I recently did an interview with the NYC sax master who’s worked with Steely Dan, Buddy Rich, and 14 albums-worth of his own groups, Walt Weiskopf. One interesting story Walt told me was how he attained his dream of getting into the Buddy Rich band.
Apparently, Walt would go to the band’s gigs and meet all of the musicians. He would also mention to folks that if the need arose for another sax player, he would love to jump in. After a bit of persistence, the opportunity arose and Walt found himself in Buddy’s sax section.
Well, the lesson here is obvious. One of the things that few music schools bother to teach you is how to make connections outside of the school’s music program. To connect with musicians who don’t know you from Adam, it often takes more than just asking a friend to put in a good word, sending off an email, or even making a phone call. You have to show your face at their shows and events, and build an organic human connection.
Years ago, I was looking to pick up gigs playing with my electronic dance/jazz project. Without a doubt, the months where I was out on the town a few nights a week making face-to-face connections with club promoters and supporting their events was the busiest time in my gig schedule.
We all work with the people we like and are comfortable being around, so be one of those people to the folks you want to associate yourself with. Show your face, become a known quantity, and if you can actually play, you’ll find your career taking off faster that you might think.