First off, as a classically trained flutist, I grew up listening to this guy:
And he is pretty amazing, but as time passed, after I'd spent years and years learning the technique and repetoire -- and after I had more or less given up on the possibility of a career as a musician, I began to expand my musical horizons.
Notably, I joined a bunch of musically inclined members of my grad school cohort who got together now and then for "hootenanies." We had vocals, guitars, bass, occasionally drums, and me, and we'd jam out on bad renditions of Bob Dylan songs and similarly inspired folk rock classics, which got louder, crappier, and more fun the drunker we got -- all taking place late into the night in the decrepit basement designated by the English department as the grad student lounge and redesignated by us as "The Happiest Place on Earth" (yes, there really was a sign on the door, near the pile of cigarette butts, that said that).
Anyhoo, besides being a useful outlet for venting grad school frustrations, I learned through my hootenany years, something about how to improvise. After all the rigors of my classical training, it was so refreshing to play music we were essentially creating together in the moment. Even though we played mostly covers, I didn't know them -- and most didn't have flute parts anyway. I'd just play by ear and invent as we went along. You know how you always tell your students in writing or language classes how they have to learn the rules before they can break them? It's true in music, too. My classical training gave me the technique I needed to do this well, to play "outside the box," and to make music with anyone, anywhere. As much satisfaction as I got from the challgenges of learning the classical repetoire, nothing matches the sheer pleasure of making music in the moment with your friends and for your friends -- and, well, just plain rocking out, like this guy, my new flute hero, does:
(Seriously, he is the master of flute rock -- check out his other stuff, if you don't know it!)
Flash forward to this weekend (there's much of Recent's musical history intervening, but you've got enough back story for the moment). Today I had the opportunity to play a studio gig, something I haven't done in a really long time (and never under these circumstances). One of my current bandmates invited me to a state-of-the-art recording session. A folk rock group needed flute on one track. I'd never heard the song before, never met any of the other musicians (except my bandmate), never heard their stuff, but I showed up, listened while they finished laying down some of the other parts, and then just jumped in and did my thing. I nailed it in one take, all improv! We did a few more, just for variety, to see what would work best with the final vocals, and then we shook hands and parted ways, me with $50 for less than an hour's
I'd trade my Ph.D. for the opportunity to make my living as a musician.
Who knows what the future may bring?