…. are you available?” the email inquiry asks. While I do play with classically-based fingerstyle technique and did develop that technique via basic classical repertoire years ago, I’m not actually a classical player. But there is a respectable sum of money to be gained, so I reply “I can do it”. As a wave of self-invoked satisfaction rushes over me I now notice the original email message states this is a three-hour event. That’s quite a lot of classical music even for a classical guitarist…. At that moment, I realize I will need to practice classical repertoire incessantly for the next five days.
Which I do.
I cull through the abundant collection of sheet music that I’ve accumulated over the years. Quite a great deal of it is classical music, both long-form and short pieces that span a couple of centuries. I’ve always had a penchant to collect this sort of material even though I was never committed to immersing myself in classical repertoire. I have sporadically taken it upon myself to practice Tarrega or Barrios pieces for a few days; ultimately, I end up diverting my attention to a pressing project that makes use of my jazz/contemporary/improvisational skills and those charts are shuffled to the back of the pile on the music stand and eventually returned to the voluminous binders where they remain until…. (?)
But I have performed in the guise of a classical player in the past. Not counting wedding ceremonies, I have performed short sets of Giuliani, DeVisee and Tarrega for National AIDS Awareness Day and did, in fact, play a two-hour engagement three years ago at the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. At the latter, a last-minute request for inclusion of Latin/Spanish folkloric repertoire lessened the pressure — I have quite a bit of experience with South American and traditional Spanish genres.
On the day of the date I feel reasonably prepared. I did eat/breathe/listen to/play only classical pieces. I had prepared a decently-organized collection of charts along with a list of the pieces I had memorized. It was preferred I not have a music stand telescoping up in
front of me – I needed the stand with the charts and I was able to adjust it to a very low height. (Usually, in these sort of events, no one notices you until they walk into you while checking their texts.)
I arrive at the immense Constitution Center, where the event is taking place, having given myself additional time just in case. As it turns out, the original booker moved the schedule up by 30 minutes and neglected to inform me. At that moment she was going into a mild panic. I emerge from the elevator and find myself whisked across a spacious walkway to my spot. I do carefully explain that a later arrival time was detailed in the booking arrangements, but rather than insist on my correctness above all else, I assure her I will be ready in 10 minutes as needed.
With one minute to spare I call the booker over to tell her I will begin. For some reason I say/ask “And you want me to perform my classical repertoire for tonight, right?” She replies, “Oh, play whatever works. In fact, it would be good if you included some jazz, maybe some Spanish music.” Once again, pressure removed.
Well….. I did play jazz and other music…. but I did play a great deal of the classical pieces as well. It turned out to be another one of those gigs — but, as is always the case, I played it well, made every note count, every phrase flow. At the conclusion, the CEO of the company comes to me and thanks me profusely, explaining he studies and plays jazz guitar as a hobby. He was delighted that I performed for the dinner. (Additionally, the on-site booker expressed her gratitude to the agent who hired me for bringing ‘a true professional’ in for the date.)
I always put my very best effort into any endeavor I am involved with. I constantly tell my students (and my son) ‘If your name is on it, no matter how small you think your part is, make it count’.
Maybe I should practice more classical music…..