“Road Warrior Without An Expense Account”

Over the past several months Jason Heath, a professional gig bassist in the Chicago area, has been publishing a series of articles on his blog, doublebassblog.com, about what it’s really like to be a professional musician without a full time orchestra position. The series, entitled “Road Warrior Without An Expense Account” has been superb and it should be mandatory reading for every existing or aspiring orchestra manager…

Most of the managers I encounter, especially those from ROPA ensembles, who claim to understand what the life of their musicians is like don’t even come close. Even a number of managers who have music degrees don’t fully understand who their musicians really are. Yes, they have a much higher sense of the technical aspects of being a professional orchestral musician but they’ll never really understand without immersing themselves into the professional gig life for more than a year or two.

Fortunately, Jason is using the blogging platform to demonstrate just how useful a tool it really is be helping to help marginalize misunderstanding and lack of knowledge (otherwise known as ignorance). Regardless of how busy you are or how much you think you already know, I urge you to take the time to read through these articles. Those which I found especially relevant for managers are marked with an asterisk:

Part I – Adjunct University Teaching
Part II – Realities of Professional Freelancing*
Part III – The Rise and Fall of the Full-Time Orchestra
Part IV – Rising Tide, Shrinking Pool
Part V – Regional Orchestras*
Part VI – The Vicious Cycle*
Part VII – Private Teaching
Part VIII – Burnout*
Part IX – Rethinking Music Performance Degrees


About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

3 thoughts on ““Road Warrior Without An Expense Account””

  1. As a former bassist and current conductor/administrator, I know Jason to be an outstanding bassist and bass teacher as well as eloquent writer and person. I hope it is only a short time until he reaches his goal of a full time orchestra position.

Leave a Comment