9. What Goes Up...
Updated: Oct 24, 2020
After my unproductive interview with the VP in charge of the Creative Division at Chappell Music, it was only a matter of time before my job there became unbearable. We all hear success stories about people who got discovered in unlikely places, but that was not to be for me. Working in the Royalties department was starting to make me feel a little crazy. I felt like there was so much inside me screaming to get out, just keeping a lid on it was becoming more and more difficult. One of my coping strategies to relieve my pent up frustration was to take the stairs 32 floors to ground level, walk around the block a few times and then return to the 32nd floor via the elevator. On one such excursion, I met and spoke with Jerry Lewis in the elevator because the Muscular Dystrophy office was in the same building. In fact, I caused him to miss his floor. Finally, fate intervened. I was laid off which meant I would be eligible for unemployment.
During this unemployed phase, I got my first part time teaching job at the New York School of Music. It was a strange school in an old building with pianos everywhere. My first teaching post was at a piano in a public hallway. I also put an ad in the Village Voice looking for work as a pianist/accompanist which caused my phone to ring constantly to the point where I finally had to take it off the hook at 3 a.m. in order to get some sleep. I had multiple auditions and rehearsals mostly with various singers, one of whom was the personal secretary of the Broadway producer Hal Prince. She lived in the Times Square area in a subsidized apartment complex for artists complete with rehearsal studios. But all that got me in the end was some free tickets to a Broadway show.
I played at a couple of small nightclub showcases like The Other End in the Village which just seemed to me to be a way for club owners to get free entertainment. I also contacted some booking agents. One took me over to the Musicians Union Local 802, introduced me to some of the local luminaries, hooked me up with some fake books and asked me if I was interested in playing in a society band, I was not. An interesting fact I learned at the time was that of all the many members listed in the Local 802 Members Directory, only 5% made their living in music and the other 95% were trying to get in. Another agent I visited pointed to a table full of recordings behind his desk and asked me why my demo was any more deserving of his attention than the ones on the table. I gave him my pitch and he sent me over to check out a position as a showcase accompanist. I observed the accompanist backing up a revolving door procession of singing hopefuls, tried it, and decided it was not for me.
This was turning out to be really hard and I was going to have to find a steady job to pay the bills pretty soon.