Speaker 1 00:00:02 Welcome to Chicago Musician. I'm your host, Shawn Stengel. Today we're kicking off Season 2 of this occasionally listened to podcast, and my guest today is William Harrison. He was an American military officer and politician who served as the ninth president of the United States. Harrison died just 31 days after his inaugural. What? This can't be right. Oh, not that William Harrison. Well, who the hell am I interviewing then?
Speaker 1 00:00:43 Wow. Isn't Season 2 off to a rousing start? All those in-depth minutes of Wikipedia research about the 1800s, just down the tubes like that. Okay, Shawn, pull yourself together! You can do this. This William Harrison is a bass player. What? 'Was' a bass player? This William Harrison 'was' a bass player. Great. Now he does mental health counseling. Well, good timing for me, I guess. Oh, and he wrote a book. Well, isn't that precious? I hope it's good. Alright, alright, alright. . . I read the book. The whole thing. So let's get to it.
So my guest for the first episode of Season 2 is Bill Harrison. Welcome Bill.
Speaker 2 00:01:37 Hi, Shawn. Great to see you. Thanks for having me.
Speaker 1 00:01:40 I'm so excited. I haven't really hawked a book by an author before, and really when I listened and read yours, I really wanted to 'hock' it. <laugh> Just kidding!
Speaker 2 00:01:50 Out the window. That's right.
Speaker 1 00:01:51 Yeah. Um, but no, great job! 'Making the Low Notes'. We're gonna talk about that, but I want to talk more about how we've known each other for a lot of years.
Speaker 2 00:02:03 I was thinking about that.
Speaker 1 00:02:04 Yes. And, and some of them good.
Speaker 2 00:02:06 Uh, one or two.
Speaker 1 00:02:07 Oh, okay. <laugh>. I had three, I counted. Oh, really? I counted three out of. . .
Speaker 2 00:02:11 The Oh, it's like, yeah.
Speaker 1 00:02:12 But okay. So in the book, the first thing I learned about you that I didn't know was that you're Jewish.
Speaker 2 00:02:22 Okay.
Speaker 1 00:02:22 You know, "Bill Harrison".
Speaker 2 00:02:25 I know,
Speaker 1 00:02:26 But here's the thing. I. . .
Speaker 2 00:02:27 I can tell you all about that if you want.
Speaker 1 00:02:30 I would like to know. Because I'm from Minnesota, I assume everyone is German or Scandinavian.
Speaker 2 00:02:35 Well, I'm one of those, uh, Scandinavian Jews. There's 17 of us.
Speaker 1 00:02:40 Nice. Yeah. Uff da kavatchka or something. I don't, my Yiddish is . . .
Speaker 2 00:02:45 Actually, it's more 'oy vey'.
Speaker 1 00:02:47 So tell me about that then. What's the story?
Speaker 2 00:02:50 Sure. So my grandfather, my father's father, his name was Robert Horowitz. And in the 1940s, he, in fact, when my dad was I think 10, he decided that having a Jewish sounding name at that time was bad for business. Okay. So he legally changed the family name from Horowitz to Harrison.
Speaker 1 00:03:19 What was the family business?
Speaker 2 00:03:21 Uh, in his case. . . He was a moyle! <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:03:27 Okay. Go on. You tell the story.
Speaker 2 00:03:29 I wish I said that. That's very funny. He had a store on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, and he sold like radios and televisions and those newfangled stereo things when they came in. He was the first person I ever knew who owned a color television. We used to go to his house to watch Bonanza.
Speaker 1 00:03:53 Cool. Yeah. We were the last on our block to have it color tv. We used to sneak down to Brad Rudek's house to watch. . .
Speaker 2 00:04:00 Oh, Brad. I know him!
Speaker 1 00:04:01 That's right. To watch Batman. Oh, right. Because that was in color.
Speaker 2 00:04:05 So you're a little younger than me, obviously.
Speaker 1 00:04:07 I don't think I am. I think we're about the. . .maybe I'm a year or two younger than you. Okay. But it seems we're 'even ish'.
Speaker 2 00:04:13 Even ish!
Speaker 1 00:04:14 Yeah. And so did your dad then follow into the family business?
Speaker 2 00:04:20 He did. Okay. Yeah, he did. I think not especially with, uh, especially enthusiasm. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but this was the mid 1950s, and my parents were nice Jewish kids and nice Jewish kids didn't fool around. I mean, my mother told me this straight up. She's like, 'we wanted to have sex, so we had to get married'.
Speaker 1 00:04:48 <laugh>. I would faint if my mother said that to me, but. . .
Speaker 2 00:04:52 Well, I did. Okay. This is a long time ago. I've processed it since then. Okay. So I'm Okay.
Speaker 1 00:04:57 You have the tools now?
Speaker 2 00:04:58 I have the tools. Yes. I have the coping skills. So yeah. He just, it was the path of least resistance. What he really wanted to do was be an attorney, which I'm writing a second book about that whole thing.
Speaker 1 00:05:14 Okay.
Speaker 2 00:05:14 Well, because my dad was quite the character.
Speaker 1 00:05:16 Interesting. Okay. Yeah. So this surprised me. And then you were moved from Brooklyn to Jersey. . . That seems like when it sort of brought out to you that, oh, I'm different. Or it had some real life application to your life.
Speaker 2 00:05:33 Yeah. Cuz where we, it was actually Queens where we were living in,
Flushing. The neighborhood was very, you know, mixed with Jews and other people. And it was, we lived like in basically a middle class project. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And when we moved out to the burbs, uh, there were white people.
Speaker 1 00:05:54 Oh,
Speaker 2 00:05:55 Amazingly. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> <affirmative>, um, Tenafly was a, yeah, I mean, upper middle class
Speaker 1 00:06:01 Only white people
Speaker 2 00:06:02 Pretty much. Yes. There were some East Indians.
Speaker 1 00:06:06 Okay.
Speaker 2 00:06:07 Um, and this. . .
Speaker 1 00:06:08 We're in the sixties now, right?
Speaker 2 00:06:11 We are in the mid-sixties. That's correct. Okay. And we had, as the story goes in the book, there was one black kid in junior high.
Speaker 1 00:06:23 Yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:06:24 You perhaps recall that story?
Speaker 1 00:06:26 Yeah, I do. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:06:28 So, yeah.We won't get into that. Right. Well,
Speaker 1 00:06:30 Well, here's what I wanna say about the book. Yes. Okay. Really interesting book. 'Making the Low Notes'. Your first book?
Speaker 2 00:06:37 First book. I've been writing for a long time, but first book.
Speaker 1 00:06:40 So this is my review in a nutshell, and we can talk beyond this: I really thought it's a very specific, conversational, personal account of your entree into the world of music and making a living in it and beyond. And so specific to you that I recognized all of it. It's like every musician's story. We all have a version of "The Bill Harrison Tale of Whoa and Fright and Terror and Luck, and. . ." I love that, all the details. Eventually, some of our friends appear in your book and I love that. And I felt sort of like a star because 'Oh, I knew who that is even without the last name'. That's right. <laugh>. But before that, just all the details are some version of most of us musicians. Yep, exactly. People will love this because it's . . . you can see so much of yourself in your story.
Speaker 2 00:07:45 One of the best things I learned when I was taking craft classes and had editors, everybody said, the more specific you can be about your story, the more universal it will come out to be.
Speaker 1 00:07:58 They always say that, but I think it's hard to do.
Speaker 2 00:08:01 Uh. . . Eh? . . .Well, no, <laugh> I'm not saying it was falling off a log to, to make the book, but, uh, I was always pretty good at just telling stories. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> With good details, so I just sort of, you know, pumped that up as much as I could. And I don't like books that really sort of tell you what to think or like preach at you. And that's why I wanted it to be very personal. I knew that exactly what you're saying, and thank you for saying that, uh, that the more specific I could be, you know, with real people, real stories to the best of my ability to remember. . .
Speaker 1 00:08:44 Well, you have quite the document to keep you on track. I mean, that's amazing. I know that you kept notes or calendars. Yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:08:53 I, from 1974, which is the year I graduated high school, I kept all my calendars up until 2011. I have a couple years missing, who knows where they went. Yeah. And then starting then everything's on a Google calendar.
Speaker 1 00:09:08 I have a memory when I first got into show business and, you know, I'm with the cast, thinking, 'I will always know these people and I'll know everyone I ever worked with, and I'll always remember their name'. And now I'm like, 'I don't remember anybody's name or face'. And how in the world could we? We meet so many people. Right. So, good on you. I have a few of those calendars hidden away someplace too. It's kind of funny just to look and see "final in ear training, December 12th", you know, <laugh> 1754, that was when I was studying with one of the, um, Bach children. <laugh> in Mannheim. I don't know where that came from. So, back to you. Yeah. So I love that the tales of how you ended up, even as a bass player, like, sort of random, "there are too many drummers"
Speaker 2 00:10:01 Right. Too many drummers.
Speaker 1 00:10:02 Yeah. Which is true in general.
Speaker 2 00:10:04 It's true In general! I actually, I think I say it in there, I wanted to be one of the drummers.Picturing myself as the, uh, the Jewish Ringo, perhaps.
Speaker 1 00:10:15 <laugh>,
Speaker 2 00:10:16 Ringo. . . Ringala? Would that be Ringala? I dunno.
Speaker 1 00:10:19 Oy, Ringala. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:10:21 But yeah, of course my very wise middle school teacher was like "too many drummers". You can play a bras instrument or you can play. . . and he pointed over to these things. I had no idea what they were. And I just said, 'uh, you know, one of them'.
Speaker 1 00:10:35 Because I ended up. . . I was a trumpet player. I don't know if you know that. I did know that.
Speaker 2 00:10:39
Speaker 1 00:10:40 But I don't know that I 'chose' it. I probably did the same thing, like, 'okay, that looks good'. ,
Speaker 2 00:10:48 That's exactly the reason I wasn't a trumpet player, but, well, that goes back to my father. I think I said it in the book too. Yeah, my dad was a legend in his own mind with a trumpet from high school. And, you know,
Speaker 1 00:11:01 many are not good. Many are not. Yeah. Um, alright. So, how
Speaker 2 00:11:04 did you go, well, I know it's you interviewing me, but how did you go from trumpet to piano?
Speaker 1 00:11:10 Well, just mostly practicality. A never liked to practice, you know, and keep. . .
Speaker 2 00:11:17 Who needs to practice the piano? I mean. . .
Speaker 1 00:11:19 Exactly! It just pressing buttons and it comes out. No, the thing is, I learned to read music early on. I had piano lessons as a kid. We had a deal. I have two siblings. And all of us took piano lessons with, I think our parents said, if you take it for two years, then if you wanna stop, you can. Fair. So, I learned to read pretty early, and then eventually, like at church, it became like, 'oh, he can play something'! In high school, I played trumpet and I was in the choir and in drama. So there wasn't a lot of time for piano lessons. And then when I got to college, I could read and had a pretty good right hand. I'd never studied any of the literature, but people needed people to play for their juries or their voice class. And was like, I can read!
Speaker 2 00:12:09 You get very popular.
Speaker 1 00:12:10 Yeah. And I made money! But I didn't have time for lessons. So then get out of college. I was never planning to be a professional trumpet player, even though I did play professionally for a time. But, you know, I didn't take jazz or anything, so I was a 'legit' trumpet player. Ooooooh. Big market!! <laugh> You know, let's see: weddings and three orchestra seats. . .
Speaker 2 00:12:32 Three orchestra jobs per orchestra. . .
Speaker 1 00:12:36 Or, here's my first brush with greatness: So I was in brass choir at the University of Minnesota with Tom Rolfs, who's now principal of the Boston Symphony. Principal trumpet?
Speaker 2 00:12:46 Yeah. Wow!
Speaker 1 00:12:48 I mean, he was good back then. He's good now. Yeah. Right. Brushwith greatness! Um, yeah. It just became practical. And then, as I segued into musical theater, well, of course, everybody needs a piano player. And if you think you're a music director, well, in Chicago you are a 'piano playing' music director, usually. And so it just became the skill set that's more comfortable for me. Anyhow, I read pretty well, and I don't have to buzz all day long!
Speaker 2 00:13:20 And I was gonna say, you don't need an embouchure.
Speaker 1 00:13:22 I don't need to worry if I have a zit on my upper lip, or my lips are chapped, and. . . Wait, what? Yeah. And also. . . Tim Burke and Carey Deadman are just about my age. Yeah. When I hear them play, I'm like, 'Okay. Yeah. I was never in that world!' Yeah. I was never in that class of players. Yeah. So, good choice, Shawn!
Speaker 2 00:13:45 Well done there.
Speaker 1 00:13:46 Well done by accident. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:13:48 Well, me too.
Speaker 1 00:13:49 So let's go back so into your bass world. I knew you were into jazz. I didn't know you were hardcore, ala Luke Nelson. The two of you must have been peas in a pod when you eventually joined up. Or were you so specific that you're like, "No, the Berlin second session at midnight was. . ." I don't know how jazz guys talk! I was pretending! <laugh>.
Speaker 2 00:14:19 Well, first of all, thank you for mentioning our dear friend Luke Nelson, without whom I would not be sitting here today. Probably. Because I got to do Always. . .Patsy Cline because of him. And that was really sort of the bonafide beginning of my so-called theater career.
Speaker 1 00:14:39 More so than your Bye, Bye, Birdie entree?
Speaker 2 00:14:42 Well, I worked there for like nine or 10 months at Candlelight Theatre, the infamous Candlelight. And then I wasn't working there, right?
Speaker 1 00:14:52
Speaker 2 00:14:53 As those things happen, right. So that was like '81, '82. And I think I did a thing or two here and there, got called in to sub at the last second when, you know, somebody had food poisoning or whatever. Right. But yeah, that was the first. So I played Song of Singapore, which is this horrible show that Paul Slade Smith, who's a wonderful actor, very funny guy, went on to actually do things from there. And so did, and so did Luke and probably some other people do, but I don't remember. I don't remember them.
Speaker 1 00:15:33 I missed that whole episode cuz it was mid nineties. Yes. And I was on tour during that time. I remember hearing about Song of Singapore. Yeah. At Piper's Alley? Right.
Speaker 2 00:15:43 Or as Paul called it, Songs We'll Sing No More.
Speaker 1 00:15:46 <laugh>. Perfect. Yes. I've worked with Paul. I mean, the dude has never stopped working on Broadway since. . . Right.
Speaker 2 00:15:53 Yeah. Cause he was in one of the versions of Wicked.
Speaker 1 00:15:56 Uh, yeah. And he was
Speaker 2 00:15:58 Dr. Dillamond.
Speaker 1 00:15:59 Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. He was Willy Wonka in Australia for a year. So the dude has a lot of credits. Yes. Plus he's a fabulous playwright.
Speaker 2 00:16:08 I know.
Speaker 1 00:16:09 I've seen at least one of them, two of them, I get him and Sean Grennan confused. Oh, they'll love that. They're not at all alike, but both wonderful playwrights, former Chicago actor types.
Speaker 2 00:16:22 Paul Paul wrote a, a play called, um,
Speaker 1 00:16:26 Unnecessary Farce.
Speaker 2 00:16:27 Unnecessary Farce.
Speaker 1 00:16:28 Hilarious. Yes. That's the one I have seen.
Speaker 2 00:16:30 Went and saw that out there.
Speaker 1 00:16:31 So see, we do know talented people! Or we've met them.
Speaker 2 00:16:36 I'm, I'm, <laugh> I'm talented people adjacent. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:16:39 Yeah. I feel the same.
Speaker 2 00:16:41 Hey, remember doing Bounce?
Speaker 1 00:16:43 Oh yes do I!
Speaker 2 00:16:45 Do I, would I!
Speaker 1 00:16:47 Well that's where our commonality is mostly: Wicked, Bounce, and The Visit.
Speaker 2 00:16:53 Yes. But I don't know if you recall, but I met you when Always. . . Patsy Cline opened at the Apollo. You, I think were there, I don't know, to see the show? Or to hang out with Luke? Or. . .
Speaker 1 00:17:06 Yeah, Luke and I were friends. Yeah. But I also was friends with Hollis. Yes.
Speaker 2 00:17:10 And then of course, Dawn later on.
Speaker 1 00:17:12 And Alice too. Oh, that's right! Alice Kirwin, of course.
Speaker 2 00:17:15 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:17:16 And then I directed Always. . . Patsy Cline up at Peninsula Players.
Speaker 2 00:17:20 I think I knew that. I was quite insulted that you did not call me.
Speaker 1 00:17:23 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:17:25 I'm still smarting from that man.
Speaker 1 00:17:26 Point well taken. Yeah. Well, I "had" to hire local Door County guys. Sure, sure you did. I mean, that's the story. Sure. I mean, I did bring up Dawn and Sarah Underwood.
Speaker 2 00:17:35 Oh, I didn't know Sarah did it again.
Speaker 1 00:17:37 Oh, well that's
Speaker 2 00:17:39 Great.
Speaker 1 00:17:39 Who, who else can be Louise except Sarah Underwood? Well, in my book, in my book too, no one.
Speaker 2 00:17:44 Yeah, no. Sarah's amazing.
Speaker 1 00:17:45 And her, with the topper of all things is that she's a great jazz player too. At curtain call when she whips out a clarinet is killer. Yeah. Yeah! But Dawn was great too. She was Patsy in that version. I believe I saw it when you did it at Victory Gardens.
Speaker 2 00:18:03 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:18:03 With Dawn as Louise. That's right. Alice as Patsy. Anyhow, we have all that commonality.
Speaker 2 00:18:10 But hat's when I think, uh, I'm pretty sure that's when I met you. Yes.
Speaker 1 00:18:13 Yeah. Yeah. If not before, maybe at Orphans.
Speaker 2 00:18:16 Well, it's possible.
Speaker 1 00:18:17 Did you ever go to like some. . . Malcolm had a lot of gigs there. And Ollie O'Shea was in that crowd?
Speaker 2 00:18:23 I didn't meet Malcolm until later. Uh, okay. But I used to hang out Orphans a lot. It was right down the street from where I lived.
Speaker 1 00:18:30 Anyhow, it's a small world. So Yeah. Patsy Cline. . .
Speaker 2 00:18:34 Is a long time ago, man.
Speaker 1 00:18:35 Very interesting connection for us. Yes. Cause that was important to you and it was important to me in a different incarnation of it too. Yeah. So, yeah.
Okay. So let's back up. Let's get you to Chicago. How did you get here? It's in the book, but I don't have the book memorized. Yet!
Speaker 2 00:18:53 Well, just two or three more times through it. You should be okay. Yes.
Speaker 1 00:18:55 Yeah. It's that simple. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:18:58 <laugh> it's only 17 pages, so it's really not that big of a deal.
Speaker 1 00:19:05 Double spaced. Double spaced!
Speaker 2 00:19:06 Yeah. Uh, getting to Chicago. Yeah. So basically, I came out here in 1974 to go to Northwestern.
Speaker 1 00:19:16 That's right. So it was your studying that brought you here?
Speaker 2 00:19:19 Well, no, I went to Northwestern <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:19:23 Touché.
Speaker 2 00:19:23 Thank you. I was a radio/TV/film major. I was not a music major.
Speaker 1 00:19:29 I love that part of the story. I mean, all of this stuff is in the book. You have to read the book! I'm sort of skipping along so we can contain this in, you know, an hour-ish. But, um, yeah, but that's you. And then you bounced, right? You bounced around to like, Depaul-ish and . . .
Speaker 2 00:19:47 I dropped out of Northwestern after about a year and a trimester. Cuz I really got into music and it was dumb being in the school of speech. And I just had no eyes anymore for that. So I had met some great musicians and I just wanted to play. I wanted to study. I took lessons from not the man I had wanted to, a guy named Warren Benfield, who was an older man, uh, had been in the CSO for many, many years. And he was actually one of the reasons I went to Northwestern, even though I didn't get to study with him as it turned out. But I studied with another guy who I found out just retired. . . Mark Kramer is his name. I don't, I'm sure you wouldn't know him, but he's a wonderful bass player, great teacher. Really, really super nice guy who got in to. . . we were about the same age. . .and he got into the CSO when he was 19 years old, playing a plywood bass. Impossible! Uh, which does not happen. Right. And he had already been in an orchestra for a couple years. He was 19.
Speaker 1 00:20:56 Man, that's incredible.
Speaker 2 00:20:57 It was incredible.
Speaker 1 00:20:58 So in fact, I just saw his retirement announcement. Oh, okay. I've been going to the CSO kind of regularly. Oh, okay.
Speaker 2 00:21:05 So right, right, right. That's the guy.
Speaker 1 00:21:07 That's a long career!
Speaker 2 00:21:08 That's a long career.
Speaker 1 00:21:09 But a good teacher?
Speaker 2 00:21:10 Good teacher. Also, you know, a highly skilled pianist. He liked to sing. He played recorder. He's just a very, very. . . I shouldn't talk about him in the past tense. . . "Hey, Mark!" Hang around for a while. That's right. No, he's an amazing musician. I kind of hate people like that, you know? Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:21:31 I get it. Yeah. I wish they weren't quite so perfect.
Speaker 2 00:21:36 Yeah. Polyglot-ish. Is that a word? Are you polyglottal?
Speaker 1 00:21:42 Oh, I thought you were choking. <laugh>. Which reminds me, I really liked the prelude to your book, and I think it would be a good entree for people to sort of get the tone.It's short, but it really kind of set the stage for the book. It's is really readable. I love it. Short chapters. You tell your story and then you move on to another one. And it makes me wanna keep turning the pages.
Speaker 2 00:22:10 Well that's good.
Speaker 1 00:22:12 Do you mind reading that?
Speaker 2 00:22:13 Uh, I just so happened to have a copy of my book here. Or memorized? Or memorized! <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:22:19 Okay. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:22:20 So this is the prelude: July 24th, 1968. I'm rocking from foot to foot in the wings of my middle school auditorium stage, clutching a double base with both arms. Kids shuffle on and off stage, toting trumpets, trombones, clarinets and flutes. So many flutes. When it's my turn, I death-grip the oversized fiddle and waddle into the spotlight.
My right hand is all slip and slide as I struggle to settle the bow on the string. I grab the neck of this beast with my left and plunge headlong into my rendition of "Yankee Doodle." It sounds like a nanny goat with an upset stomach. <laugh>. And then it's all over. Shocking applause erupts as I stumble off stage in a sweat-drenched daze. 'I am never ever doing this again.' And yet, as I retreat to the bosom of backstage, a wave of pleasure pulses through my body. Those moms and dads were applauding 'for me.' Was that jolt of approval worth the jazzed-up breath, the jittery hands, the jumping-bean heart? This is the intractable dilemma I would grapple with for the next four decades.
Speaker 1 00:23:44 Yeah. Good. Good setup. Thank you. I mean, again, what version of us musicians doesn't have some experience of that, where the terror turns into "oh, they like me. They really like me."
Speaker 2 00:24:00 Right. <laugh>. Yes, exactly. Andone of the main themes of the book, I'm not sure you would've caught onto this, Shawn, but. . .
Speaker 1 00:24:10 I'm not very insightful.
Speaker 2 00:24:11 I know. Uh, one of the themes is this dichotomy that I think most of us as performers live with, which is on the one hand, wanting to be out there on stage in the spotlight. "Hey, look at me." And the other part of us going "I'm just gonna hide in the nearest closet. Thank you very much."
Speaker 1 00:24:32 Well, I guess part of why I really enjoyed reading this book is because I know you and I know you're funny and engaging and not at all a wallflower <laugh>. And yet reading how, early on, you battle with like, I don't want to be seen. I just wanna play, and I don't wanna be noticed. I know a different Bill than that. That's gonna come out eventually. Oh, that's interesting. But I did not know you'd gone all the way to like, improv classes. That's hilarious.
Speaker 2 00:25:07 Yeah. <laugh>. Well, no, <laugh>,
Speaker 1 00:25:10 I don't know, I mean, I know more than a share of really boring musicians who only play what they play. Yeah. But I also know the other 70% of us who have amazing 'other' interests. Right. Like secrets that either shouldn't be told or really should be told. <laugh>
Speaker 2 00:25:32 Depends on the company.
Speaker 1 00:25:33 Yeah. So that was a interesting foray that led you into some crazy places.
Speaker 2 00:25:39 It did. Yeah, it did. It was great. I really felt like. . .this would've been in the, uh, nineties?
Speaker 1 00:25:50 Into the two thousands?
Speaker 2 00:25:51 Yeah. Nineties. So, Patsy Cline. . . I think that show closed in '96. And I had just started taking classes in theSanford Meisner technique, which I I know you're
Speaker 1 00:26:09 well aware of.
Speaker 2 00:26:13 Yes.
Speaker 1 00:26:15 I actually studied the Addison Meisner technique. "Addison" . . . "Bounce" reference. Look it up, friends.
Speaker 2 00:26:23 Well remembered. That was good. Yes.
Speaker 1 00:26:26 Okay. Back to you.
Speaker 2 00:26:29 Uh. . .
Speaker 1 00:26:29 You studying Meisner technique? Yes.
Speaker 2 00:26:31 It was, uh, well first of all, I was just in this sort of state of mind of I think, you know, working in this show, being on stage, but totally in the background. I did have one line in the Patsy Cline show.
Speaker 1 00:26:46 Oh, what was that?
Speaker 2 00:26:48 I can't tell you.
Speaker 1 00:26:49 <laugh>. Oh, okay. We'll have to pay royalties if you say it.
Speaker 2 00:26:51 Yeah, no, I can tell you. So there was a part in the show where Louise is talking about how she could, you know, be on stage also. And the band comes to a halt. And I say, "There ain't no way!"
Speaker 1 00:27:11 <laugh>. Right. Yeah. Tony Award!
Speaker 2 00:27:15 Tony Ward. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:27:15 At least the nomination <laugh>
Speaker 2 00:27:17 Jeff Award. Yes, Jeff. Jeff recommended. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:27:20 Jeff Recommended!
Speaker 2 00:27:21 Yeah. So I was getting tired of just playing the same kind of gigs over and over again, weddings and jazz, jobbing. And I felt like I'd sort of fallen asleep, you know, emotionally and musically, whatever. Wasn't getting a chance to play much creative stuff. I was just kind of, you know, I had young kids and the whole thing. So, uh, I thought, you know, I gotta do this thing. I gotta do something. It's either jumping out of airplanes or . . .
Speaker 1 00:27:55 You needed creative juices for something, Right?
Speaker 2 00:27:57 Yeah. Something. So I had a little bit of experience, with theater stuff when I was in high school, and I hadn't done anything with it In the meantime. I'm in my thirties and. . . I was actually almost 40! . . and I was like, okay, so let's do this. And I did. And it was really, really challenging. Oh my God. I was so scared going to those classes. What's gonna happen today? Holy shit. And the teacher that I had said, I know it feels like you might die if you go up there, but I assure you, I haven't lost a student yet! <laugh>. And there were times when I thought, oh, it'd be better to die than to do this. Really.
Speaker 1 00:28:38 Actors know you need to be, uh, available, to be vulnerable. Yes. And Right.
Speaker 2 00:28:45 I hate that.
Speaker 1 00:28:46 It's pretty tough. Yeah. We're used to headphones and black clothing and dark pits. Exactly! But I wanna back up a little bit. Sure. You did a lot of jobbing
Speaker 2 00:28:57 <laugh>
Speaker 1 00:28:58 As not a jazzer myself. Yeah. I never lived in that world and I can't even. . . you with story after story of that, I was like, oh God, I'm breaking out in hives. It's a tough, tough way to make a living. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:29:14 Yeah. It pretty much sucks.
Speaker 1 00:29:15 Yeah. And sort of like you said, kind of sucks the musical heart out of you. Maybe sometimes. Yeah. Maybe some people love it. I've never met anybody who loves jobbing.
Speaker 2 00:29:27 I would be very surprised.
Speaker 1 00:29:30 "Jobbing", for my listeners who don't know, is like, you know, having a five piece ban thrown together and you play a wedding for four hours. Right. Or you play a funeral, or you do a country club gig, just you name it. Right, right.
Speaker 2 00:29:44 Right.
Speaker 1 00:29:45 There's lousy gigs to be had.
Speaker 2 00:29:46 Yeah. And I wouldn't put the majority of jobbing musicians in the 'jazzer' category necessarily.
Speaker 1 00:29:54 Okay.
Speaker 2 00:29:55 I'd have to school you on that a little bit. A lot of the jobbers come from different parts of the business, or different parts of music. Like, there're some guys who really come out of a rock background. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> Some musicians who are just kind of middle of the road, maybe I'll do this or maybe I'll do that, but I can make some money playing drums in this band. Okay. Or singers, or just horn players. I mean, speaking of. . . Jim: great, great saxophone player. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:30:33 Who's now like a recording engineer.
Speaker 2 00:30:35 He's a recording engineer. And he put in his time. More than enough of his time in to jobbing. So yeah. It's a thankless job. Certainly one can make something of a living. . . although I should say "used to be able to" cuz in the latter part of the eighties especially, it was just ridiculous.
Speaker 1 00:30:58 Yeah. And now it, you know, iPods and. . . Yeah. Just playing tracks of everything. Right? Oh, yeah. It just sort of dried up and went away quickly.
Speaker 2 00:31:09 The super high end work is still there because people with money still want to have the "the look" of live musicians. That's right.
Speaker 1 00:31:18 <laugh>.
Speaker 2 00:31:18 Which, more power to 'em. They're keeping some musicians more or less fed.
Speaker 1 00:31:24 <laugh> Reminds me of. . . do you know John Kornegay? Yeah, of course. Of course. Yeah. So he was playing in the pit for "The Sound of Music" out at Drury Lane. And at a certain point, it became a battle of 'Do we have one more arch for the convent for the nuns?' Or 'Pay one more musician?' And they went for the scenic piece!!! Yes. And cut a musician. Right. And John said the talk in the pit was, "What is this show called? The LOOK of Music???"
Speaker 2 00:31:51 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:31:52 We know those economics, right? Oh yeah.
Speaker 2 00:31:54 Right. And I even I talk about that a little bit, about the kind of literal 'wallpaper' we become at corporate gigs, especially in the nineties.
Speaker 1 00:32:06 Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:32:06 I did a lot of that where I'd go into these gigs, it would be some huge ballroom in a hotel, and they'd have us off in a corner on a little riser. Or no riser! They'd hire trio or quartet, and basically they just wanted us to 'look' like we were a band. Because at the volume they wanted us to play, 10 feet away, and is nobody's is gonna be able to even hear us.
Speaker 1 00:32:28 I love that. It was like, if you showed up, you're too loud.
Speaker 2 00:32:32 Yeah, right. Exactly.
Speaker 1 00:32:33 <laugh>. Yeah. They just wanted you for the look.
Speaker 2 00:32:35 Yeah. In one way, it was great because we just play whatever we wanna play, play for each other and whatever. But it's pretty damn demoralizing.
Speaker 1 00:32:46 It's pretty soul crushing. It is.
Speaker 2 00:32:48 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:32:48 Because bottom line, any artist, on any level, if you're gonna put in the time and the energy to do it, you want it to be noticed.
Speaker 2 00:32:58 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:32:59
Speaker 2 00:33:00 On whatever level you want. Some kind of impact, whether it's with your peers, but I think more just with people. We don't get into this business because we, you know, anti humanitarian, or we don't have something to share.
Speaker 1 00:33:14 No. We just use a different language.
Speaker 2 00:33:18 Wait! In what language is is that?
Speaker 1 00:33:20 Uh, I heard, it was Uzbek maybe? or Hindi? I'm not very good at it, so I have to use Google Translate. Okay. I'm way off track now. So <laugh>, um, that's special.
Speaker 2 00:33:34 It's a stupid question.
Speaker 1 00:33:34 What language? hy
Speaker 2 00:33:35 Why did I even ask it?
Speaker 1 00:33:36 That's why I'm the professional interviewer. You just answer what I ask you.
Speaker 2 00:33:41 You know what? You're absolutely right. Thank you for putting in me in my place.
Speaker 1 00:33:44 Well, you're also an improv artist, so. . .
Speaker 2 00:33:47 Well, 'artist' is a little strong. <laugh>
Speaker 1 00:33:49 But improv adjacent.
Speaker 2 00:33:51 Improv
Speaker 1 00:33:52 Adjacent.
Speaker 2 00:33:54 We should have classes in that <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:33:57 Or you just come and watch people do shitty improv. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:34:03 Is shitty improv redundant? <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:34:07
Speaker 2 00:34:08 I don't know how to answer that.
Speaker 1 00:34:09 Well, so then let's take a break because I've stumped the band. At least the band that's here today. Yes. We're gonna take a little break and when we come back, I want to dig into some of Bill and my common pit experiences. Oh yes. There's some good stories to be had there. So stick around and we'll be right back with Bill Harrison after The Interval.
The Interval was brought to you by no one. Again! Season 2, no sponsors. Come on people, step up! <laugh>. Anyhow, it was magical Bill! Even on a fake, synthesized bass.
Speaker 2 00:35:03 I don't know. You know, when I listened to the Jeremy Kahn episode, I didn't know that the guest played 'the interval.'
Speaker 1 00:35:13
Speaker 2 00:35:13 I didn't get that.
Speaker 1 00:35:14 We can assume Jeremy did, but. . .
Speaker 2 00:35:17 He refused? Yeah, I can see that.
Speaker 1 00:35:19 No. Well, you know him.
Speaker 2 00:35:20 I do. Yeah. So very persnickety.
Speaker 1 00:35:22 Wow! Yeah. I won't fill in many
Speaker 2 00:35:25 of the detail details, but
Speaker 1 00:35:26 it was pretty much the end of our friendship <laugh>, if you can call it that. Air quotes <laugh>. Well I figured as a former bass player, you playing on a synthesized bass was kind of staying with our the music
Speaker 2 00:35:40 Adjacent
Speaker 1 00:35:41 Theme. Yeah. <laugh>. Okay. So I wanted to get back to the musical theater pits, cuz Bill and I have both spent a lot of time in dark places. Oh.
Speaker 2 00:35:54 We've put in our time, yes.
Speaker 1 00:35:56 Over-air conditioned places to, um, great acclaim.
Speaker 2 00:36:01 Is that what it was?
Speaker 1 00:36:03 Uh, that's what I was told by the PR people. Yeah. Hmmmm. But we both played, off and on, Wicked in its original run here. Yeah. That ran almost four years. And it was a fun gig. I always liked playing that show. It makes a lot of sense to me. It was a huge hit here, so it was always a big deal.
Speaker 2 00:36:26 It was like a rock concert.
Speaker 1 00:36:27 Yeah. But it was nerve wracking as well. Right?
Speaker 2 00:36:29 Did your book also have some death-defying moments?
Speaker 1 00:36:34 Well, Bill. . .
Speaker 2 00:36:35 <laugh>,
Speaker 1 00:36:35 I played three books. Oh. And conducted.
Speaker 2 00:36:38 I know you conducted,
Speaker 1 00:36:39 They all had their moments off . . . nah, three and four were a snooze! But Key One was a workout!
Speaker 2 00:36:47 Key One. . .Yeah, I remember that.
Speaker 1 00:36:49 A Mitt full. Yeah. And terrifying. Yes.
Speaker 2 00:36:51 I remember hearing that from a couple of different keyboard players.
Speaker 1 00:36:54 Ultimately, it really fun to play. . . if you didn't have to be compared to Rick, who, by the way, I almost canceled this interview when I read that someone named Rick was your favorite ever MD. . . Thanks a lot. I got over it. Mostly.
Speaker 2 00:37:15 Sorry. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:37:16 Awkward moment. . .
Speaker 2 00:37:17 You're my second favorite. Actually, I do love the way you conduct and that's, not bullshit.
Speaker 1 00:37:22 Thank you.
Speaker 2 00:37:24 Well come on, Rick's your favorite conductor too. Probably
Speaker 1 00:37:28 He is not. ,
Speaker 2 00:37:29 Oh, nice. Nice.
Speaker 1 00:37:31 BUT he might be my favorite keyboard player. He's awesome!
Speaker 2 00:37:34 He's killing. Yeah, that's right.
Speaker 1 00:37:36 Awesome. On every level of awesomeness. Yes, agreed. Uh, sorry. . . okay, I didn't even think of this, but 'Rose' Snyder. Yes. Sorry.
Speaker 2 00:37:48 In
Speaker 1 00:37:48 our former incarnation,
Speaker 2 00:37:50 The artist formerly known as Rick.
Speaker 1 00:37:53 But Rose, what a . . .
Speaker 2 00:37:54 What a great guy. I've also known them for a long time. Yes.
Speaker 1 00:38:00 Fantastic person. Yes. And incredible musician.
So, this brings us back to Wicked. So, when I read this story about you're about to read here, I just broke out into the sweat. Cuz I know everyone has their own version of it. So here's another snippet from Making the Low Notes. Ooh. Read by the author.
Speaker 2 00:38:27 This is called No Rest for the Wicked. See what I did there?
Speaker 1 00:38:33 Not really. Okay.
Speaker 2 00:38:35 This is from 2007. My cell phone buzzed. It was Tim Burke, the contractor and lead trumpet player from the production of Wicked that ran from 2005 through 2009 at Chicago's Oriental Theater. "Hey Tim. What's up? Hi Bill. You gonna be back at the theater soon?" I looked at my phone. 7:20 PM Dude, why are you calling me? The curtain's at 8:00 PM. I'm less than a half a block away. "Uh, yeah, sure. I'll be back in time. Okay. See you soon." I was subbing for Tom Mendel, the show's regular bass player. It was a two-show Wednesday. I'd played the matinee and was enjoying my dinner break. I went back to my tea and book. My phone lit up again. It's 7:28. What the hell? "Hey Bill," Tim said with alarm, "it's a 7:30 downbeat. Where are you?" Holy shit!
Speaker 2 00:39:41 I slammed my book shut and ran down the alley towards the stage door. The first notes of the overture came roaring up the stairs, like a tsunami. As soon as I got buzzed into the backstage area, I ran like hell, my heart in my esophagus, and made it to the pit less than a minute into the first number. I was shaking so much, I could barely pick up my bass. I'm sure my face was ashen. I couldn't look anyone in the eye. "That's it. This is my last gig ever. No one will ever call me again." The first act ended. I sat down heavily on the stool in the bass booth waiting for the boom to be lowered. The contractor and the music director converged and asked me what had happened. I told them the truth. "I'm so sorry. I I just had it in my head that the downbeat was 8, not 7:30."
Speaker 2 00:40:34 "I thought that maybe was the case. That's why I called you" said Tim. 'Uh, sorry for being so dense.' 'Well, good thing Rick, (the first keyboardist) covered your parts while you were awol,' interjected Colin, the music director. 'I don't think anyone of consequence noticed your absence, but you absolutely cannot let this happen again.' I hung my head. The two of them wandered off though not before I spied the flicker of a secret smile from Tim, who I imagine might have made a similar blunder sometime in his long career. God damn. I was so sure I was right. I'd been offended that Tim called when all he'd been trying to do was save my ass. That streak of arrogance was still alive in me and it had almost cost me my reputation.
Speaker 1 00:41:26 Yeah, I love that story because I didn't know you drank tea.
Speaker 2 00:41:31 <laugh>. That is the most interesting part, isn't it?
Speaker 1 00:41:33 That's what I got out of it. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:41:36 Argo. That was at the Argo Tea (next to the theatre)
Speaker 1 00:41:39 Oh my God. That's horrifying. I broke out into his sweat.
Speaker 2 00:41:43 Oh my God. I just remember that run down the alleyway. . .
Speaker 1 00:41:48 I had almost a similar experience. I take the "L" when I go downtown, right? Yeah. I was on the L brownline, cutting it a little closer than I should have for a night show. Same one: Wicked. Probably 7:30 curtain. And we get over the Chicago River and we stop. Oh.
Speaker 1 00:42:08 And we stop. There's nowhere to go. Right. And so I'm calling. . . thank god for cell phones! . . but I'm calling whoever's in the pit. I think I called Jeremy Kahn or probably Michael Keefe, and I said, 'can you turn on keyboard three? I'm stuck on the "L". I'm gonna be there, but, you know, make sure it's on and functional and the music is open, cuz it's gonna be close.' Whew. And then I'm sitting there, you know, 10 more minutes and it's 7:25, and I'm like, ah, ah. . . So I called Tim and I said, Tim, I think I'm gonna make it. If we start moving, I will run. And so finally, it started moving. I got to Washington. I ran the four blocks or whatever it is. You know, people had doors open for me. And I ran in, jumped into my chair, put on the headphones, and we started. I think they probably held a minute or two. Yeah. But they wouldn't have held much long. Oh, it was horrifying. Yeah. That feeling of oof.
Speaker 2 00:43:14 At least it wasn't your fault.
Speaker 1 00:43:16 Well, yeah, but it sometimes it is. You know, you're just thinking, oh, I had 8 o'clock in my head. I had 7:30. . .
Speaker 2 00:43:24 I was so, so sure. I was so sure.
Speaker 1 00:43:26 Right, right. Yeah. But we've all had that. You know, speaking of Tom Mendel, what was the show they were doing? 'SpongeBob Square Pants?' I can't remember the exact sequence of events, but I live close to Tom, right? About a mile away.
Speaker 2 00:43:42 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:43:43 And for some reason he had been doing something, I can't remember what. Anyhow, he forgot his electric bass at home. What? Because he'd been doing a session. He came home, thought he was gonna come back, but didn't. Then, he was at the show and it's like 7:20, and he's like, 'I don't have my bass!!' He calls me. I'm the closest person. I'm like, okay, I have a key to your house. And like I go and get his bass. . .
Speaker 2 00:44:14 You weren't playing that performance?
Speaker 1 00:44:15 I wasn't playing. No, I didn't get hired for that job either. Okay, I'm recovered. So again, this was at the Oriental Theatre. I'm driving down. I have no idea what traffic's gonna be like. It's Saturday night, it's blah, blah blah. I ran downtown with his bass. He's playing upright. And folks, it's not that simple in the world of music and sound these days, because the sound people have you're upright on one channel. . . That's right. . . and you're fretless on another channel. So it's not as easy as just saying, "oh, play it on my other bass while I get the other ones." Right. So I had to go in the side door right off Dearborn down the stairs. There's a prop person waiting for me standing by my car so I don't get towed. I run into the pit. Tom's busy playing and Jocelyn's playing cello, but she wasn't playing at the moment. She says, "I got it Shawn." She takes the thing, gets it out of the case and is ready to hand it to Tom the minute he has a second to switch.
Speaker 2 00:45:20 Oh, he was horrified. I'm sure.
Speaker 1 00:45:22 What an awful feeling.
Speaker 2 00:45:23 And you were a hero. I was
Speaker 1 00:45:25 An American hero!! Yes. I was recognized with a medal from
Speaker 2 00:45:30 the union.
Speaker 1 00:45:32 <laugh>. No, the union don't give you a shit.
Speaker 2 00:45:34 Oh, come on now. Oh,
Speaker 1 00:45:35 Okay. That's true. They do give you shit <laugh>. That's true. I was wrong about that.
Speaker 2 00:45:39 So, uh, uh, uh, uh, a uh, this is not exactly a rescue story, but uh, I don't know if you were there the night, uh, Tom, it's the Tom Indel show all the time.
Speaker 1 00:45:50 I guess so. Yeah. No other bass player AJ we're bass player
Speaker 2 00:45:54 Adjacent. Yeah. Uh, Tom, who, uh, I have to say has been extremely kind to me over the years.
Speaker 1 00:46:00 Yeah. He's drunk. I think he
Speaker 2 00:46:02 Was drunk most of the time. Yeah, yeah. Also a great bass player. Um, he got into a bike accident on the way to work.
Speaker 1 00:46:13 This is wicked again, right? No,
Speaker 2 00:46:14 I I think this might be Billy Elliot.
Speaker 1 00:46:16 Okay. I think.
Speaker 2 00:46:20 And so Colin called me like at again, like five minutes before downbeat. And he was, he, he was like, Tom got into this terrible accident. He's here, but he's really hurting. Can you come down? And I was like, yeah, I'll be there. You know, as soon as I possibly can. Threw on some blacks ran down there, Tom. He allowed broken rib or, I mean he, the guy is ridiculous. I mean, he is there and he is like, I can just see on his face, you know? And he is like, oh, thanks, thanks man. Really good. And, and he was out for a few days cause he, I think he broke a b some bone. I don't even remember. Or
Speaker 1 00:47:00 A wrist or something
Speaker 2 00:47:01 Yet. Something, but, oh man. So
Speaker 1 00:47:03 Yeah. But that, but you know, that was a really terrible English accent.
Speaker 2 00:47:07 Uh, um, <laugh> You mean my Colin Wilford. Yeah. I
Speaker 1 00:47:11 Thought you would've in
Speaker 2 00:47:12 Oh,
Speaker 1 00:47:14 In, in private.
Speaker 2 00:47:14 It was going to be, uh, bad. So that's why I decided to
Speaker 1 00:47:18 Okay.
Speaker 2 00:47:19 Forego.
Speaker 1 00:47:20 See, I would've done it and been even worse than you not attempting one would've been me attempting. Yeah. So,
Speaker 2 00:47:26 And then I, I remember Colin said, oh, you took the time to put on your, on your black clothes. And I was like, I'm not gonna come to the pit, you know, wearing my typical ice cream pants and, you know, Hawaiian shirt, which is what I normally wear. Well, like today
Speaker 1 00:47:39 You could've for SpongeBob if you'd gotten that gig. But of course Tom Mendel got that gig. I, I, um,
Speaker 2 00:47:45 Sean, I'm I'm with you. I I did not get that gig.
Speaker 1 00:47:49 <laugh>. I guess there's a lot of gigs I didn't get you too. Yes. That's true of everyone in this business. Yeah. Um, speaking of the low point gigs, you were talking about one at a, um, at a theater where they say a lot of thousand theses and forth with
Speaker 2 00:48:07 Oh my God. Where you had to bring that up.
Speaker 1 00:48:10 Well I had a similar experience at that very same theater with,
Speaker 2 00:48:14 Oh, should we not name it?
Speaker 1 00:48:15 I don't know, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Speaker 2 00:48:18 There. He said it.
Speaker 1 00:48:19 Yeah. Yours was my experience was playing Wizard of Oz there Kid show. But the Pit was like in the scenic shop in a circle of curtains somewhere 50 yards from the stage, right. Where we heard the show on monitors, which by the way went out one night. And so I'm trying to conduct the show lip syncing to Kristen Page, who was a Dorothy. Good Dorothy by the way. Beautiful voice. I wish she was still in show business. She was, remember she was in, um, the visit Oh, cross paths with that again. Yes. Um, but I could only see her barely on a small television and we couldn't hear it all. So I'm like, well she normally sings about like somewhere over the, if I go farther, we have to pay royalties. Right.
Speaker 2 00:49:08 That's,
Speaker 1 00:49:08 That's right. How many notes is it? Some
Speaker 2 00:49:10 I, I don't know. But you, you know, in there I couldn't go. There was, I wanted to say a whole tune and I couldn't do it. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:49:17 Right.
Speaker 2 00:49:17 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:49:18 So I can do it
Speaker 2 00:49:19 Here though.
Speaker 1 00:49:19 Okay. That's true. Cuz I'll have to pay not you. Exactly. Um, that is, but your point Exactly. Your show. I know what show you were talking about. Yes. But you were in the tr in the trap room. Trap
Speaker 2 00:49:30 Room.
Speaker 1 00:49:31 Awful.
Speaker 2 00:49:32 It was unbelievable. What
Speaker 1 00:49:33 Was it? Just like concrete block?
Speaker 2 00:49:35 Yeah. And, and, uh, it was all concrete. The floor was littered with cables and all kinds of stuff that usually you don't quite have to walk through.
Speaker 1 00:49:46 Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:49:46 And they're these, uh, columns. So I was sitting, so the conductor, I'm doing the air quotes now. <laugh>, uh, was in such a place where I kind of had to, I'm gonna go off mic here for a second. I had to go over here to, uh, to see him. I did have a little, you know, monitor and whatever, but Oh my God. First. And, and the book was just horrifyingly overwritten for everybody. This, this was the show where I don't think I, I didn't put the story in there and I hope no one's offended. Actually, I don't care. <laugh>, uh, write your own damn book. That's right. Um, where the orchestrator, uh, uh, you know, on the table when we're, we're we're doing the rehearsing the orchestra, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative> has a copy of an orchestration textbook
Speaker 1 00:50:37 Yikes. To check your range Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:50:39 Or something.
Speaker 1 00:50:40 Does this note possible? Yeah. Oh, we can't play that
Speaker 2 00:50:42 Though. There were plenty of things that were impossible to play in that book. Yeah. And I wasn't the only one who, well, we, and, and I was making $82 a show in, uh, December, uh, you know, uh, November and December, including Christmas, although I don't know if we played on Christmas. Well, we played on New Year's Eve,
Speaker 1 00:51:01 But No parking.
Speaker 2 00:51:02 And No parking. Thank you very much. Right. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:51:06 So you're gonna work on Navy Pier and you're gonna pay 25 bucks a minute to park <laugh>. And you make $82 total for the show. Yeah. For
Speaker 2 00:51:14 With a double.
Speaker 1 00:51:14 Yeah. It's with a
Speaker 2 00:51:15 Double.
Speaker 1 00:51:16 Yeah. A little, um, disheartening to say the least.
Speaker 2 00:51:20 But we're not bitter, are we?
Speaker 1 00:51:22 Oh, I'm at least bitter adjacent <laugh>. And I think maybe you're just adjacent to me. So now you're bitter too.
Speaker 2 00:51:30 I'm more of a bitter nut <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:51:32 That's right. I put let's, let's talk about something, uh, funny. What, um, how did you get into, why
Speaker 2 00:51:38 Change
Speaker 1 00:51:38 Now? Mental health counseling. Oh,
Speaker 2 00:51:40 That's funny to you. Yeah. Huh. Yeah, it's, I have an appointment on Tuesday at four. You should come in. I know. You think that's,
Speaker 1 00:51:46 I should have been in ago. I think that's funny ago. No, it's a bad segue, but I think it's a kind of, um, many people have gotten out of this business, all of whom I admire because that means you have a skillset beyond being a musician that you can make a living doing something else. And my advice to most people is like, if you can do something else, you should. Yeah. This business is brutal for all the fun we have. Yeah. The business part of it really sucks. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:52:14 So be before we do, we talk about that. So what, what's the fun for you? I know what it is for me, but what's the fun part
Speaker 1 00:52:25 Of playing the shows and stuff?
Speaker 2 00:52:26 Yeah, yeah.
Speaker 1 00:52:28 Uh, uh, by now I've been around enough that almost everyone in the pit is a friend. Right. Or a, a new friend. Yeah. Someone with news stories to tell. Um, you know, with, I'll tell you what, in Wicked, which ran for four years and there's four keyboard books. So in that time there were about 12 of us keyboard players in town. Right. Who cycled through that.
Speaker 2 00:52:51 Yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:52:52 It was so great. We don't usually get to work with each other. Right. So suddenly I'm not competing with Michael and Evan and, and Rose. Rick and, and you know, Kevin Dish and Maria Honing Schnabel and, and Jeremy Kahn we're like, and who else played Chris Sergeants? Chris. Yeah. And, uh, you know, so it was, I loved it. Every night you'd show up, you'd, who's the starting lineup tonight? And we're like, we're gonna rock it no matter which four of us it is. Yeah. So that was fun. Yeah. That's
Speaker 2 00:53:22 Very cool.
Speaker 1 00:53:22 And different. I, you know, unlike some musicians, I actually like musical theater. I like the shows. So I, for me, conducting is the best fit. I think I'm a, I make, I the stage makes sense to me and I speak actor and I speak musician and I, I think of myself as sort of the conduit between those worlds and the it is
Speaker 2 00:53:45 A good fit for
Speaker 1 00:53:46 You and the, and the tech world. But, um, I like that I've lost interest in the game of getting jobs. Yeah. And the brown nosing. Yeah. Or the politics. And that's the not fun part. Right.
Speaker 2 00:54:03 Well, we can sit here all day with the not fun part.
Speaker 1 00:54:05 Yeah. But I, I, I like playing it. Some people don't like playing synthesizer books where you're like a fake clarinet or you're playing weird strings. And I like it. I like the game of, can I sound like who I'm doubling? Can I, can I fit in? Is this the right volume? Is this, and after you've played a show for four years, I think that's the glory time. Uh, when I came to town, I did Pump Boys and Dinettes. Right. Three years in the first 10 weeks I thought I got it. I know. Everything there is to know. And three years later you've learned something completely different about what performing is. Yeah. How do you deliver every show, eight shows a week for three years? How do you keep your head in the game? Yeah. What are the new things? What's, how do you keep it fun?
Speaker 1 00:54:54 Uh, I, I, so I learned early on like the long run and the, the fun part of it is when you're really relaxed and playing show 907, sometimes you're in this zone. It's like, I'm so relaxed, but I'm so focused and I know I'm gonna nail this sucker. Yeah. And you know what, uh, we got you. I, I pump boys. The coolest thing was like, whether there were 430 people or 30, we were gonna get 'em, we were gonna nail it. And I, we pretty much had that feeling like, we're gonna win 'em over. They don't think they're gonna be one over, but we're gonna get 'em. Cuz we, we know what we're doing. That's nice. I love that. We know what we're doing and everybody around me knows what we're doing. That's part of your frustration in the, the orchestrator didn't know what they were doing. Yeah. And it was overwritten and the sound, people don't know the Yeah. Right. It's like when people don't know what they're doing, it's no fun. Right. When you're with real pros, I'm astounded. I some, I'm often astounded by the people around me. I'm like, how the, what level of musicianship is this and
Speaker 2 00:56:05 How did I get here?
Speaker 1 00:56:07 Blows my mind. Yeah. Yeah. I, but it's fun to be the low man on the totem pole and say like, I don't know how I'm here, but I'm here and I better not mess up, but listen to these people. Yeah. I'm playing with
Speaker 2 00:56:19 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:56:20 That blows my mind still. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:56:22 I that I felt that very strongly un wicked sometimes, but very much when I got the chance to play, uh, the Lion King at pretty much the end of my so-called career mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, and that was so great. It was just a show I really wanted to play. And it had to, in my mind, this kind of cache to it that other plays other musicals didn't, I don't know why.
Speaker 1 00:56:47 Well, it's one of the biggies. It's,
Speaker 2 00:56:49 Yeah. And, uh, the, the, the production, the eight weeks it was in town for that time, conducted by Rose Snyder, but had just had all these people who were friends and top of the game, top of their game musicians. And, you know, I very much felt like, uh, how did I get in? Okay, good. I'm just going to pretend I belong here. It's, and
Speaker 1 00:57:16 It's fun when you, when you sense that you're killing it. Yeah. In the good way.
Speaker 2 00:57:20 Yes. That's right. Right.
Speaker 1 00:57:22 Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:57:23 Uh, I, I'll answer my own question by saying exactly the same thing. You but I'll I'll say it in one word. Okay. Which is the hang sorry, two words. The hang
Speaker 1 00:57:32 It is the hang the hang. I guess you could technically put 'em together and call it <unk>
Speaker 2 00:57:38 You, you could from I would never do that.
Speaker 1 00:57:41 Thailand or something. Yeah. Um, yeah. The hang. Yeah. It is about the Cuz good gang. Shitty gig. Bad music. Good music.
Speaker 2 00:57:52 You got each other
Speaker 1 00:57:53 When you're, when it's the right people doesn't matter. That's right.
Speaker 2 00:57:56 That's
Speaker 1 00:57:57 Right. Or it's just, uh, the, if it's good, it's frosting on the cake, but Right. The cake is pretty good. Yeah. Right. In, in metaphor. Worlds <laugh>.
Speaker 2 00:58:06 That's right. Well, I have this theory. Okay. Uh, uh, I'm gonna try it out on you. All right. That most of life is either a good time or a good story.
Speaker 1 00:58:19 Hmm.
Speaker 2 00:58:20 If you have both, that is an amazing experience.
Speaker 1 00:58:26 Okay. So I'm gonna question your premise with, do you think most of life is a good time? No. So there, but it
Speaker 2 00:58:33 Off, but it's very often a good story.
Speaker 1 00:58:36 Okay. So it's one or the other.
Speaker 2 00:58:37 That's what I'm saying. Yeah. If you happen to, you know, if the Venn diagram happens to overlap, well, that is fantastic. Then you've gotta, you know, uplifting whatever. You gotta, you gotta the whole deal. But no, I think most of life is eventually a good story.
Speaker 1 00:58:52 Well, your book proves that point. Oh, there's a lot of that actually. Well, a lot of your best stories are like, oh
Speaker 2 00:59:00 Man, I really screwed up
Speaker 1 00:59:02 Well, or I didn't know you had so many physical injury problems that are just paralyzing to read about. Oh, let alone to live through.
Speaker 2 00:59:11 Yeah. Yeah. Especially the break. Breaking my finger. Oh, man, that was,
Speaker 1 00:59:16 That was a bad day.
Speaker 2 00:59:17 Good story.
Speaker 1 00:59:18 Still hurts, right?
Speaker 2 00:59:19 A bad It still hurts. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Speaker 1 00:59:22 That's
Speaker 2 00:59:23 This guy.
Speaker 1 00:59:24 That sucks.
Speaker 2 00:59:25 Yeah, it did.
Speaker 1 00:59:26 I'm, I'm as bad as I am with no Injuries, <laugh>. Imagine if I'd ever broken something. Stop, stop that, Sean.
Speaker 2 00:59:33 So, stop it. Just stop it. Oh,
Speaker 1 00:59:34 I want to talk about the visit though, because I had forgotten, you know, again, I'd forgotten that you and I were in that pit. Oh. And this was, this, the visit was a Can and Ebb original musical. It finally made it to Broadway. 17 years later or something. Yeah. But it was at the Goodman, and it was happening in rehearsal at nine 11. Right. In fact, nine 11, we were supposed to do the final run through up in the rehearsal hall. Oh. And the star was Cheetah Rivera.
Speaker 2 01:00:04 I thought we didn't start rehearsing until after nine 11.
Speaker 1 01:00:07 Yes. But the cast was rehearsing the show. Oh, of
Speaker 2 01:00:11 Course. Right.
Speaker 1 01:00:11 They don't add the musicians until the end cuz we're expensive people. Right. We're
Speaker 2 01:00:15 Expensive and expendable.
Speaker 1 01:00:17 So, but I was, um, I, no, I didn't play any rehearsals for that, so I wasn't in it early, but I was invited to the final rehearsal, um, like a run through of the show with just piano playing up in the rehearsal at the Goodman was supposed to occur, and we canceled
Speaker 2 01:00:35 On that day. Yeah. That
Speaker 1 01:00:36 Canceled. Wow.
Speaker 2 01:00:37 Wow.
Speaker 1 01:00:38 And then we resumed not more than a day or two
Speaker 2 01:00:42 Later. No, I think I, I think I have the date in here because I, I saw it in my, in my, uh, calendar and I was like, oh my God, that was so, so close. Let me see if I have it. I think you
Speaker 1 01:00:54 Do. Yeah. Because I loved your what, um, you had that Cheetah Rivera was saying, you know, and I mean, it's Cheetah Rivera, so a your knees are knocking anyhow, that you're in. Right. In the same room with Cheetah Rivera. Yeah. And John Candor and Fred Ebb. Yeah. And, you know, on and on,
Speaker 2 01:01:14 Uh, Monday, September 17th,
Speaker 1 01:01:17 That's when we did the first
Speaker 2 01:01:19 First rehearsal
Speaker 1 01:01:20 With the band. Yes.
Speaker 2 01:01:22 Yeah. In the, in the theater.
Speaker 1 01:01:24 And I think we did, they did the run through up in the rehearsal hall, the 12th or the 13th. I mean, we
Speaker 2 01:01:32 Wow.
Speaker 1 01:01:33 Kept going. Yeah. And I walked in and Cheetah was sitting there, you know, getting ready for rehearsal and I just said good morning to her. And by the way, she's the person you dream of. This is a, a pro, but also the coolest person. Well,
Speaker 2 01:01:48 I didn't know that part. It's too good to hear.
Speaker 1 01:01:50 Yeah, yeah. Like, walk in, she's like, good morning. It's good for us to be here together. And she said something similar to us as a band when they introduced John McMartin and her for the, when we were singing through and
Speaker 2 01:02:02 Yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 1 01:02:04 But I was so jealous because I couldn't see one moment of that show. You could from
Speaker 2 01:02:10 I was in a great
Speaker 1 01:02:11 Spot. I was underneath the overhang. I never saw one minute of that show. I
Speaker 2 01:02:14 Was in a great spot. And rare rarely happens. But
Speaker 1 01:02:17 Should we sing a verse? Yellow shoes? Look at me wearing I wasn't that the Yeah,
Speaker 2 01:02:24 That was one of 'em. Yeah. Thank
Speaker 1 01:02:25 Bought those fancy yellow shoes. Yeah.
Speaker 2 01:02:28 And do you, do you remember the scene? I I I'm sure you do at the very end of the show that you know that Frank a Lotti, you know, this, this, I, I, what do you call that when it's just, uh, a picture? Like at the
Speaker 1 01:02:41 End? Yeah, yeah. A Tableau
Speaker 2 01:02:42 Solo. Tableau. Great. Yeah. So the whole cast is in a semi-circle facing the audience with their mouths open. Yeah. As if they, they're just acknowledging the horror of what they're about to do.
Speaker 1 01:02:56 Yeah. Oh my
Speaker 2 01:02:58 God. Goosebumps man.
Speaker 1 01:03:00 Yeah. And, and apparently the, it didn't quite work. The play the show happens. I Yes. Didn't quite add up cuz it didn't swoop off to Broadway Till. Right.
Speaker 2 01:03:11 I thought, I thought it was one of the best shows I ever played, honestly.
Speaker 1 01:03:15 Yeah. It was cool. I mean, the thrill of playing an original Candor in UNE the first time it's ever been orchestrated and playing it out loud, that was cool.
Speaker 2 01:03:24 Well, the same thing with the Sonim Show.
Speaker 1 01:03:26 Yes. Bounce. Yeah.
Speaker 2 01:03:28 We were outside taking pictures of the marquee and so on. Yeah.
Speaker 1 01:03:31 That was, again, time adjacent. Jonathan Tunick adjacent. Yeah. Um, John Candor never knew my name, but he did know who I was. And he would always, I'd say Good morning, and he'd say, good Morning fingers. Well imagine how many musicians he's met in his life. Yeah. And he knew why he was one of the keyboard players in that show, and that was enough for me. Yeah. And he's still alive.
Speaker 2 01:03:56 Yeah, I know.
Speaker 1 01:03:57 I mean Yeah. Wrote new songs for New York, New York that's on Broadway now, so Yeah. Yeah. Those were, those were a bounce was the same thing. Oh my God. We're with Heavyweights of the World in a show that's not quite working Yeah. On stage. And yet for us getting, you know, we're playing original Sondheim material Yeah. The first time ever out loud. Right, right. And, and
Speaker 2 01:04:21 Oh, I remember that, that first Sitz probe. That was, whew.
Speaker 1 01:04:25 Yeah. I, I don't know if you remember, I sat almost between Steven Sondheim and Jonathan tuning at the sit at the Sits Pro, because remember Kristen Bloche was playing, I was her sub, so I wasn't playing the, I
Speaker 2 01:04:41 Didn't remember that.
Speaker 1 01:04:42 Yeah, she was, David Caddick was conducting. Yes. So Kristen was playing keyboard. Right. One. And, um, I was just, you know, a subs, but I was at this Sits Pro and there was a, a theme like, you know, that was moving eighth notes. And in the read through, there was no eighth Note and Sondheim leaned over to Tunic and said something like, is, is it, um, isn't it da da da? Where's the, you know, moving part? And, uh, Jonathan Tunic said, uh, ah, I left that out. And Steve was like, um, can we put it back in? Can we put it in some other book or something? And Tunic was like, oh, I have to think about it. And he never did. Sometimes music the Orchestrator, Jonathan Tunic was like, ah, I don't know.
Speaker 2 01:05:35 Wow. Is
Speaker 1 01:05:36 That a, that amazing.
Speaker 2 01:05:36 It is amazing. Who
Speaker 1 01:05:38 Else would say to say to Steven Sondheim? Ah, let me think about it.
Speaker 2 01:05:42 Uh, so I orchestrated a show for somebody, uh, in many years pasted a show called Fat Tuesday by, do you know Elizabeth Doyle?
Speaker 1 01:05:51 I know the name. She's
Speaker 2 01:05:53 A, you know, show business adjacent. Yep. Yeah. Yep. Uh, and I think I changed one cord cuz it just did not, it just, it didn't, it wasn't producing the effect I knew she wanted. And when she saw the orchestration, she was like, oh, no, no. That's supposed to be a, I was like, well, I was trying to give it a little more bite. She goes, no, I, I want it the way it was. I was like, oh, okay. I get it.
Speaker 1 01:06:16 Okay. But your show will fail now <laugh>,
Speaker 2 01:06:20 Because
Speaker 1 01:06:21 If it would've been a hit,
Speaker 2 01:06:22 I had so much power That's
Speaker 1 01:06:23 Right. To, to do that if I could have changed that chord. That's right. So, um, so tell me now, you're, you're married.
Speaker 2 01:06:30 I am.
Speaker 1 01:06:31 And, uh, is there any happiness there or is it just stories for a book
Speaker 2 01:06:35 <laugh>
Speaker 1 01:06:36 On the spot? Just
Speaker 2 01:06:38 To be clear, there's almost no family in this book.
Speaker 1 01:06:43 I thought that was interesting. Yes. And I have to say a couple of times I kind of wanted to know more about that. Yeah. But you're clear from the beginning that that was not gonna be in your book. No, because it's not really what the book's,
Speaker 2 01:06:55 It's not what the book's about. No. And I think whoever's telling the story gets to set the boundaries. And I did not want to, uh, certainly wasn't gonna talk about my kids, even though obviously they're a huge part of my life. Right. But, uh, no, I, I talk a little bit about my family of origin at the beginning mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but, uh, essentially no, I, I wanted to leave, leave that all out.
Speaker 1 01:07:22 Um, and, and so now I've, I've laid it out there so that you have to tell me
Speaker 2 01:07:26 What do I have to tell you
Speaker 1 01:07:27 About your whole life? No, I'm just kidding. But you're, you're married. I'm married. I'm just trying to segue to your life now. Well, I,
Speaker 2 01:07:34 Well, I wanted to answer your old, your previous question, which we, which I sidetracked, which is how do, how do you go from being a bass player to being a, uh,
Speaker 1 01:07:43 Because that's psychotherapist also sort of the end gist of your
Speaker 2 01:07:47 Book. Right. I talk about the transition mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I'll try to be succinct here. Uh,
Speaker 1 01:07:53 No need
Speaker 2 01:07:54 Succinct. Um, so I was realizing, uh, this was in the early 2010s, I guess, that I was feeling kind of like the handwriting was on the wall for me in terms of my age. And I was having more problems with my hand and my, my, my back. Uh, there's a few stories about very bad, very bad back incidents. Um, and I just was thinking, you know, I've been doing this for a while and maybe there's more to life than schlepping my gear into, you know, greasy, you know, hotel kitchens. I enjoyed playing in the theater, but I wasn't really able to make, I mean, that wasn't, there'd be times when that was like, okay, great, I've got eight weeks of work, or 12 weeks of work. But you know, as well as I do, there's no guarantee that, you know, then there will be seven months of nothing.
Speaker 1 01:08:53 Sometimes eight weeks of work is your year. Is
Speaker 2 01:08:57 The year. That's right. Uh, so I was doing a whole lot of other stuff, uh, and, um, I was getting tired, to be honest. Uh, eventually it would wound up the, it it wound up that I was, I played music professionally for 40 years. That's kind of enough, you know, I'm not sorry. I played my last gig in 2017 mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and I'm not sorry, uh, that I, I mean, I feel good about it and, uh, my hands don't hurt as much and I don't have to schlep gear all over the place.
Speaker 1 01:09:31 But What was your, um, entree into mental health? Mental
Speaker 2 01:09:35 Health, uh, being depressed for many years? <laugh>,
Speaker 1 01:09:41 Like, un undiagnosed,
Speaker 2 01:09:43 Undiagnosed for the most part. I didn't really get that. It was a thing. Uh, you know, I think when I grew up, certainly, and I would imagine this is true mostly for you too, uh, mental health was just not a thing. No. We just did not talk about it. No. Unless, you know, people would say, oh, uncle Sam, he had a nervous breakdown. And we'd like, oh, okay. Well I guess that's bad.
Speaker 1 01:10:08 Yeah. What is, what is the nervous breakdown? Right.
Speaker 2 01:10:11 It's not even Yeah. There's no diagnosis. There
Speaker 1 01:10:13 Were all kinds of euphemisms. Yeah. For Yeah. What, you know, we didn't know bipolar, we didn't know schizophrenic or we That's right. Or we'd heard about it in a movie sometime. Right. You
Speaker 2 01:10:23 Know. Right. Somebody acting crazy. Yeah. You know,
Speaker 1 01:10:25 And that's about it.
Speaker 2 01:10:27 Yeah. But in terms of the things that, that I think are in the way for most people who have issues are depression and anxiety and this, those were not things that were considered to be real things
Speaker 1 01:10:39 Or they were considered something to hide to be ashamed of. Well, absolutely.
Speaker 2 01:10:44 Absolutely. Especially for, uh, the, uh, male half of our species.
Speaker 1 01:10:49 Right.
Speaker 2 01:10:50 Uh, you know, well,
Speaker 1 01:10:53 I don't know. Especially, I mean, we are male, so maybe we
Speaker 2 01:10:57 Think it's No, I think statistically yeah, it's, it's, it's true that, um, men tend to be certainly way less likely to seek help.
Speaker 1 01:11:05 Okay. So that's, that's,
Speaker 2 01:11:06 That's
Speaker 1 01:11:07 One measure men statistically more likely to be depressed? No. No, I don't think so. No. But sociologically,
Speaker 2 01:11:13 Sociologically to
Speaker 1 01:11:14 Admit
Speaker 2 01:11:14 Yeah. Right. That's it. To, to, to have it be weakness
Speaker 1 01:11:18 Or a deficiency.
Speaker 2 01:11:19 Right. Or even like for me it was, I just thought, oh, I must be doing life wrong.
Speaker 1 01:11:25 Yeah. I thought that was an interesting how you, you had put it on your, on yourself for years and, and years. Just Right.
Speaker 2 01:11:32 What's wrong with me? Why can't I just, you know, like be like everybody else or whatever, you know, it's, uh, so
Speaker 1 01:11:41 Yeah. And I felt like the weird twangs of like, okay, I've known Bill for years and I didn't know he was depressed. Right.
Speaker 2 01:11:47 Well, I did a as, as most of us do, I think we, we do a good job of hiding it. And cuz like you say, it's, it's, it's a matter of shame. Uh, and at some point, this was in my forties, I had a, an amazing therapist, uh, and one day he just said, you know, I, I think you're dysthymic. And that's a word. I, I was like, dis
Speaker 1 01:12:12 What? Yeah,
Speaker 2 01:12:14 So dysthymic, uh, d y s t h y m I k I guess dysthymia, it's a low grade depression. Okay. They didn't use it in, in the DSM anymore, but it used to be like, um, like, uh, major depressive symptom. Uh, mild to moderate, uh, chronic. So it wasn't like you,
Speaker 1 01:12:42 You just said dsm, like I should know what that is. Oh, that's
Speaker 2 01:12:44 The diagnostic, uh, uh, diagnostic. Oh my God, I don't even know what it is. Manual
Speaker 1 01:12:52 Something. Manual
Speaker 2 01:12:53 Diagnostic and something or other manual. Oh God. That's terrible. I'm gonna get disbarred or dis something.
Speaker 1 01:13:00 Can you get dis Okay. Not,
Speaker 2 01:13:02 Not really.
Speaker 1 01:13:02 Okay.
Speaker 2 01:13:03 Uh,
Speaker 1 01:13:04 But
Speaker 2 01:13:04 So diagnostic and statistical manual, that's what it is. Right? It's the, basically the Bible of mental health, uh, diagnoses.
Speaker 1 01:13:15 So as a Jew, do you only have like the old testament of that bible too? <laugh>. I'm just trying to
Speaker 2 01:13:22 First five books. That's all, that's all you need.
Speaker 1 01:13:24 That's all you need, really. The rest of it's just guilt.
Speaker 2 01:13:27 It's funny. <laugh> Well, it's, the book is mostly guilt. Yeah. That's, yeah. That's, that's the, haven't you read the Old Testament? No. You read Deuteronomy. Come on. Uh,
Speaker 1 01:13:36 Only in cats. Only in cats. And he was old then. That's so I can't imagine. I can only imagine now. Um, yeah. So, so are you good at it?
Speaker 2 01:13:45 Uh, I'm a better therapist than I ever was a bass player. Well, I can say that without,
Speaker 1 01:13:51 Well, you were a kick ass bass player, so, well,
Speaker 2 01:13:54 Thank you.
Speaker 1 01:13:54 Well, you demonstrated today that interval. Well,
Speaker 2 01:13:57 Was that not genius?
Speaker 1 01:13:58 It was. Well, no, no, it was,
Speaker 2 01:14:01 But it was something. It was not. It's a good story though. I'm gonna That's all right. Go home and talk about playing Sean's synthesizer.
Speaker 1 01:14:06 Do you, do you, um, I don't think it's an either or, but is it more fulfilling than music? Is it just a different,
Speaker 2 01:14:14 Um, it, it, it activates some of the same pathways, I think. And it's kind of one of the points I was making, I think, I hope that I made in the book is that, for me anyway, it felt like there's a lot of crossover between the two, especially playing bass, which is not a glam glamorous instrument by any stretch. Right.
Speaker 1 01:14:33 Unless you're sting. Unless
Speaker 2 01:14:35 You're,
Speaker 1 01:14:35 Or McCartney.
Speaker 2 01:14:36 Yeah. Right. Uh,
Speaker 1 01:14:37 And those, I think that's two people,
Speaker 2 01:14:40 That's two out of how many millions. Yeah. Yeah. Gazillions. And there's a few, you know, there's a few people who not, are not household names, but, you know.
Speaker 1 01:14:47 No, you listed the, the some real heavy weights in the book.
Speaker 2 01:14:50 Yeah, I did. Yeah. But
Speaker 1 01:14:51 By, by the book, by the way. By it, but
Speaker 2 01:14:53 By, yeah. Making the low notes. Okay. It's by me.
Speaker 1 01:14:57 That's right. And go. But so by it, um, are there parts of it that you didn't expect it to be like this when you were Oh,
Speaker 2 01:15:05 Good question. Uh hmm.
Speaker 1 01:15:12 Or did you, um, I don't know. I mean, you saw parts of yourself that you're like, I could have used this help, I can help others. Well,
Speaker 2 01:15:21 That, that for sure. Yeah. So I didn't quite finish that thread, which is, you know, through my own work in therapy. Also, I, thinking back on it, I I was reading like, psychology books in high school. Yeah. That, and that was just, when I thought about it, I was like, what, what,
Speaker 1 01:15:40 What was wrong with you then? What was <laugh>? I mean, who reads that shit
Speaker 2 01:15:43 Exactly? Yeah. I mean, what, what was that about? So, and then I was a psych major for like a minute, almost literally in, in, uh, when I was at Northwestern. Cuz I was like, oh, this is this radio TV film thing isn't working out. I'll just take some psychology classes. Great. Uh, but yeah, I, it's something that always interested me. And, um, really one of the reasons I was, I started thinking of it as something I could do was because of my, my wife actually, who's a, uh, really masterful, uh, licensed, uh, social worker. And she does, she does clinical work. She does, she does therapy. That's her, that's her, that's her gig for, for 30 plus years. And when sh you know, when we got together, uh, I was looking for something, uh, and one of the things, one of the thoughts I had was, well, I gotta do something that I can do and not have it be physical and something I, as long as I have my marbles, I can continue to do.
Speaker 2 01:16:46 Uh, and I wanted to do something that was felt meaningful, like music had for the better part of my life. Not every gig, not every day. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But for the most part, I, I did it cuz it was something I really enjoyed doing and I thought that it had some, you know, human benefit. Yeah. You're playing for, for people, uh, hopefully en enjoying themselves and certainly being in, in the theater, I, that's the one of the times I felt the most like, oh yeah, this is really a good thing to do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because we're all working together in this collective thing. Socialism,
Speaker 1 01:17:21 Yes. We worked as,
Speaker 2 01:17:22 You know, it's, it's this huge sort of juggernaut of, of, of moving parts. And when it works, you know, you're putting across something to an audience that's like, when I go to see a theater, I'm like, oh my God, that was spectacular. Even if it's not great. Right. It's like, if it's well, you know, well put together and, and it's, it's an amazing thing.
Speaker 1 01:17:41 You know how hard it is for all of that to align, right?
Speaker 2 01:17:44 That's right. Not just
Speaker 1 01:17:45 Your part. Yeah. All the moving parts. Right,
Speaker 2 01:17:48 Right. You know, everybody, you know, backstage, onstage under the stage.
Speaker 1 01:17:53 Yeah.
Speaker 2 01:17:54 Um, so yeah, that's, I mean, it felt like this would be a pretty good fit. And then of course I was worried, oh, I haven't been in school for all these decades and can I do it? And blah, blah blah. But I got into, I got on from a master's program and found, I really enjoyed it. I liked the, the studying, I liked the material. Uh, I met some really cool people and I, I did my master's in two years, which was pretty fast. And I was working two years, had gigs and so on.
Speaker 1 01:18:21 Exhausting. It
Speaker 2 01:18:22 Was, it was, uh, and that's part of the reason why I knew that I, I would, was going to transition out, uh, at some point cuz uh, in fact there was 1 1 8 week of run of Wicked. I don't think you played that one. It was the erode erode
Speaker 1 01:18:39 Version. Yeah. Once they're on the road, they don't, they carry most of their keyboard players,
Speaker 2 01:18:43 So Yeah. I think they, I think they did.
Speaker 1 01:18:45 Um, I've done one and missed a couple of the other times, so, yeah.
Speaker 2 01:18:49 Uh, and I was doing an internship at the time and playing a shows a week and I was just like, oh man, I cannot, I'm too old for this.
Speaker 1 01:19:01 Yeah.
Speaker 2 01:19:01 I felt like I wasn't doing a good job really on either end of it.
Speaker 1 01:19:05 So now that you are a mental health counselor, is that your official
Speaker 2 01:19:09 Title? I'm I'm a mental health counselor. That is
Speaker 1 01:19:12 True. Do you, um, how do you, how do you get clients?
Speaker 2 01:19:19 Well, uh,
Speaker 1 01:19:21 Just go around to every fucked up musician you've ever met and say, I think you need my help. Uh,
Speaker 2 01:19:26 <laugh>, I've never tried that. <laugh>. Well maybe I should. Well, uh, in this pandemic and hopefully post pandemic period, uh, every therapist I know has been turning away people because
Speaker 1 01:19:42 Oh, you have to live through Zoom therapy.
Speaker 2 01:19:45 It's, it's all Zoom therapy and I've gotten used to it and I'm fine with it now. Are
Speaker 1 01:19:49 You still
Speaker 2 01:19:49 Doing? Yeah, I am. I am because, uh, I, I had an office, uh, that was, um, paying rent on, uh, for almost three years and not using the, cuz people didn't wanna come back. Right. My clients were like, no, this is great. I don't have to leave my house. I can wear sweatpants and or no pants. And
Speaker 1 01:20:09 Right.
Speaker 2 01:20:10 Uh, cuz I, I did, I did survey my, my clients to see if anybody really wanted to come back. And I thought, oh, I'll do, I'll do one day a week in the office or whatever. And basically nobody took me up on it. Do
Speaker 1 01:20:20 You judge them on their clothing? Or is that's not part of your training, I
Speaker 2 01:20:24 Can't tell you.
Speaker 1 01:20:26 That's right, that's right. Privilege.
Speaker 2 01:20:28 It's a business. And, and, and it's a se it's a professional secret. We don't, uh,
Speaker 1 01:20:32 Okay. Oh my God, I'm ringing. Oh, wow. Who's ringing?
Speaker 2 01:20:35 It's not me.
Speaker 1 01:20:38 Oh, it's me. Oh. Actually a call from another musician. Hilarious. Um, so where do you see, um, is it something you wanna do forever? Are you looking for an end game or do you think that it it's part of you now that you just want to keep doing?
Speaker 2 01:20:59 There's a part of me that wants to keep doing it cuz I really do enjoy the work. It's, uh, we were talking about the hang before and, uh, I would say about 75% of my, uh, caseload is other artists right now. Okay.
Speaker 1 01:21:17 Which is,
Speaker 2 01:21:18 I didn't really answer your question about how do you get clients, but mostly word of mouth and, uh, you know, recommendations from other therapists. And I have a website and, uh, you know, I don't know, I don't really know how how we do it,
Speaker 1 01:21:32 But what is, what is your website?
Speaker 2 01:21:34 My website?
Speaker 1 01:21:35 Oh, well, well, Lincoln, I'll I'll put information when Sure. When we post this.
Speaker 2 01:21:39 Um, uh, I would like to keep doing it for as long as I can on the one hand. Uh, also I'm 66 and, uh, it requires quite a bit of energy and focus as you might imagine. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so there are times when I think, oh, I'll do this for a limited time longer so I can then, you know, uh, not have to be so on top of my game. I can, you know, we are using the R word in in our household, uh, a little
Speaker 1 01:22:21 Bit. Yeah. It did rain some yesterday.
Speaker 2 01:22:23 <laugh>. Not that
Speaker 1 01:22:26 Oh, our word. See, I'm, so I just don't pick up on the I don't have the training You do.
Speaker 2 01:22:30 Uh, well yeah. That not,
Speaker 1 01:22:33 Yeah. Um, yeah. Well I was, don't
Speaker 2 01:22:34 Try this at home, whatever.
Speaker 1 01:22:36 Exactly. Whatever this is. But can you, I want imagine there's a balance between like, okay, if I quit, am I, am I abandoning now my regular clients? Well,
Speaker 2 01:22:46 Right. Or you don't just quit anyway. You, you prepare.
Speaker 1 01:22:50 Yeah. Do you, um, could you, is it something you can do part-time? Yeah,
Speaker 2 01:22:55 Yeah, definitely.
Speaker 1 01:22:57 You know, and, and cuz you can kind of set your schedule
Speaker 2 01:23:01 Right? I can. Yeah. And one of the things my wife and I have been talking about is, um, sort of letting, letting things clear out kind of by attrition, just not mm-hmm. <affirmative> not adding too many people to, you know, she's pretty much stopped taking new, new clients.
Speaker 1 01:23:17 Is she at a similar point in her career too, of like
Speaker 2 01:23:21 Yeah. Um, but, uh, I still take a client or two because,
Speaker 1 01:23:31 You know, I, money people are
Speaker 2 01:23:33 Interested. Well, money, money too, but we're, we're, we're doing okay with with that, that part of it. Thank goodness. Um,
Speaker 1 01:23:41 Very cool. I I, it's interesting in the storytelling in the book weaves this your path a little bit more than what we just talked about, so people should buy the book, but, um, it's, yeah, it's really compelling and I'm, I'm glad it's fulfilling for you. I I want to talk, uh, hypothetical though for kind of to end us here. Sure. Okay. So you, your entry entree into the world was as serious jazz cat.
Speaker 2 01:24:12 Yeah.
Speaker 1 01:24:13 If you could sort of like, in some universe, gather the gig of all eternity Oh, that, that somehow you would get to play in and not be judged on. Like, who's your starting lineup? Wow. Because most
Speaker 2 01:24:32 You're
Speaker 1 01:24:32 Talking about, I'm talking like, like if you could have like Miles Davis, you know, play or you know, col train or any of those guys Wow. Who is there a, um, a dream lineup that would just, or if you could sit and say, I'm gonna hire four guys and they're gonna play for me in my living room of the all-time greatest. Something like that. Wow. Who are those people that just floated your boat?
Speaker 2 01:24:57 Wow. That is a very tough question, Sean.
Speaker 1 01:25:01 I know. That's why I'm It's a hard hitting podcast. I do. That's
Speaker 2 01:25:04 Right. Yes. Uh, well, um, I think, uh, bill Evans would have to be one of them.
Speaker 1 01:25:13 Okay.
Speaker 2 01:25:14 Um,
Speaker 1 01:25:16 Piano.
Speaker 2 01:25:17 Piano.
Speaker 1 01:25:18 I knew that. Yeah.
Speaker 2 01:25:21 Oh boy. So many great drummers. Uh,
Speaker 1 01:25:26 No, I said about musicians. You did
Speaker 2 01:25:28 Kado. That's right. You weren't talking about people who'd like to hit things for a little.
Speaker 1 01:25:31 That's right. Well, I was, but
Speaker 2 01:25:32 Yeah. Uh, oh man.
Speaker 1 01:25:35 Were you guys like Monk and Coltrane? Is that any of those? Like were you a disciple of one the other or
Speaker 2 01:25:42 No, no. Uh, I, I love all those musicians. I think in terms of what feels closest to me as a player, uh, again, I would go with somebody like Bill Evans, uh, or Keith Jarret, somebody like, some people like that, or now Brad Medow, I dunno if you know about him, but he's,
Speaker 1 01:26:04 I'm not that hip, but yeah.
Speaker 2 01:26:06 Another sort of pianist in a similar vein, but, but working sort of in the, in the prime of his career now, I think, well other
Speaker 1 01:26:17 Musicians, it's, it's a scandal and a shame that you can't make a living in the United States of America, uh, if you're a world class jazz player.
Speaker 2 01:26:26 That's right. And it's been that way for basically forever.
Speaker 1 01:26:30 Yeah.
Speaker 2 01:26:30 Yeah. I mean, not, not in the forties when, when they're all the heyday of the big bands. Okay.
Speaker 1 01:26:35 But they're, they're done as far as I've heard the
Speaker 2 01:26:38 Forties are gone. Yeah. Even the fifties, maybe a little bit. Um,
Speaker 1 01:26:41 But can, can jazz cats still go to Europe and make a living? Well, uh, even that's living
Speaker 2 01:26:47 Sort of, I don't know. I mean, the people at the very top of the, of the game, um,
Speaker 1 01:26:53 They make a living because they're the top of the game.
Speaker 2 01:26:56 Right. You know, Herbie Hancock, people like, people like that. Uh, Branford Mar or Winton Marcells, you know, these people with the big names, they're, they're making a living. Um, but the number of like top artists who actually can tour and record and do all the things just minuscule. Yeah. Minuscule. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, uh, I'm going back to your question. So I really like, uh, this, um, saxophone player, um, whose name I'm not going to be able to remember, write this moment.
Speaker 1 01:27:36 Linda Van Dyke. Linda
Speaker 2 01:27:37 Van Dyke is great.
Speaker 1 01:27:38 She was my first guest. Yeah.
Speaker 2 01:27:40 But, okay. Yeah, I gotta listen to that. Um, I like, I really like Linda. She's great. Um,
Speaker 1 01:27:48 Well, I didn't mean to put you on the spot even though I put you on the spot, but Yeah.
Speaker 2 01:27:52 Well, the thing is, I mean, uh, there have been so many great players who I would've liked to have gotten to play with, and I talk about a few in the book that, uh, were sort of heroes of mine, uh, that I did get to play with a little bit. Um, yeah.
Speaker 1 01:28:10 Pretty, pretty amazing name dropping in that. There's some,
Speaker 2 01:28:14 There's a few, yeah.
Speaker 1 01:28:15 There's some heavyweights in there. It's
Speaker 2 01:28:16 Pretty cool. Yeah. But of course, I, I, I do believe, I, I hasten, I hasten, uh, dizzy Gillespie's death by, by my boneheaded, you know, performance with him.
Speaker 1 01:28:29 Yeah. You'll be on arrest right after this. We shall, we shall
Speaker 2 01:28:32 We shall say no more about
Speaker 1 01:28:33 That. And I think you also, didn't you kill Clark Terry?
Speaker 2 01:28:37 Uh, no. He tried to kill me. Kill you. He tried to kill me. Yeah. Okay. More, more like that. Yeah. Okay. Yeah.
Speaker 1 01:28:42 Read the book Kids Clark Terry. It's pretty great. Yeah. So anyhow, bill, it's been a thrill talking with you. Oh,
Speaker 2 01:28:49 Thank you so much, Sean.
Speaker 1 01:28:50 And we've just scratched the tip of the iceberg. Is that a mixed metaphor? Yes. Okay. Yeah. But there's a,
Speaker 2 01:28:57 Freud would have a field day with that
Speaker 1 01:28:59 Of course. You know, that. I wouldn't, I'm not trained. Yeah. But, um, it's been a pleasure. I really enjoyed the book. I've enjoyed having you as a friend and, uh, we miss you in the music world.
Speaker 2 01:29:10 Oh, thank you. That's very kind.
Speaker 1 01:29:12 And I'm gonna need to seek counseling to get over that.
Speaker 2 01:29:15 Yeah, well I, I can refer you to somebody. Exactly. Yeah.
Speaker 1 01:29:20 Well, that's it for the Season 2 premiere of Chicago Musician. I wanna thank my guest, Bill Harrison, and you can check out his latest incarnation [email protected]
. And I highly recommend his book, 'Making the Low Notes: A Life in Music', available for purchase everywhere June 6th. I'll provide links to that and more information at bestshawnstengel.com or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Until next time, I'm Shawn Stengel.
Speaker 2 01:29:54 Thank you, Shawn. I want to spread your link throughout all my socials.
Speaker 1 01:30:01 So that'll be 12 of us then.
Speaker 2 01:30:02 Yeah. Yeah, exactly.