Today's post is part two of a three part short story called "A Musical Tale". If you missed part one you can read that here.
Jonny was in a good place. He and his girlfriend Marian. were as happy as could be, his band was moving forward and his day job provided a steady means of income that was sufficient to meet his expenses. After about six months of dating, he and Marian decided to move in together to share expenses. Jonny’s lease on his studio apartment was ending so he and Marian decided it would be best to move into Marian’s one bedroom apartment on the other side of town.
For the next year or so, things were very good. Jonny and Marian were happy and Jonny’s band was getting ready to record their second CD. They had a new booking agent that was helping them get better gigs. There was a sense of momentum and a sense that the band was progressing. Like Jonny’s previous band, this band wasn’t making enough money to live off of, but Jonny was making good part time income from the band and together with Jonny’s day job, it was more than enough to survive.
At this point Jonny’s new band had been together about two years. Although the band wasn’t as successful as Jonny would have liked, things were at least pretty stable… or so he thought.
In both this new band and Jonny’s previous band, Jonny was always the one to lead things. He booked all the shows, wrote most of the music and always felt like he was the most determined and most motivated to make things happen. The biggest challenge, Jonny felt, was simply finding the right combination of people to become successful. It always felt to Jonny like there were varying degrees of motivation amongst the other band members. In both bands Jonny had formed, there were band members who would show up late, drink too much and so on.
In Jonny’s newest band, the drummer, Lou, seemed to be the most difficult member. Although he was a great drummer and an incredible showman, he was starting to miss more and more rehearsals. It was also very evident that he had a full blow drinking problem. He would frequently consume a half liter or more of vodka during their rehearsals. The problem though, was that in addition to being a great drummer, he also brought a lot to the table. The band rehearsed in his house and Lou also had a great home studio where they recorded their CDS. They were reluctant to kick him out of the band.
Jonny had more and more conversations with Lou. He implored Lou to be more reliable about their rehearsals and to take the band more seriously. Lou’s attitude was always friendly and laid back, but he refused to take anything Jonny said that seriously. In Lou’s mind, he already was a rock star and he refused to be lectured to by someone younger and less experienced than he was. Lou liked playing in the band, but he didn’t really have aspirations to become famous or a successful musician. He looked at playing in the band as a fun way to make a little extra money and meet women. Lou had inherited a large sum of money when he was younger and didn’t really need to make money from music. He just liked to play for fun.
Around this time, Jonny booked the band into a new club that had opened up in town. It was a good gig, with guaranteed money and a great line up. There were going to be a lot of people in attendance. A couple days before the gig, Lou called up Jonny and said “Jonny, I know you’re going to be pissed, but listen man I got a chance to go skiing this weekend with a friend and I’m going to go. Sorry man but I’m not going to be able to make the gig”. Jonny was furious. After all their talks, Lou decides to back out of a gig at a brand new venue just two days before the show. It felt like a slap in the face to Jonny.
Jonny called the venue owner to explain that they wouldn’t be able to play the gig. He did his best to explain what happened, but the owner was pissed about the short notice and said not to bother trying to book another show at his club. This was the last straw with Lou and Jonny decided to call a band meeting without Lou. Everyone agreed at the band meeting that Lou’s behavior was not acceptable and that he had to go. What came as a surprise to Jonny though, was that the other two remaining members were pretty indifferent about whether or not they should go on. The keyboard player, Marshall, was also an attorney by day and was getting tired of dealing with flaky musicians and hauling his equipment around for little or no money. Their bass player David loved playing music, but had grown frustrated with the business of music and wanted to do it more for fun. At the end of the meeting, it was decided to call it quits. Jonny was devastated.
Jonny’s girlfriend Marian was supportive. She knew how much the band meant to Jonny and encouraged him to keep things in perspective. They still had each other, he still had his job. Things could be worse she said. Little did Jonny know, she was right, things could get worse.
Jonny was upset that his second band had broken up. He had just turned 27 and was growing discouraged with his musical aspirations. He still loved music as much as ever, but he was reluctant to rush out and start another band after his recent experiences. It felt so disempowering to Jonny to know that he relied so heavily on other people to help him realize his goals and that they could so easily pull the rug out from under him.
At this point he had invested over five years playing in two different bands and had little to show for it. Of course he had the experience he gained and the memories, the music they recorded and so on, but he felt like his goal of making it in the music business was as distant as it ever had been.
For the first time in Jonny’s life, he really started to question whether or not he was destined to be a famous musician. He felt so sure when he was younger, but now, nothing seemed certain anymore. Jonny wasn’t so much sad as he was confused. Should he keep pursuing music? Should he be doing something else? Jonny was always confident that music was his calling, but his confidence started to wane. The excitement that he used to feel about playing music, and in particular pursuing a career in music, was starting to diminish.
When Jonny was younger, he would sometimes spend hours practicing his guitar, improvising to different chord progressions, writing songs and recording songs. Music was a magical and sacred thing to Jonny. It had been from a very early age. Jonny saw the power music had over people and wanted to be a part of that. He wanted to create something that would touch people the way he and others were touched by music. As a teenager, Jonny started going to concerts a lot. He saw hundreds of concerts by a wide range of bands. At their worst, concerts were a fun way to pass time for Jonny. At their best, they were nothing short of mystical experiences that changed Jonny’s perspective of life.
But now, here Jonny was approaching thirty and was starting to doubt himself. How, he thought, could he be so sure about something for so long and find himself at this point in his life, riddled with uncertainty. Jonny had always seemed sure of what the next step was, but now, he wasn’t so sure what to do. Not that he ever had a fool proof plan for making it in the music business, but he always thought somehow, one way or another, things would work out. He had a sort of blind faith that allowed him to keep going, even when times were tough.
Jonny’s day job was working for a wealthy internet entrepreneur who sold a wide range of things online. Jonny’s job was to help him keep his websites current, do sales calls, get him coffee… a little bit of everything. It was a weird job, without a clearly defined role and Jonny was less than passionate about it. It had nothing to do with music and Jonny looked at the opportunity as a way to pay his bills, nothing more.
After about a year of working for his internet entrepreneur boss, Jonny showed up to work one day and his boss said they needed to talk. His boss, Patrick, had decided to move his family to Colorado. Jonny could work for two more weeks and that was it, his boss was leaving and his job was over.
First Jonny’s band breaks up. Then he loses his job. Jonny was starting to laugh at his own misfortune. At least things couldn’t get any worse he thought. He wasn’t sure what to do about his musical aspirations, but for the time being, Jonny had more pressing things to focus on. He needed a job.
His girlfriend Marian encouraged him to pursue teaching guitar. It wasn’t what Jonny wanted to do, but he was a very good guitar player and had studied at a prestigious music school. He was certainly qualified to teach guitar she thought. Jonny reluctantly agreed to the idea. He wasn’t really passionate about teaching, but he was passionate about music and he needed to make money.
Jonny went to a few local music stores. The first couple places weren’t looking for teachers, but within several days, Jonny found a place that was more than happy to give Jonny a part time teaching position. It would take a few weeks to get him a full schedule, but he could start teaching part time, a couple days a week. It was a start. Jonny continued to look for other teaching opportunities and found two other places willing to give him part time schedules. Before long, Jonny was giving guitar lessons five days a week to a full roster of students. The money wasn’t bad either, he was making an average of about 35 dollars per hour to give guitar lessons. There was no health insurance, since he was a part time independent contractor, but at least he had a decent income he thought.
In his free time Jonny started taking on students privately. He would either go to their homes or they would go to his apartment. Since he didn’t have to share his income with anyone for these lessons, Jonny got to keep everything he charged, which was 60 dollars an hour. Jonny did the math and calculated that he was making close to $50,000 a year through his teaching income. It was a lot of work, but it felt good to be able to make a good income through his musical skills.
All in all, things were looking up for Jonny. For the next few years Jonny focused on
teaching. He continued to write music in
his spare time and he would play the occasional gig here and there, but most of
his money was earned from teaching. He
still wasn’t passionate about it and he sometimes questioned if there was
something else he should be doing, but he was happy that he at least was able
to provide enough money for his share of his expenses he and his girlfriend had,
and at least he wasn’t stuck in a cubicle he thought. In the back of his mind though, there was a still a sense that he should be doing something more. This feeling would sometimes keep him up at night.
To be continued...
In : October 14
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