I think that down deep I always knew that telling ‘tales out of school’ like I do each week on the blog would eventually come back to bite me where the sun don’t shine. Like the code of silence found among musicians (at least until the Penn & Teller era!), most musicians realize that they shouldn’t tell every salacious detail about what happens behind the scenes of a performance, and eventually the karmic balance would come back to haunt me. An unspoken covenant therefore exists among ensemble members about not revealing too much about how things actually went. We don’t walk out of a performance and tell audience members how crappy something sounded or how the conductor completely blew a particular passage. We’re performers, after all, and much like magicians, we shouldn’t reveal all our secrets!
The big problem with writing about wacky things that happen on gigs is that I’m still playing the gigs that that I’m describing! After posting a story about ensemble x, y, or z, I approach the next event with that group with a certain amount of trepidation. Did anybody stumble upon the story? Did (heaven forbid) the conductor chance upon it? Was I going to be tarred and feathered as I unpacked my instrument?
While I was able to basically escape local notice on the blog (few musicians in groups I played in even knew that I was doing this kind of tell-all writing), thanks to my feature in International Musician, mention in the New Yorker, and other such attention, a large percentage of folks I play with now do know that I’m doing behind-the-scenes blogging, watching from the wings of the stage, just waiting for something to backfire and provide story fodder for the blog.
I now have a lot of people come up to me and say, “Seriously, dude–not for the blog. OK?” before telling me the exact sort of thing that I would love to blog about!
On the other hand, a lot more people come up to me and say, “Nice blog! Have I got a story for you! Three squirrels got into this cello case…..”
I learned after writing about a dozen stories that maybe I should keep the folks I’m writing about in these tales anonymous. One very practical reason for doings this (aside from simply not directly embarrassing someone) is that, due to the popularity of this blog, if I write about an individual or group, that story will come up right next to (sometimes before) the website for that person or group! Folks searching for the West Evanston Chamber Orchestra (this ensemble doesn’t exist… though you’ll get a hit for it in Google now thanks to this blog post!) will get my “heh heh, the flute player played like a monkey on crack” post before any official information about the ensemble. I’m not evil, and I don’t ant to embarrass people without good cause, so keeping things vague is a good course of action for someone in my position.
Only a little surface digging, however, will often reveal what ensemble or individual I’m blogging about. I’m therefore still a little nervous when I next run into the subjects of my blogging, and though I don’ need anybody’s permission to blog about them (especially in the ‘safe’ way earlier described), it all goes back to that musician’s covenant. I can’t help like I’m breaking that covenant just a little (or a lot!) when I write a story about this kind of stuff….not that I’m planning on quitting anytime soon!
A musician that I “featured” in a less-than-flattering story recently got in touch with me, expressing enthusiasm at my blog after discovering it through the International Musician feature.
“I can’t wait to start digging into the site and reading all your stories!”, this person said.
I grinned uneasily, knowing that I would be soon getting a much less friendly phone call after my little story was inevitably discovered (it’s linked on the front page after all…not that I’m telling with one in this post. That would only incriminate me more!).