Virtual Trombonist

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A day in the life of a touring musician

  As many of you know, I'm currently out on the road with the U.S. Marine Band on our annual month long tour.  We left Washington, DC on September 15 and will play 29 concerts over the course of the 31 day period.  A number of people have asked, or been curious, about various logistical issues that being on the road brings, so I thought I'd share a bit about what goes in to a typical day on our tour!

First of all, my single biggest challenge is to play at the highest level possible over the course of the entire tour. This includes the period of rehearsals that we had prior to departing. I spent a good amount of time this year getting in strong playing shape for the rehearsal period. As I get older, one of the worst positions to be in is to start tour not quite in shape. The days of being able to "rehearse myself in to shape" are largely over. Also, after witnessing a number of colleagues and aquaintances undergo sometimes career-ending injury as brass players, I have become much more careful and thoughtful in regards to my own playing health. 

The number one thing I do every day is to warm up. Period. My warmup on tour is super easy.  I start the day with soft, easy Remington long tones, and I don't play louder than mezzo-piano for the first few minutes of the warmup. I then progress through my regular warmup routine, still keeping the volume low. I spend an extra amount of time on articulation and response exercises.  I have found that repeated hard playing, and the fatigue that causes, can make articulation and flexibility difficult. This is also a good habit the day after ANY difficult playing situation.  Many days, after long playing commitments or playing outside in extreme weather, I need the same approach to keep things healthy. 

So, after the warmup and playing maintenance, comes the regular tour routine of finding food (not getting loaded up on sodium is difficult!), bus rides every afternoon, then checking in to a new hotel every day.  I usually try to get some exercise in either first thing in the morning, or following the afternoon bus ride.  If there's a good place to run in either location, I'll take advantage of the better scenery to schedule my exercise.

Following exercise, bus rides, and warming up, I have a routine before the evening concerts as well. I usually make a good cup of coffee about an hour before the bus leaves for the concert, iron dress clothes, maybe play a little more, then get on the bus. I try to take advantage of the hard work done by our awesome audio engineers, and take a listen to recent concert recordings on the way to the show.  Jeff Higgs is our engineer out on the road this year, and we are incredibly fortunate to have every rehearsal and concert recorded, mastered, and posted on line for us to listen to as needed. 

The marines of our stage crew and audio lab work amazingly hard on the road every day, loading all our gear in and out of each concert site, recording, running live sound, and archiving all that audio and video. 

I hope that gives you a little bit of insight into the things that make tour work for me! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.  Thanks for reading, and I hope to see or hear from you soon!

Yours virtually,

Chris

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