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“I’ll talk to my team about it” – business people

“Teamwork; Together Everyone Achieves More” – motivational posters

“Teamwork – Tips for Success” – countless business seminars

“There’s no ‘I’ in teamwork – cliche to end all cliches

“It was a team effort” – winner of any sporting event

There is seemingly no end to the ways “teamwork” can be used and abused in our society today. There’s something about it that just sounds insincere to me at times, almost like it’s trying to convey a sense of togetherness between individuals who really don’t care about being a cohesive “team”.

But it’s different in the music world, at least in my experience. For instance, it’s never considered a team, but rather, a band (duo, trio, quartet, orchestra, etc). Of course, performers/bands who have become very successful frequently have support people and I’ve seen them referred to as a “team” (marketing, publicists, managers, etc.). But for most musicians they are in a band.

I’m 13 years old, riding the DeCamp Bus Lines 32 route from Nutley NJ to Penn Station in NYC, carrying a Kay M1 double bass in a brown-ish tan canvas case twice a week, on my way to The Juilliard School of Music for evening classes. There is no “team” anywhere in sight, just me and my bass. To be honest, I almost always saw a shoe-shine guy in Penn Station who would call out, “Your clothes look neat, but what about them feet?” as I passed by. I never thought of him as being part of my team though.

I started to play in nightclubs when I was still 14, but quickly approaching 15 years old. An all black blues band needed a bass player. I met them in a small, dirty, dingy, smelly recording studio (where I was hired as a runner, wrapping microphone wires and helping to lug recording equipment) and their bass player didn’t show up after being arrested. I played well enough to get the gig, so I began working in night clubs several times a month … Mom would drop me off at 9:00 pm in Newark, NJ, and Dad would pick me up at 2:00 am after the gig. Then, depending on the day of the week, I would go home, catch a few hours sleep, go to high school classes all day, then sometimes hop on the DeCamp 32 bus to go to night classes in the city.

I didn’t think there was anything strange about any of it, it was just the way it was at the time.

I guess, in retrospect, Mom & Dad were on my “team” through it all, as were the guys in the band who looked out for me, a young know-nothing kid learning to play the blues. And, I guess, as teammates they all did a pretty good job watching out for the very wet-behind-the-ears kid that I was back then.

For the next 50+ years I was fully immersed in the music world, with some years quite successful and lucrative and others exactly the opposite. I had to supplement my music income with “day gig” money on more than one occasion, and in the years approaching my retirement, it was more day gig than music at times.

During those 50+ years I played with countless musicians in countless bands, and at no time were any of them considered teammates. They were friends, band mates, bosses, leaders, competition, and lots of other adjectives, but never once teammates.

Now, the odd thing for me is that at this time in my life, 71 rapidly approaching 72 years old, my current music situation is a jazz trio comprised of keyboards, drums and bass. That’s not unusual for me in and of itself, I’ve been in many trio situations over these years. But this is the first time in a very long time I’ve been in a band that actually did act as a “team” by current definition.

Interestingly, these guys are absolutely band mates and definitely very good friends. They are also very, very good musicians, and I think it’s a combination of talent, friendship and respect that makes us work so well together … as a team, in fact. Now, to be completely honest, I’ve never once thought of them as my “team”, they’re just my mates in our little local North Georgia jazz trio.

The situation right now is that my trio REALLY DOES think as a team when we play. No one in the trio is trying to show off their blazing skills as a musician (even though everyone does, indeed, have blazing skills). The band thinks as a unit, everyone listens to the other band mates, we all work together to put on a professional presentation. And with each performance the band sounds better and better.

I’ll never refer to my trio as a team, but it sure is interesting to realize that’s exactly what we are. At any rate, whatever anyone wants to call it, I’m sure glad to be able to be a part of it!!!

1 comments on “Teamwork”

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