Do you do your homework?

My little sister is still in middle school, and was telling me all about her homework. I was about to show off by telling her that I didn't have homework, but then I realized that I indeed do have homework.

Except that part of my homework is to figure out by myself what my homework is.

Here are the five most common homework for freelancers, besides the obvious practicing.
          1. Scheduling: this is one of those things that should be straight forward but that becomes incredibly complicated when you go from place to place and from gig to gig, and you add things into your load when you're not able to write it down immediately (when walking to your car, driving your car, carrying a million scores, etc).

            Another kind of scheduling homework happens if you work in theatre. Things run more smoothly when I give the stage manager a schedule of how much time I need for each song and with which cast member.

            To do so takes me a good two to three hours, because it involves looking up the cast to know how much of the show they already know, looking at the music in depth to locate trouble spots, and make the information as clear as possible (title of the song, number of the song, time needed for first rehearsal, time needed for review, who needs to come in when) so that the stage manager can make his magic and incorporate your ideal schedule into the bigger rehearsal scheme of the rehearsal process. If you want more details on how to do this, there it is.

          2. Find and gather music: If you are ever in charge of putting together a recital or a cabaret show, you know that the difficulty lies in the fact that you have to look at what seems like a billion pieces before deciding on the few that will make it.

            Comes a point where most of it is picked, but you may not have the right arrangement, or the right key, or not all of the parts. This is just at that particular instant that people usually think that they are done putting the music together, when indeed the next step of actually finding the right key, arrangement and parts matters the most.

            Otherwise, the rehearsal process will start and nobody will have a clear picture of what's going on, and who is meant to do what when, and in which key, which arrangement you have in mind. Don't confuse your troops now!

          3. Copy, tape and label music: Unfortunately this is such a daily homework for musicians! Copying and taping music is a never-ending, tedious and time consuming thing to do, but the consequences of not doing so are much too great to postpone doing it: being the one everyone is waiting on to start rehearsing because you can't find the piece, reading from a printed score which closes itself at every bar, sheets of untaped copied music falling on the floor just when the hardest technical spot is coming, etc.

          4. Reply to emails: Easier said than done when you start rehearsals at 9am, teach all afternoon, and go to evening rehearsals during the week, rehearse all days doing the weekend and play shows at nights!

            Meanwhile it seems as if the rest of the world is sitting behind a desk where they get to email and make phone calls all day long, and don't seem to understand that when you say you can't call, it is literally that you can not be playing your instrument, hold a phone and talk all at the same time.

            But anyways, while I do understand how hard replying to people can be, you won't be considered professional if you don't and worst, you might actually loose gigs if you don't reply within 24-48 hours. One word: IPhone (or Droid or Blackberry). Get one. And yes, do reply to the offers you can NOT make as well, and do include recommendations of fellow musicians along.

          5. Type handout: again, this is one of those boring annoying chores that doesn't seem crucial at first glance. So what if I don't type the cuts in this show for the musicians, I can just tell them what the cuts are! Well yes, but it will have taken you 10 min for every single musician to have gotten it (and by that I mean, they will all have gotten it right away, except for that one who will remain confuse fno matter how many times you explain it), when a simple handout would have done the trick in 2.

            If you have students and they need directions to the hall for their semester's recital, they will be late or be a no-show if you decided to briefly tell the parents where it was instead of having printed a clear map with an address on it. Simple things do make things simpler!
             So, get on to your homework now! The sooner you'll do it the sooner you'll be done with it!

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