Falling Asleep Drumming

By January 13, 2016Music

I must’ve been about 21 years old. I’d had very little sleep, wasn’t eating well and was taking every musical opportunity that came my way – jazz gigs, experimental music, rock and latin gigs, musicals, jam sessions, etc.

Paris on the Platte

The gig was playing jazz at Paris on the Platte in Denver. The crowd was younger (high school/college age) and focused on drinking coffee, intellectual conversation and being counter-culture. I was in a fog. I don’t even remember who the other musicians were.

I do remember my head snapping up and waking out of a dream to realize that I had nodded off and I was still on stage playing the DRUMS! I quickly looked around but none of the other musicians were looking at me and no one in the crowd flinched. After my heart stopped pounding I realized no one was listening. Like, no one.

And no one cared.

I began to wonder why I was there.

It was a clarifying moment.

I was scared and disappointed that night because I thought I was there to play music that would help bring everyone together and transport us all to that “other dimension” which music can and I thought I had destroyed that chance. Turns out I was just hired to do background music haha!! And really it was an opportunity to practice my craft and gain life experience. I was putting in time toward those “10,000 hours” so that in the future I could be ready to help facilitate those special musical experiences when they did happen.  Seeing the situation for what it was and getting ahold of WHY I was there really helped.

There’s always the chance that someone’s listening, though 😉

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Dave Dougherty says:

    If I hadn’t experienced at least one similar night on stage I’d have trouble believing you could fall asleep and still play! When I was in college and was playing lots of club gigs and other gigs, I looked at each of those as if it were a rock concert and everyone was supposed to be listening to ME! I was often disappointed. As you said, understanding the WHY we are there is so important. For me it is struggle of ego to let go of expecations of what I will get out of it and what other people will think of ME when I play and focus on what I put it into the playing – the practice, the preparation, actively listening to the other musicians when I’m playing. Sometimes I experience that “other dimension” you mentioned and sometimes it is just background music 🙂

    • Jon Powers says:

      Thanks for reading Dave! Yes I continue to struggle with keeping pride at bay and trying not to focus on achieving glory! hahaha! It’s a tricky sometimes – can feel like you’re on a battlefield.

  • Gusty says:

    Hey Jon, I’m Listening! 🙂

  • I just had the same experience the last three nights (well…not the falling asleep part…but the rest of it). I played piano for 3 hours straight, three nights in a row, for an upscale, invite-only, open house. It was the debut introduction of some 2 million dollar condos downtown Denver.

    Upon getting hired, I was thrilled. Then I realized they only wanted me to play…not sing. This changed the repertoire ball-game, and out came the Fake Book for some disciplined practice time. I was fairly certain it would be a loud, background, non-listening experience… but here’s the thing about that… You still have to be prepared for it not to be.

    What did I learn? The first night was very loud and a bit of a grind to play for 3 hours and stay present. I left very tired. The second night, my hands started hurting, and I realized I could play a lot lighter on the fingers and turn up a little…and my playing became loose and fun…and the soloing sections got better. Some folks even came and sat on the couch, gave requests and enjoyed. The third night, time flew by. I had more than enough repertoire, energy left to spare, and I felt like a different player. I also got hired for an engagement party.

    My experience – I got better. Their experience – A nice vibe in the room, and I think some great success with pre-sales…which isn’t easy…especially at that price.

    Never underestimate the value of the energy created by live music… even when it is background.

    • Jon Powers says:

      Yes, the perspective switch! And as someone pointed out on my FaceBook page earlier – music is never wasted! Thank you for the reminder and congrats on the gigs!! 🙂

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