This past weekend, a friend asked if I could sit in on keyboards for his band. I jumped at the opportunity! All I needed was the time, place and the list of potential songs (most of which I knew already) to prepare. For a musician, it is always our goal to play, and if possible, play in front of other people, besides the people in the band. The day of the gig, I realized that this was the first time in about 18 years that I will be playing in public with musicians that were not in my band. Oh, no! I realized that I was stepping outside my comfort zone, one that I had drawn around myself. Being able to rely on playing the keys is one thing. Would I gel with the other musicians? Would I be able to “play along” with them?
I realized there would be one skill that I would need to rely on most, one of the skills that we all have (to some degree), but forget to use at certain times – Communication. Whether used at home, at work or, at play, effective communication is important to our successes. In this case, I do not mean my ability to talk, per se, but using my ability to see and to listen. Seeing lets me know what song they want to play next, when songs start, when songs end and when a solo is “passed” to me. Listening lets me know where they are in the song, lets me know what chords they are playing (which I can also see form the guitarists fingers) and lets me improvise together. I was up for this personal challenge.
Through email, I reached out to the guitarist to make sure I had the correct versions of the songs, which included one transposition. When we were at the venue, I asked some last minute questions. Everyone in the band was friendly, helpful and encouraging. I was beginning to feel good about the gig. There was still a little nervousness before we got on stage. We all made eye contact, and then the “count” for the first song was given. In my head, I was thinking, “take a deep breath, relax…” still a little nervous. As the first notes were being played, a sense of calmness came over me. It ends up that the title of the first song summed up the feeling of playing, “How Sweet It Is.”