It’s important to practice while traveling. Whether it’s for a gig, an audition, a cross-country drive, or even vacation, musicians need to stay in shape and keep their skills sharp. There are some strategies that we can employ to stay on top of our game.
This summer I made my yearly round-trip drive to Boulder, Colorado, where I play in the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra. From my home in the Washington, DC area it takes about 1,700 miles and 25 hours of driving to reach Boulder. I make the drive in 2 long days.
I would typically take a flight for such a long distance, but because the festival is 6 weeks long, it’s nice to have a car to have the freedom to go hiking, see family/friends, etc.
If you are interested in a road trip (long or short), I have some tips and suggestions to make your next one great.
Yesterday, June 6th, 2016, the Fish and Wildlife Service released a final rule regarding the importation and exportation of ivory. More severe restrictions and a near total ban on elephant ivory domestic commercial trade have been put in place. This is great news for the elephants of the world and it will undoubtedly decrease the amount of illegal ivory trafficked into the US.
Musicians, led by The League of American Orchestras, have been able to join the conversation and have had their voices heard. There is still quite a bit of confusion about the whole topic with how it pertains to the traveling musician with ivory, so I’m here to clear up these issues. I just spoke with the Fish and Wildlife Service and here’s what I’ve learned.
I’ve already publicly stated my love for Southwest Airlines for auditions, but now I want to share one of the greatest tools of the frequent traveler’s trade: the Southwest Companion Pass.
What this wonderful little tool does is allows the holder to designate a companion and take them on any Southwest flight for free, regardless if you paid in cash, gift cards, or points. Well, almost free: you have to pay the tax on the fare (which is $5.60 each way for domestic flights). It’s valid for the remainder of the calendar year and the following year until December 31st. That means you could potentially hold it for two years. And the best part: with the strategy I outline, you’ll have around $3,500 worth of flights for free.
“Help! I think I have ivory on my instrument/bow! What do I do???”
This is a question I’ve been asked several times since the US Fish and Wildlife Service implemented rules dictating African elephant ivory importation last year. Don’t fret; if you have ivory, you have options! Ivory for musical instruments is most prevalent on older (around pre-1980s) string bows, guitars, bassoon bell rings, piano keys, and bagpipes, among others. First thing’s first: do you actually have ivory?
Is this ivory?
It’s fairly easy to distinguish ivory from plastic. Ivory has tiny cross-hatching lines called Schreger lines. Here is a picture of elephant ivory with clearly distinguishable Schreger lines:
Anatomy of a Free Audition
Ride Sharing Options
At the time of this audition, I was in Houston without a car, relying on Uber for transportation, so I was pretty comfortable with the app and the process. I had to get to/from the hall from the hotel a total of 4 times (twice both days I played). The cost was about $11 each way, but fortunately I had some Uber referral credits for free rides. To get your first ride for free sign up here (any ride up to $20 will be free and anything above that will have $20 deducted):
Use the promo code ubermusician while signing up for an account on your Android or iPhone. If you buddy up with a friend for the audition, you can catch an Uber from the airport to your hotel, refer your friend with your new referral code, they call an Uber car back to the airport, and you get a free ride for a future use. Win-win. Check out their list here to make sure that the city you’re traveling to has Uber. They are operating in almost every major US city and are really expanding worldwide (57 countries as of now).
Anatomy of a Free Audition
Usually I try to stay with friends or family—free is great, and make sure to thank your host with a gift!—but for this particular audition I didn’t know anyone in the area. Because of this I needed to book a hotel. I contacted a friend of mine who was also taking the audition and we decided to split a room. I enjoy sharing rooms because I feel it helps lighten the mood of the already tense audition and it’s nice to hang out with friends. From the four transferable hotel programs through Chase, I find that I get the most value out of Hyatt. Searching for hotels on the Hyatt website, I found that there were 3 in Indianapolis:
Anatomy of a Free Audition
You go to the musicalchairs website and see your dream job posted. You submit your perfectly polished résumé and wait for a response. Two weeks later you receive the email that you’re invited! You print out the audition repertoire list and start practicing several hours a day, but there’s still one caveat – how do you get to the audition without going broke? Here’s how I took an audition for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra a few months ago and paid a total of $11 on travel.
Welcome! I’ve read dozens of blogs and articles on how to prepare for auditions, but none on how to deal with the travel nuts and bolts of them. This blog is mainly geared towards musicians (auditioning or not), but can be beneficial to anyone who enjoys traveling as cheaply as possible. I’m tired of seeing people spend upwards of $1,000 on a single audition. I’ll explain how I’ve taken auditions on the other side of the country for $11 or how my wife and I took a week and a half long Hawaiian vacation for a few hundred dollars and a recent European vacation for practically free.
Our recent trip to Europe
I’ve helped several friends over the past year and a half travel for free and the comment I keep hearing is “you should really start a blog.” So here we are! I’ll also explain how to navigate the tricky new ivory travel restrictions, make sure your instrument is safe while travelling, and other hot topics. If you need some one-on-one help, check out the Plan My Trip! section above and I’’ll do everything that I can to help you take your next trip for as close to free as possible.
This is exciting and I’m looking forward to sharing everything I’ve learned!