A couple weeks ago (April 1st – April 4th), I was on tour playing second trumpet with the Iowa Brass Quintet, the faculty brass quintet at the University of Iowa. We traveled to high schools and universities in Eastern Iowa and Illinois, playing concerts and giving master classes and clinics. In the past, I had done similar work with the Sandia Brass Quintet, although not for as many days at a time. I really enjoy being on the road and playing. I am a musician because I love to play my trumpet with and for other people, so going out and touring with a brass quintet just seems like the natural thing do to. Anyhow, from my touring experiences, I would just like to mention a few of the things I have learned.
Some of these aren’t as deep and meaningful as they probably should be. Also, far too many are about food.
1. Make sure that all of the logistics are set in advance
This means knowing the exact address and location of the places that you will be giving clinics and performances and staying the night, having printed directions and maps from each location to the next (in case of catastrophic smart phone failure), figuring out the parking situation, and having a contact person who can be reached at each location.
2. Pack as light as you reasonably can
You don’t want to be the person with the most luggage (yes, that’s me). 🙂
3. Be ready to play… A LOT!
One time I spent a day at a New Mexico high school with the Sandia Brass Quintet. The plan was to play for 20-25 minutes in two music classes before lunch (we were also doing a lot of question and answer and just getting to know the students) and then hang out and talk with students in another music class after lunch, maybe playing one song. Then we were going to have a break and play a full recital for the school later in the afternoon. Instead, we ended up playing at least a half hour in four music classes without a very long break before playing the recital. Everything went well, and we got through the recital still sounding good, but it was one of the most strenuous playing experiences that I have ever been through. Fortunately, it was also an incredibly rewarding and memorable experience.
4. Keep your music organized
You may have played a recital the night before, and now you are about to play another. While you are warming up, check to make sure that every page of your music is in order (at the end of a recital, it usually isn’t).
5. Touring is a great way to network and get to know other musicians
If possible, try to allow time in your schedule to hang out with the other musicians where you are playing, whether that be the high school band director or members of the brass faculty. If, however, you are invited out for a drink by the bassoon professor, or that creepy guy you saw skulking around the organ practice room, make up some excuse about needing to go back to your hotel or the long drive you have ahead of you…
6. Stay in a hotel with a pool or gym when possible
Or at least bring a pair of sneakers and go for a walk. When you’re on the road for several hours a day and sitting around waiting for the next event, you can getting pretty tired and groggy. Getting some exercise is a great antidote to this.
7. Keep a toothbrush handy
You might not have the time or the facilities to do much freshening up before an evening performance, but it’s good to keep an extra toothbrush in your case so you can feel a bit fresher before you play.
8. Thai Iced Tea probably shouldn’t be legal
Yea right Huffington Post. If a video about Thai iced tea is making you thirsty, imagine how bad it’s going to be after you drink it.
9. Always get restaurant recommendations from locals. You can probably trust other musicians.
You’re going to be out on the road for many days. You don’t want to eat junk. This is especially important if you find yourself in a small town without a lot of options. If you ever find yourself in Charleston, IL, check out this place.
10. If you want to show your appreciation for someone (especially someone who is on the road touring), buy them lunch. And dinner.
Come on people – this one is simple. There is no greater gift than a free meal. I’m sure that Jnaigus guy who posted on my “Trumpet Music of Terry Everson” post can attest to this…
For tips on touring from a serious touring musician, please check out drummer Rich Redmond’s post “13 Tips for the Touring Musician”. As the drummer for country star Jason Aldean’s band, Rich has recorded ten #1 singles and spends a great deal of time touring, so he knows what he’s talking about. Also, it sounds like he’s a pretty smart guy. For a drummer. 😉