I’m a big fan of the late Dan Fogelberg. When I was a much younger man, Dan had a string of hits, among them “Same Auld Lang Syne” and “Leader of the Band”—my personal favorite. I loved his well-crafted lyrics, his multi-instrumental versatility and his quest for excellence when he hit the studio and the stage.
When Dan was an art student at the University of Illinois, he played coffee houses and bars at night. While doing so, he was discovered by a local booking agent, Irving Azoff. Azoff managed to get Dan a record deal and eventually sent him to Nashville to prepare to record his debut album Home Free.
During this time in Nashville, Dan was able to get a lot of work playing sessions as a studio musician. Years later he reflected on his time as a young studio musician playing with older, established session guys, “I was only 21 years old and I was part of the band, these maniacs who were amazingly good players. These guys were much better than me, and they pulled me up to their level.”
Numerous times over the past seven years, I have played guitar in the pit band of local musical theatre productions for some great shows, among them “The Pajama Game” and “Damn Yankees”. Last year, I was part of the production of the hilarious and macabre show, “Little Shop of Horrors.”
These kinds of gigs force me to grow as a musician. Broadway musicals are often fast-paced, with many numbers in cut (2/4) time. The music is always challenging and sophisticated so it gives one’s sight-reading quite a workout. I remember playing through one Gershwin overture in particular, four minutes long, which contained over one hundred different chords (from the musical Crazy For You). It’s not easy work and sometimes quite stressful. But I grow. My colleagues and the music itself pull me up to another level.
What kinds of environments do you regularly put yourself in that challenge you and help you grow? Do you work with colleagues, both at your regular job and at your hobbies, who pull you up to a higher level? And do you help to push others on to success, that they might discover veins of talent and creativity they didn’t know they have?