2015: Looking Ahead

2015So, as I wrote earlier, 2014 was a great year for me.  And the year before.  And the year before.  But that’s because I’m pretty easy to please.  It’s a great problem to have, but it also places me in my own way sometimes.

I’m like a little kid.  It doesn’t take much for me to feel like “this is the most awesome thing ever!!!”  When I’m doing extra work, most of the people around me are complaining about the lack of variety in the catering, or how it’s such a long day.  I just look around and think “but guys, we’re working on a real mooooovie!”  Same for reenactment tv.  And student films.  And shows.  And concerts.  I guess the great news is I haven’t become jaded.  When it comes to focus, though, that’s where I have a problem.

When people get to know me, or at least get me involved in conversation about everything I’m doing, they inevitably ask me what my dream job is.  And I always struggle to come up with an answer.  Again, the good part is that there isn’t only one thing that I’d be happy doing.  The bad part is that with so many options on the table, I never really put enough focus into any one of them.

In a city like New York, if you want to get to the top in any field, you’ve gotta work harder than everyone else around you.  And while a lot of people will tell you that I’m one of the most driven people they know, that drive lacks focus.  What they see is that I’m always on the go, always working, and usually have something fun to post about on Facebook.  But I don’t really have a master plan.  I just submit and apply for everything that interests me, and if I can squeeze it into my schedule, I do it.

I usually only have one day off a month where I’m not running from one thing to the next, and on most days I’m working more than one job.  If you look at the last two weeks before I left for the circus, I worked as an admin assistant for The New York Pops and Actors Equity, I acted in a short film, was the rehearsal accompanist and sang in a concert with Essential Voices USA, recorded a voice for an animated film (which I also composed the theme song for), taught one workshop for Disney and two for A Class Act, directed and accompanied a benefit concert, worked as a church organist and choir director, photographed a press event, and hit up a few auditions.

Insane, right?  That’s literally the two weeks before I left New York.  Was it a blast?  You bet!  Was I sleeping enough?  Not a chance!  Did I get sick because of it?  Of course, silly.  But that’s just what I do!

Now here’s the thing.  I’m finally getting to a point, at the ripe, young age of 35, where I’m starting to realize that I need a plan.  Sure, I’m doing a lot of fun stuff and getting loads of random crap on my resume.  But if I really want to take off, to really excel in one of these areas, I’ve gotta let people know that’s what I do and that I’m damn good at it.  Of course you can do as many things as you want, and I don’t believe that you can only be really good at one thing.  But, it’s a little harder for people to take you seriously if they don’t really know what you do.

Look at it this way, if you were going to hire a wedding photographer, would you hire someone who has a legit wedding photography business with hundreds of weddings in their portfolio, or would you hire a photographer who has shot a couple weddings, some fashion shows, a little bit of travel photographer, who has also catered weddings, worked them as a dj, and baked a couple wedding cakes?  I think the answer is clear, and I think you know I’m the metaphorical photographer/caterer/dj/baker.

The ball’s gonna drop in a few so I’m gonna take a break, but I’ll be back next year with more on my 2015 plans!

Happy New Year!

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2014: The Year In Review

2014-new-yearAs 2014 comes to a close, I can’t help but take a little time to think back on what an awesome year it was.  I always try to be optimistic, so I’ve never looked back on a particular year and said “well, this one really blew.  Let’s hope the next one is better.”  But this year in particular was really exciting.

I had a ton of fun, I got to do a lot of cool things and meet a lot of cool people, and in general, I was just loving what I was doing…most of the time.  (I’m sure if you talked to my roommate, she’d be able to point out a few times where all I did was bitch about what I was doing.)

RIght now, I’m in Ft. Myers, Florida, having a breakfast sandwich and a hot cup of black coffee at Panera Bread, one of my favorite places to just sit and relax.  I was thinking of going through, month by month, with my Google calendar open, but that just seemed obnoxious, so I’ll just shoot from the hip.

To start, I’m a teaching artist!  At this time last year, I didn’t even know what a teaching artist was (or that I had been one without knowing it); I had heard the term thrown around a lot but thought it was someone that had a masters in education who went into schools to do special programs.  Little did I know that a teaching artist could also be someone who dropped their education major after the first day of Classroom Instruments in college (though I don’t advertise that when applying for jobs).  Fast-forward to now and I’m working as a teaching artist for Disney Theatricals, Broadway Classroom, A Class Act NY, and starting in two weeks, The New York Pops, all which happened in 2014.

At the start of the year, I took a little cruise with Jim Brochu, playing piano for his show Character Man, which took us to St. Barths, St. Maarten, Jost Van Dyke, and San Juan.

I got to photograph a ton of celebrities I adore including Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, Aaron Tveit, Matthew Morrison, and Debra Messing.  And my favorite shot of the year was at The New York Pops gala honoring Scott Whitman and Marc Shaiman, when I was able to get “the three Tracys” in one photo: Ricki Lake, Nikki Blonsky, and Marissa Jaret Winokur.

With Judith Clurman’s Essential Voices USA, I had the privilege of singing with the chorus two more times at Carnegie Hall, once in March and once in Novemeber.  A small group of us also spent an evening with John Bucchino, singing through an arrangement of his piece Grateful that my friend Jeremy created.

For film and TV, I shot (acted in) an episode for Discovery ID and another one for The Travel Channel, I did my first voiceover work for Lucky and the Pirates, shot a short film, and recorded a little music for a web series I acted in last year, but finished up with the music this year.

And at the piano, I was a rehearsal accompanist for Broadway Backwards, musically directed Warp Speed for the Midtown International Theatre Festival, accompanied a couple cabarets, and had a blast working with Will and Anthony for several concerts.

And now?  I’ve run away and joined the circus!  I could not be more grateful for everything that’s been going on.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t take some time to be thankful for all of the blessings (and insanity) in my life!

Another reason for this list is to segue into my next post, which will be all about figuring out what my plans are for 2015.  I still want it to be wacky and exciting, but as you can see, I tend to spread myself a little thin.  I think I’m going to hone in a little and put more energy into fewer things.

What will they be?  Patience, my child.  I’m still figuring it out.

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Confession: I’m A Workaholic

workaholic-career-addictionAnd I mean that in the best way possible. I don’t just work for the sake of working, and it’s not because I have a feeling that I’m not doing enough so I’m constantly trying to get ahead. I just love my job! (or maybe I don’t know how to have enough fun outside of work?)

Today was our first rehearsal for Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey presents Built To Amaze in West Palm Beach. We just finished Winter Quarters, which is the gold unit’s annual rehearsal process. The band rehearses six days a week, from 9-6; not that different from a theatre rehearsal schedule. While people not in “the biz” might say “six days a week for nine hours a day? Are you kidding?” I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On Wednesday we traveled from Ellenton, FL to West Palm Beach. Thursday and Friday we were off, which was great. I spent a lot of time outdoors because the weather is beautiful, and I took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have to be up at 7. That being said, I had more fun today during our two-hour run-through than I had in two days total of free time. As soon as I step foot in the venue, I light up. Walking through the parking lot I passed a man who was riding on a horse while standing, another guy whizzed by on a unicycle, and two elephants were playing in the stand. Moving into the venue, one performer is practicing with his crossbow, the Russian trapeze guys are doing handstand pushups in the center ring, and a clown was bouncing on a trampoline. And I work here! This is an actual job with an actual salary; a union job at that!

The second the announcement comes over the loudspeaker that it’s our three-minute warning, I just smile. From the downbeat of the ringmaster entrance song to the last note of the exit music, I’m dancing at my keyboards, taking it all in. Sometimes I’m focused on my music because it’s a tricky passage, other times my eyes are glued to the conductor, waiting for an important cue coming up, and other times I’m trying to watch the acts without losing my place in the music. And every second of it is thrilling!

I’m sure some people on the show were lamenting the fact that we were back to work, but me? There is no place else I’d rather be!

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It’s Begun: My So-Called Circus Life

circus-life-650After a very early start to the day with very little sleep, I’m finally ready to turn out the lights. I went to bed around 2:30 because, as usual, I didn’t start packing until the last possible second. And I was up at 6:30 for my last Sunday at church before my leave of absence. Anyway, who cares about those boring details? The exciting part is that I’m here, and I start working for the circus tomorrow!

I just got back from a “Welcome to Winter Quarters” band meeting, and by meeting, I mean a bunch of guys sitting around dripping beer and eating their weight in fried awesomeness. So obviously, even though I’ve only known these guys for a couple hours, excluding my buddy Danny, it’s clear we’re going to get along just fine.

It was great for me to at least get to know people a little before diving into six days a week of rehearsals for the next three weeks, and informal gatherings always work better than introducing yourself “at the office.” I think theatre should follow Robbie’s example (Robbie being the conductor). When you start working on a show, you generally go around the table and introduce yourself and the role you’re playing in the production, and away you go. It’s up to you to get to know people on a more personal level. But here, we’ve already shared a bunch of laughs before we even get started. And I’m the only new guy to the group, so they all know each other already, but it’s still a great way to get the ball rolling. And let’s be honest, fried food and beer is really a great way to start anything, so there’s that.

So tomorrow it all starts. Winter Quarters. From what I can tell, we start the process rehearsing in a music trailer while the acts are rehearsing on the floor, and over the course of the three weeks, we start to put it all together, and before you know it, we’re on the road.

I’m gonna drop the mic now, because if I keep thinking about it, I’m gonna get myself too excited to sleep.

Oh, and if you’re ever in Bradenton, Florida, don’t stay at The Sunrise Inn. I’ve been killing bugs in the bathroom all night, and the sink if clogged. But aside from that, and the cigarette burns in the comforter, you couldn’t tell this place from the Ritz Carlton.

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Mnemosyne Technique and…the circus?

Circus backgroundToday was supposed to be my first day filming Mnemosyne Technique, but unfortunately we didn’t to shoot.  I met the director, Brett, and the actress playing my wife, Pooyah, at Starbucks.  Brett gave us some cash so Pooyah and I could get lunch and get to know each other, and it gave the crew a little more time to get set up.  Pooyah and I found a Shake Shack, which was a first for both of us, and had a blast getting to know each other.

When we arrived at the Fairfield Inn and Suites, where we were set to shoot, we hit a snag.  Brett got clearance to shoot at the hotel a while ago, but when he showed up and started setting up the camera, someone came down to the cafe area and told him that we had to wait for him to get clearance someone someone on the national level.  Apparently whoever gave Brett permission before didn’t have the authority to give permission.  And obviously, shooting a scene in the cafe of a hotel in Brooklyn was pretty low on the priority list for anyone that might check the voicemail the hotel manager left.  So we didn’t get to shoot.  But that’s not what this post is about.

I got a text from my buddy Danny saying “dammit Kevin, are you available or not?”  I had no idea what he was talking about until I remembered that I had an unheard voicemail from him. (I have the terrible habit of saying to myself “I’ll check it later.”)

Anyway, Danny is the bassist on the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Gold Unit, and it turns out, they need a keys 2 sub for a few weeks!  Months ago, thanks to Danny, I interviewed for the Keys 1 position, but after learning about the necessity to know synth programming, I told the conductor that I was pulling myself out of the race.  I was pretty sure he’d find someone more qualified, since I have yet to program a keyboard.  But apparently I made a pretty dandy impression, because Danny said that Robbie, the conductor, asked him to check in with me to see if I was available.

I just got off the phone with him, got some preliminary info, and now I’ve got to circle up with the conductor and chat a little more.  And obviously, look at my schedule and see if there is any possible way to make it work, which usually seems unlikely.  For some reason, though, I have a pretty good feeling about this!

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