If you should ever contemplate doing what I do, playing music for folks at retirement communities, there are a few things you should know…
1) Allow yourself two hours to set up. Trust me – you’ll need ’em. Unless, of course, you’re one of those talented people who can just show up and sing, or show up and play their piano. If you schlep any gear at all, 2 hours.
2) Realize that most of those two hours of setup will be in front of an audience. Especially if you’re in the dining room for your gig, and it’s just after lunch. The folks will just turn their chairs around, face you, and watch you for two hours. I know – we usually use setup time to get our game on – to get mentally ready to play. Tough. This is part of what you’re being paid for, so give ’em a good show. Sweat. Groan. Lift heavy objects. And don’t forget to smile.
2a) If they didn’t just stay after a meal, or they came from another building, they will arrive 40-60 minutes before you begin. Again, see #2. Don’t forget to smile…
3) You will be asked the same questions about 20 times. Smile, be patient, and don’t correct them when they get your name wrong. Instead, see how creative you can be in answering the same question 20 different ways.
4) The more equipment you have, the more astonished folks will be that you a) bring all that stuff, b) know how to hook it all up, and c) know what to do with it all. Smile.
After you have the privilege of playing for these dear folks…
1) Many of the same people who just sat through watching you setup will sit through watching you tear down. Once again, smile, lift heavy objects, sweat a bit (but not enough to gross anybody out – I always have trouble with that part…), and keep answering the same questions.
2) Also laugh at the witty things they say – they’ll keep saying them over and over again, so keep laughing.
3) Be aware that even though they just watched you get all that stuff out, that was 2 hours ago, so they’ll be amazed that a) you have that much stuff, b) that you know where everything goes when putting it away, and c) that you know how to take it all apart. (Again, if you don’t take any equipment to gigs with you, you don’t really get this part. It’s a shame, because you’re missing out on a major part of the experience…)
4) They’re going to tell you how wonderful the music was, how much they enjoyed it, and how talented you are. Now, even if you just played the worst hour of your entire musical life, which, if it had been recorded, would be a piece entitled “snail snot on a kazoo,” thank them sincerely for their kindness. DO NOT go into what an off day you were having, how the key on your widget stuck, etc. That’s your problem, not theirs. They just had a bright spot to their day, enjoying music and your company. Don’t take that away from them with reality.
5) Schlep all your dollies and dishies back out to your vehicle, load it up, get in the driver’s seat, and reflect on what a cool thing it is to be able to play music for these sweet folks. Thank God for His gift of music, pray that the folks that just heard it were encouraged, and hit the road with a smile on your face.
Repeat. Again. And again. And again…
Lord, thanks for another great day of making music. Thanks for the folks in Jenison – bless them, be dear to them, and thanks for allowing me to bring a bit of light into a dark, snowy day. Amen.