Prada blue jeans: I am flying across the country from Miami to California, and a man comes down the aisle wearing Prada blue jeans. They’re blue, faded, a bit worn; they look comfortable but not stylish. They are average, run-of-the-mill blue jeans. So the question becomes, why Prada? Are they better? Blue jeanier? Is it a status symbol? If so, what is the status that it symbolizes? Right now I am more inclined to think it portrays foolishness more than anything. You have to be wondering why I am writing about blue jeans. In fact, I am wondering myself, but I can’t tell you that. I think the reason that it comes to mind has to do with how we use our resources. Do not panic, this isn’t some random environmental rant, but rather, a common-sense tip for a life in music.
Playing the trumpet is not likely going to make you rich – newsflash – but if you work hard and sacrifice yourself, you will find a reward, and you will be able to support yourself. I make no promises about others, but you can support yourself. Did I mention that you have to sacrifice yourself? Bury yourself is more like it. What about the Prada Jeans?
What do you need in life? I had a student tell me once that he wanted to perform, but that he really needed to make at least $300,000 per year. Swallow. Okay, then perhaps, just perhaps, playing classical trumpet is not his calling. There are limits. We can only expect so much. What do you need in life? Look around you. How did you spend your holiday season this year? How was it all paid for? If you are trying to make a living playing music, then you are laughing right now. You know damn well that the futon in your room was paid for by the 4 weddings you did on a single Saturday last June. Before the futon there was the beanbag chair; stained. If you are living at your parents’ house and want to play the trumpet for a living, take another look around. Can you provide what you want by playing the trumpet? How do you like beanbag chairs? Do you know that you can flatten them into giant round disks, push them together, and make a bed? Well, you can. What about the Prada jeans?
I grew up in Texas and have lived in Sacramento, San Francisco, Chicago, and now Miami. I have never chosen where I live. I have gone where the attractive jobs have been, and I have been fortunate to have them. You don’t pick them; they pick you. Have you ever driven a U-Haul truck? It wouldn’t hurt to get some practice. I have logged over 7,000 miles in one. Music is not glorious. As you probably know, I won the queen mother of all trumpet auditions. I was the vaunted successor to the legendary Bud Herseth. If you read some of the trumpet chat sites after I won that job, you would have thought that the mayor of Chicago himself would be sending a limo to pick me up and take me to the concert hall, where the audience would be waiting with bated breath to hear my dulcet tones. After I left, you could have read the same sites and swear that every one in Chicago spat whenever they heard my name. The truth is, basically nobody cared what I did. Trumpet players care, and that’s about it. I would finish a concert, walk out to the train platform and stand waiting for the train like everyone else: wind biting holes in my clothes, tears frozen to my cheeks. My other transportation option was to drop $400 per month to park the car and wait in the carbon-monoxide-stuffed parking garage for half an hour after the concert, trying to get out. Welcome to the most prestigious trumpet job in the world. Don’t get me wrong; it is a great job, and I have many fond memories of playing in that orchestra. I have other memories too, but it is best not to go there. What about the Prada jeans?
Playing the trumpet for a living can be an incredibly fulfilling, interesting, adventurous way to spend a life. It can also be humiliating, frustrating, frightening, and painful. It is not glorious. If you are playing so that you will become famous, stop practicing and go do something that more people care about. The general population doesn’t care about trumpet players. You should play the trumpet for a living if you simply can’t envision doing anything else; if the feeling of playing just can’t be described well enough; if you enjoy the trumpet and music for their own sake, not for any perceived reward. If, on the other hand, this is something that you enjoy only because people praise you for it, then you might want to look at other options. You will get more praise doing almost anything else. What about the Prada jeans?
Prada jeans are not for trumpet players. That is, unless they belonged to someone you know, or you bought them at a second hand store, or you stole them. But that’s okay. They’re too expensive, they’re baggy in the butt, and they look worse than my 5 year old, $30 Levi’s; a lot worse actually. You don’t need them. Your money can be spent on other things that can help you make a go of this utterly fascinating profession. Did I mention that you can put two beanbag chairs flat on the ground, like a pancake, and make a bed? Well you can. And you can probably get both beanbag chairs for less than those Prada jeans. As a friend of mine used to say, it’s hardly a brainer at all.