenagers do. Not Jonny. He had a vision and sense of purpose he felt was more important than doing the trivial things other people his age did. He didn’t look down on his peers for spending their time drinking beer and going to parties. Although he would sometimes join his friends in these trivial pursuits, for the most part, he simply wasn’t that interested in passing his time that way.
By the time Jonny graduated high school, he was a very good guitarist. Certainly the best in the small Midwestern town he was from. His parents were somewhat supportive of his dream of playing music for a living, but they were practical people and they were adamant Jonny went to college to get a degree. Jonny’s passion was music and so they agreed to help Jonny pay for tuition to one of the best music colleges in the country. Jonny would take out student loans to pay the difference.
During his time at college, Jonny continued his regimen of practicing several hours a day. Jonny was no longer the best in his new environment. In fact, nowhere near the best. Jonny was surrounded by musicians from all over the world, many who had started practicing their instruments from a very early age. Jonny wasn’t discouraged though, instead Jonny was even more motivated to apply himself to get even better. After taking music classes all day, Jonny would go back to his dorm room in the evening where jam sessions would normally ensue and Jonny would play for several hours until late in the evening.
After college, Jonny wasn’t sure exactly what to do. Jonny had improved his skills as a songwriter and guitarist dramatically, but he wasn’t entirely clear what direction to go in. His dream was to play in a band and tour and release CDs. Jonny wanted to be a rock star, but when he perused the help wanted section in his local newspaper he didn’t see a lot of “rock star wanted” classifieds. So Jonny returned to the Midwest and decided to start a band in his hometown. He found the best local musicians he could find and formed a four piece rock band. Jonny moved in with the band’s drummer and singer in a small townhouse.
Jonny had bills to pay, and the band wasn’t making that much money, so Jonny got a job at a restaurant working as a waiter during the day. At night, Jonny would rush home to practice with his band. He was still very, very passionate about his dream of making it in the music business. When his band wasn’t practicing together, he would spend hours writing new songs and practicing his guitar. He continued to develop his skills during this period more and more.
Jonny’s band started gaining some local recognition. They got better and better gigs and started making a little money. Not enough to live on, but enough to buy better equipment and get themselves into a local recording studio to record their debut CD.
When they released their debut CD, they started to get a little local radio play. This led to getting even better gigs. They started getting asked to open up for better known bands that came to town. They were getting better and better as performers and were gradually playing for bigger crowds.
After about three years of playing together, Jonny’s band reached a plateau. They had definitely improved and grown during their three years together, but they still weren’t earning enough money from their music to live off of. Tension within the band was rising. Three of the four members lived together and this proved to be challenging. They would frequently fight about trivial things. Band practices became unproductive and tedious. Tempers would frequently flare. Most of the animosity was directed towards the band’s lead singer, but in general the band simply wasn’t getting along.
One day, the band’s lead singer got the band together and announced he was leaving the band. Just like that, after three years, the band was over. There was talk about finding another lead singer, but other than Jonny, the other band members weren’t really that interested in continuing on. For Jonny, this band was a chance to fulfill his dream and vision, sadly Jonny realized, for the other band members this was simply a way to get free beer and pass the time. Just like that, the band was finished.
Discouraged and forlorn, Jonny reached out to his parents
to see if could move back home for a few months to regroup. His parents agreed and welcomed Jonny back
home. Jonny was 24 years old. Jonny got
a job working at Starbucks to save money.
He continued to practice during his spare time. Jonny was discouraged, but not beaten. Jonny’s dream of making it in the music
business would not die. Youth and time
was still on his side and he had a plan.
After a few months of living at home, Jonny had saved up enough money to move out and get his own place. He found a small studio apartment in a suburb of Milwaukee, WI, about an hour away from where his parents lived. Jonny moved to this area to work for an internet entrepreneur that he met through a mutual friend. However, his dream of playing music still fueled him and it was all he thought about when he wasn’t working.
Jonny started meeting new musicians in the new city where he was living. Within about three months, Jonny had a new band formed. They started playing locally in Milwaukee and the surrounding area. The gigs they played were small local gigs for the most part, but Jonny was happy just to be playing music again. He still felt upset about his previous band breaking up after having invested so much effort and money into the band over the previous several years. But… Jonny was not one to give up or let setbacks get him down for long.
After about six months together, Jonny’s new band started getting some momentum going. They were asked to open up for a pretty well known regional band that was playing at an outdoor festival in Milwaukee. It was the biggest gig they had been offered yet, and Jonny was thrilled for the opportunity. There wasn’t that much money in the festival’s budget for opening acts, but it would be great exposure for the new band, and Jonny wasn’t in a position to complain or turn the offer down.
The day of the music festival, the whole band decided to go several hours early to check out some of the other acts playing. It was a beautiful summer day and when the band arrived, there were several hundred people watching the band that was on stage, a local folk rock band that had a considerable following. During the performance, Jonny spotted two cute college age girls sitting on a blanket directly behind where Jonny and his band were standing. Jonny turned around and asked, in his most deadpan manner, if they could keep it down. The girls looked at him confused, not sure if he was joking or being serious, and Jonny’s serious expression slowly turned to a grin. They all started laughing and a playful conversation ensued.
One of the girls, Marian, seemed particularly receptive to Jonny, and they talked for the next hour or so, as the band onstage finished their performance. When Marian learned that Jonny’s band would be playing that afternoon she was intrigued and decided to stick around catch their set. She loved music, and Jonny would soon find out, she had a thing for guys who are musicians. When Jonny left to start getting ready for his set, they exchanged numbers and Marian insisted he call her.
Jonny’s show went great. There were probably about 500 people in attendance. After the show, the band sold about 20 CDs and collected about 50 email addresses for their email list. It was their biggest show yet and there was a sense of palpable excitement after the performance. The whole band hung out together until late in the night, talking about their goals and aspirations, joking around and basking in the afterglow of the day’s performance. Jonny went home a little drunk at about 2 am, but was happy, knowing his dream was back on track.
The next day Jonny woke up later than usual, slightly hungover from the night before. Jonny smiled when he reached into his pocket and found Marian’s number from the day before. Not one to play games or adhere to unnecessary dating rituals or rules, Jonny called her right away to say hello. Marian answered the phone after three rings and sounded pleased to hear from him. They made plans to see each later that day.
Jonny met Marian at a coffee-shop in his neighborhood that afternoon. Marian was waiting when Jonny arrived, several minutes late. She smiled warmly as Jonny approached. Marian said she loved Jonny’s show from the day before and let Jonny know, in no uncertain terms, just how impressed she was. Marian was studying to be a nurse and had a very warm, unpretensious way about her. Unlike a lot of girls Jonny had been meeting recently, he felt like there were no games with Marian. She liked him for who he was and made no effort to hide it.
Jonny and Marian started dating right away and within several weeks they were dating exclusively. They started spending a lot of time together. When Jonny wasn’t working or at band practice, he was with Marian. Marian was extremely supportive of Jonny’s musical aspirations. She went to all of his shows. She listened and critiqued all of his songs. She was his biggest fan and his biggest supporter. Jonny didn’t make that much money and he lived a very modest lifestyle, but it didn’t seem to matter to Marian.
The months that followed were very happy times. Jonny was head over heels in love like he never had been before. His new band was making a lot of progress. Jonny didn’t have a lot of money, but he had a stable job that provided him with enough money to meet his expenses. After a rough few months, things were looking up and Jonny was content with the direction of his life. Things were about to change though…
To be continued….
In : October 14
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