Being a freelance classical musician can be a tricky proposition. If my husband didn’t earn a steady living with benefits, I doubt I would still be a freelance musician right now. Obviously, the eight years I was in the Army Strings, I earned a steady living with benefits myself. But in the years before 2000 when I won the Army job, and the four years since I left the Army, I have pieced together a living with gigs and private teaching. I enjoy what I do, but when our next PCS comes around and we have to move somewhere new, I feel a little burned out at the thought of once again trying to work my way into another new music scene. It gets tiring having to “pay your dues” every few years, no matter how old and experienced you are. A playing style that will make you loved and sought after in one place will get you ignored or unwanted in another, and often you can’t know which it is until it’s too late. Sometimes playing well, knowing your part, and being friendly but not ingratiating are simply not enough, and there’s some unknowable (or knowable but unlikeable) key you have to turn.
Even though I live in Virginia Beach now, I have kept some of my southern gigs from when I lived in Atlanta. I am still a member of both the Savannah Philharmonic and Hilton Head Symphony. Some people seem surprised that I’m willing to drive 8 hours each way for gigs, but I love playing with both of those orchestras, I love the area, and I have amazing, wonderful families to stay with in each location. Plus I get hefty tax write-offs with all that travel!
After a summer of very little playing, I’m spending August getting up close and personal with my viola again. My first Savannah concert is September 8th, and there’s no way I can walk in on September 6th and play a double (2 2-1/2 hour rehearsals in one day) without getting my hands and body in solid shape first. I’m working my way through Flesch (one key per day), Sevcik Opus 8 shifting exercises (love love love all Sevcik), Kreutzer, Rode, and various unaccompanied works. I’m really enjoying revisiting Hindemith’s Sonata Op. 31, #4, which I last played on a graduate recital in college. It’s still ridiculously hard, but it’s a good challenge. I also need to work on my violin chops, as the gig scene will inevitably bring some violin jobs as well.
I’m excited for the first concert of the season in Savannah – we’re playing Shostakovich Symphony #5, one of my favorites. Also on the program are Night on Bald Mountain and Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. I’ve played them all many times, but it’s a great program and a fun way to kick off the year. The first Hilton Head concert, in October, will be the Dvorak cello concerto and Sibelius’s 2nd symphony. Again, I’ve played both of them many, many times, but I’m looking forward to it. (Though no Dvorak performance will ever compare to when I did it in the Dayton Philharmonic with Yo-Yo Ma, but that’s a story for another day).