In many different fields, we’re told to take advantage of every opportunity. Carpe Diem. It seems simple enough, right? Honestly, it can be one of the most difficult, rewarding, frustrating, and satisfying lifestyle choices one can make. If you feel like you have to play catch up, just start saying “yes” now.
When I was a freshman music major, I was playing second alto saxophone in jazz ensemble. As the director passed out sheet music, I looked at mine and realized that he’d handed me a flute part. I pointed this out to him, assuming there had been some mistake. Disappointed, he recalled that this arrangement called for flute, and started to take the sheet music back from the band members. As he took my music back, he smirked and said, “We’ve got to get your flute chops going!”
Not knowing what I said, I jokingly replied, “Send me in coach!” He started to pass the music out to the band again, handing me back the flute part. Since then, I’ve never turned away a part handed to me. Having the ability to play flute and clarinet as well as saxophone has landed me some pretty sweet gigs throughout my entire career.
In reflection, I realize now that I’ve sort of had this “send me in coach” attitude for as long as I can remember. Prior to college, out of curiosity, I enjoyed attempting to play any instrument I could get my hands on. With the help of my friends and family, my hands found their way to drums, bass, guitar, piano, trumpet, sousaphone, DJ equipment, and marimba.
I market myself today as a musician and educator in the most complete sense of the words. My primary focus is on classical and jazz saxophone, and I teach mainly college-level musicians. Many people are surprised to hear about my past experiences as a musician. I have performed in several genres including pop, rock, hip-hop, and even Christian praise and worship bands. I’ve been the bassist/saxophonist, guitar/keyboard/saxophonist, drummer/saxophonist, and singer/saxophonist. I’ve DJ’d at clubs, drummed in Branson, slapped bass at music festivals, and recorded flute in studios. How did I get so lucky? By saying yes.
Taking advantage of every opportunity can be difficult, rewarding, frustrating, and satisfying. Constantly saying yes leads to a busy schedule, and plenty of non-paying gigs. But non-paying gigs and imperfect opportunities are still gigs and opportunities. Nearly everything I’ve done has led to something positive, whether a better gig, networking with successful musicians, or learning something about myself as a performer and musician. What could you accomplish if you started taking advantage of every opportunity? Start making music today!
Carl S. teaches clarinet, saxophone, and flute lessons in Lawrence, KS. He specializes in teaching classical and jazz styles of playing. Carl has been teaching for 5 years and he joined the TakeLessons Team in July 2013. Learn more about Carl or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by Peter Dutton