HomeShort Month, Short Blog or How I Joined Rockapella

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Taking a little time out here from pounding away on my book-to-be about many of the funny/stupid/sad/outrageous things that have happened to me on my musical journey.  Sometimes, when I step back from my creative fervor and read some of the stuff I’ve written, I have a hard time believing it myself.  But any of you who have spent any time pursuing music as a career know that the twists and turns of fate, guided by those two universal constants, irony and paradox, can take us off in any direction at the drop of a pitch pipe.

Like auditioning for Rockapella, for instance.  On the freezing winter day the group was holding bass auditions, I did something extremely atypical for me.  I bought a copy of Backstage and read through the ads.  I saw one for a bass – “must have a low D” – it said. 

“Hmmm”, I thought.  “Piece of cake.  If a low D is all they want, I may as well give it a shot.  I’m not doing anything else this afternoon.”  

So I call the number in the ad, and this guy Sean answers the phone.  He grills me about my low notes, telling me that most of the guys who’ve showed up just think they’re basses and he’s tired of wasting time.  I assure him that I can sing low notes, and that, unlike some of the other hopefuls, I don’t have superstitions about brown shoes and I don’t hide a week’s worth of spoiled takeout food under my bed and yes, I’m a musician.  

I get to the appointed place at the appointed time, and the guy who answers the door is all cheekbones and poodle hair and braids.  “Oh geez” I think.  “Just a stupid waste of time with some weirdo”.  He introduces himself and his compadre, a guy named “L” or something.  They usher me into a room that’s nearly completely devoid of furniture or anything else but a pitch pipe, and ask me to sing descending scales.  I get to around a low E, and this fellow “L” starts laughing.  Not quietly giggling, but real hahaha.  Mystified, I stop and ask him what’s so funny.  “Nothing” he says.  “I’ve just never heard anything quite like that.”  Yeah, right.  Then we do a little singing together, they thank me, and I leave, scratching my head and wondering why I bothered.

Then I don’t hear from them for months.  The next time I run into this guy Sean, it’s on the street, a chance encounter, if you believe in chance.  He immediately apologizes for not calling me earlier, and tells me that they’re really interested in me.  Uh huh.  

Another few months go by.  It’s midsummer, and I’m in the middle of some wacky experimental opera in Minnesota. I get a call from Sean.  They want me in the group.  He prevaricates, telling me that it’s a minimal commitment.  I give a tentative yes, and a few days later I receive a thick envelope of charts.  They’re all boshoppers and Christmas stuff.  I take one shuffle through the pile, put it back in the envelope and send it back to them with a ‘thanks but no thanks’ note, wishing them luck.  I don’t feel like learning all that music just so I can slap on a bow tie and serenade drunks at cocktail parties.  

I get another call from Sean after he gets back the music.  Sean is a very accomplished wheedler.  I give in, with great misgivings that last until I hear the group in person, at which point I think “Hey, that’s a pretty cool sound.  I think this might get somewhere.”

And it did. But if I had ignored that ad…

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