Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Even Steven

Anyone with more than one child knows what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about keeping everyone happy.  Making sure each child has the same number of presents under the tree at Christmas time.  Making sure that each child gets the same amount of new clothes when school starts, or for Easter, or for whatever happens to be upcoming.

Enter a band.  Now multiply the happiness or un-happiness by the number of people in the band.  (If there are kids involved, multiply it by the number of parents as well.)  The more members, the harder it is to keep everyone happy. 

The problem with equality in a band is that it is not truly measurable.  And a feeling of inequality of some sort is one of the main reasons a band splits up.  Although talent is certainly important to have a good band, a better measure of band success is actually in the personalities of the members rather than their sheer talent. 

Imagine trying to make sure every single person in the band gets to do the same number of things as another.  That would mean the bass player should take a break on every song.  Not really tasteful for a bluegrass band.  What about the emcee?  Does that account for anything?  You can't have everyone in the band doing the emcee work.  But does that equal singing a song?  Or taking a break?  How do you quantify that?  If one person plays more than one instrument, should all the members be allowed to play more than one instrument?  What about singing lead?  Do you split that equally among all the band members for every performance?  You are probably starting to get the picture.

Most everyone knows by now that The Chris Talley Trio lost its lead guitar player last year due to a brain tumor.  In fact, it will be one year from the end of this very month!  I held back on booking any gigs for 2010.  Although we all knew it would be a while before Bill was ready to play again, we thought he WOULD get better.  He passed away the day before he was to leave the hospital and go home.

Trying to replace Bill was out of the question.  Not only is it distasteful, it's not even possible!  After I decided I actually wanted to keep playing, I was faced with the decision of finding another band member.  Do you know what my main concern was?  It was finding someone with the right personality that could get along with the rest of us.  Finding talent was not my main goal.  There are lots of talented people.  I also did not want to have to TEACH someone.  I spend all day, every week, teaching.  My band is my fun time. 

I am very proud of the fact that the members of my band have always gotten along.  Always.  Despite the fact that the band has my own name in it, I am not the star.  No one is.  I took the lead from Hot Rize, one of my all-time favorite bands.  (Take a look at the excellent article about Hot Rize in the September 2010 Bluegrass Unlimited.  This very fact I'm talking about is prominantely mentioned in the article.)  Everyone in my band is good at what they do.   I make sure they all get to do what they are good at.  If we don't agree on something, we vote.  It's not like an "official" vote or anything.  I usually just ask what everyone thinks about something.  That means I have to play songs I don't like, in keys I don't want to play them in, for who knows how many times.  But that's okay.  So does everyone else!

1 comment:

Vielfrass said...


I sympathize. First off, in any band the balance is more like a mobile. Everyone has different weights, strengths and roles in the balance of the group.

Replacing a member of the team is also hard. Here at the college we use a committee structure. I have been impressed how it works. It took us 6 months to hire a new jazz/theory teacher. I am delighted with the results. Go for concensus with your group. Don't be afraid to take some time. Expect disagreements.

I do hope all works out for you.