Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

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Ramblings of a full-time musician

John Ivan Greilick - August 2nd, 2007
I’ve often wondered what it might be like to fly for a living. Over the years, I’ve allowed myself to look upon the captains and first officers of these amazing aircraft buzzing around the sky as heroes. I mean, they cram 170 people into an aluminium tube, fill the wings with kerosene that dumps into a burning can that blasts hot air into the colder, dense atmosphere, propelling us 35,000 feet into the air at 500 mph, just so we can make L.A. in under five hours. That seems to be quite an amazing accomplishment.
Yet, when I talk to the men and women who actually do this every day, I end up with a slightly less romantic image of what it might be like. Sure, they love their gig. But the hours are tough, the money isn’t close to what it used to be or should be... But hey, they are flying! Things are good, right? Well, as with any other business, it’s not for everyone.
Take the music business for instance.
The music business is not a place for thin-skinned wanna-be’s with a bad attitude. The hours are long enough and the characters colorful enough as it is. We don’t need to add narcissistic, “it’s all about me” personalities to the mix. Sure, there’s something about people who play music for a living that screams “Look at me, Mom!” -- but over time we tend to think better of displaying this as outwardly as we did when we were, oh I don’t know, 16 years old. Let there be no doubt about it, this music thing can be a very rough and tumble road. Hunter S. Thompson offered the following:
“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.“
After reading what Don Swan had to say in the Letters page of Northern Express (7/26) regarding his perception of the local music scene, I thought I might share some of my observations so that those who are on the outside of the local music business or enjoy our efforts as loyal customers don’t come away from his article with the wrong idea.
First of all, I’ve been very, very fortunate in that I’ve made some kind of living playing music from the beginning. My first job was playing rock and roll in a bar at 15 years old. While I don’t recommend teenagers run out the door to join a rock band, I can say that I have no regrets. Why? Well, the people I get to work with is really the biggest reason. I know almost everyone who plays music for a living in Northern Michigan, at least in passing. I have more than a passing relationship with a great number of them, and let me tell you, they are great people. Smart, funny, hard-working, talented, sexy, hot, groovy people. Something I hear from fine players who come from out of town is “Man, there must be something in the water up here. Where does all this talent come from?”
As I blast across the United States every season, I get to see some really nice players. What really takes the cake for me, however, is that northwest lower Michigan can hang with any music scene in the country, player-wise. There are bigger scenes, but from a quality standpoint, we have world- class musicians playing this scene.
Another observation I’d like to make is that the venues in Northern Michigan are problem-free for the most part. The only “problem rooms” I’ve encountered over the years are now, interestingly enough, closed. Perhaps this is simply another example of folks who couldn’t quite make it happen on a personal level. All they did was bitch and whine about the business they were in. I have no doubt they were well-intentioned in the beginning, and I’ll bet they are happier people now that they are out of the business that made them so miserable. For those who continue to provide places for music to be made and heard, we say thank you.
The bottom line is this, Don Swan. I don’t know who you’re referring to when you say “Back-stabbing Backwoods idea of musical politics,” but I assure you that you are not talking about the music scene I work in. From folk and bluegrass, metal, blues, soul, straight old school R&B, country, big band, bop, classical music and everything in between, we actually have to work here. We pay our rent, make our car payments and pay for our blue M&M’s, our big boats, our private jets (alright, well, whatever), all with the money we make playing music. Please, spare me the theatrics. I’ve heard all this nonsense before. If I had a dollar for every gig I wanted but didn’t get, I could retire.
We work on our craft and can really play. We can play our instruments and sing in a huge variety of styles. We do this for a living. The pop band that warmed up The Flask show at the Cherry Festival is an example of great players who have dedicated their whole lives to music. They were not a jazz trio in that setting. They can play jazz though.
Conspiracy theories and armchair psychology claiming “This is Art, it isn’t about the money” aside, and even though what I really want is to fly airplanes for a living, I’m personally thrilled to be living here and making music in Northern Michigan, warts and all. I’ll take it.
 
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