A Year in LA

One year ago, to the day (and nearly to the hour, as of this writing), I arrived in sunny Los Angeles, nursing my overloaded Subaru Forester to its new home after an arduous three-day journey across the country. The months that followed were going to be difficult ones, as starting from scratch in a new city where nobody knows your name is never easy. But I jumped in as best I could and am still standing a year later.

Am I standing tall yet? Not really. To describe my current situation as a struggle is quite an understatement, but I never expected it to be easy and I will not quit. And in the midst of tribulation, I’ve been blessed to be a part of some very cool things.

I got to play with the Los Angeles Opera, I got to perform in the Disney Concert Hall where the LA Philharmonic plays, I got to perform in Tijuana with the voice of Spongebob, I’ve played trombone quartets (and cornhole!) semi-regularly with three LA legends, I got to record for Bootsy Collins, I got to record on a film soundtrack, I got to play a musical in the heart of Hollywood, I got to meet and jam with several world-renowned artists, I wrote a symphony, and I ate copious amounts of the best tacos in the world.

I also wrote a multi-movement trombone quartet based on IHOP menu items.

Truthfully, since I happened to arrive here on the 1st of a month, I kind of feel like September 1st is now my New Year’s Day. January 1st never meant too much to me since it falls in the middle of the scholastic year, but now it means even less. I’ve even had to think about it when people ask me how my year has been – a moment of hesitation occurs when I have to work out if they mean my year or just calendar year.

So what’s in store for year 2? So far not a lot, but that will hopefully change. I have been inexplicably getting some gigs playing principal trombone in orchestras, which is something I’ve never really done before. I played one last night in Laguna Beach (for the Pageant of the Masters) and I am playing another one with the Pasadena Symphony in a couple of weeks. Later on, I will be taking an audition for the bass trombone spot in the San Diego Symphony, a couple of albums I’m on will come out, and that should round out 2019. A lot of other things are in the works and 2020 is really up in the air, but if things line up the way they seem to be trending I’ll be in great shape.

Speaking of 2020, I’m not ready for that to be a real year.

When I was little, one of the things I did a lot was watch VHS tapes of a TV show called “Extreme Engineering” that my mom would record for me. Every episode was about an existing idea for some future megastructure, like a mile-high skyscraper or a vacuum tube train underneath the Atlantic Ocean or a huge bridge across the Strait of Gibraltar. Every feature would be explored with detailed CGI, and at the end of every episode a scenario would play out where the completed structure had to cope with some emergency. I mention all of this because in every episode the year of the scenario was 2020.

I watched those episodes countless times each, and since then my mind’s dictionary has defined “2020” as “the future”. To me, that year can only be in the future – it’s science fiction. For it to be the present (not to mention in a world in much worse shape than those programs portrayed) is not something I’m at all prepared for. Ten-year-old me would probably be shocked that I wasn’t an architect, as that’s what I wanted to be right up until I decided to major in music. I’m happy with that decision, but not happy that 2020 is four months away. Anyway, I digress.

I suppose with year 2 upon me I should set some goals. Goals are always a good thing and the few people who do keep up with this blog are welcome to hold me to them. So, without further ado, here are my tentative goals for 1 ALM (After LA Move):

  1. Don’t die or run out of money
  2. Play gigs more frequently, meet more people
  3. Play on at least one more film session
  4. Write another symphony
  5. Begin to thrive (rather than just survive)

The first goal is the easiest to understand, but possibly the hardest one to execute. Rent, gas, and pretty much everything (except street tacos) is very expensive in LA and it has been an uphill battle trying to stay afloat. Goal number two will help a lot with that. As is gigs have been very infrequent and often low (or no) paying, which in this town will cause your bank account to panic very quickly.

The second goal is easy enough to understand, especially as meeting more people is a good way to get more gigs. I just have to meet the right ones.

The third goal makes sense when you consider that although I really just want to make a good living with music however I can, the main reason I moved to LA was to try to be a session musician. I was fortunate enough to play on a film session last October and it was an awesome experience, so I think playing on one more is a reasonable goal.

The fourth goal is a lofty one but could be possible. I wrote the first one in a month (even though I essentially planned for a decade), so one year could be enough time especially considering I also wrote two symphony-sized pieces in college in much less than a year each.

The fifth goal is the most important of the five. It’s obviously essential to accomplish the first goal, but just surviving and barely squeaking out a living has been what I’ve been doing this year and I would very much prefer to not have to spend another year, or even another month, that way. To thrive is something else entirely; it means you no longer have to constantly worry if you’ll have enough money to pay rent each month. It means you can devote all your free time and energy to being creative, building relationships, and ultimately doing what it is you really want to be doing without having to worry about putting food on the table or gas in the car. And, crucially, that your trajectory is only pointing upwards.

We all strive to thrive. Let’s see if it will be my turn this year.