Today I subbed for a friend on a rehearsal of "Meet Me in St. Louis." I was kind of curious to find out how it would feel to play that show again after all this time. "Meet Me in St. Louis" was the very first national tour I did and it was a major turning point for me as a bass player.
I had taken up the bass as a casual hobby after I finished college and I was having a lot of fun playing gigs here and there in addition to having a full studio of piano students, but a couple of months before the tour came up I had decided it was time to quit fooling around with the bass so much and start being more serious about the piano again.
That notion was completely derailed when this once in a lifetime (I thought) opportunity presented itself to me. I had friends who had toured with this same company and it seemed like they had all had such an amazing experience. With my late start on the bass, I couldn't imagine I would ever have a chance to do it too, so I had to say YES! when they called.
I felt terribly guilty about leaving my students in the middle of the year, but I managed to either find them substitute teachers or design independant study plans for them for the time I was gone. They all stepped up to the plate and did excellent work while I was away. I was so proud of them all.
The first thing I noticed about life on the road was how completely free I felt for the first time in my entire life. I had always had a real sense of diligence about working as many hours as possible and a strong feeling of obligation towards the people I worked for, whether it was employers or my students.
On the tour there were long hours on the bus, but you could spend them however you wanted. You could do whatever you felt like doing without having to answer to anyone during your free time, which was in a new city practically every day . I went to the beach in LA, I skiied every day before the show during the five days we were in Salt Lake City, I went to jazz clubs, I worked out a lot, and I had an absolute blast. The freedom was completely exhilerating. I loved playing the show so that didn't feel like work. The pay was decent so there were no financial worries. What a great life!
The other musicians came from all over and most had always earned their livings as performers rather than teachers. I had never considered that for myself before but there I was doing exactly that. I learned about other travel opportunities for musicians and I was completely fascinated by the idea of working on a cruise ship.
When I got home I spent the next three years gradually easing out of piano teaching and preparing to become "just" a bass player. A couple of months after I stopped teaching I did my first cruise contract which took me all over the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, up the west coast of Mexico, across the Atlantic to Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and Greece. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would end up doing that much travelling. I loved it and I loved that way of life and I have "Meet Me in St. Louis" to thank for heading me down that path.
At the rehearsal I tried to kind of stand back from myself and observe how I felt as I was playing through that music once again, wondering whether I would relive some of those rather earth-shattering (to me) old feelings. Nope. I felt happy and appreciative, but mostly I noticed that the music, in addition to being as delightful now as it was then, was very very easy. It didn't feel that way back then, because everything was a challenge with my barely-there playing skills. Now that show is a piece of cake.
So I guess that was a kind of anti-climatic little story. Maybe it's because these days I feel like the new experiences that lie ahead for me will be even more exciting than all of the great things that have already happened. I just don't know what those new experiences will be yet! And maybe they'll be exciting in a completely different way - who knows?