DIAL A PRAYER
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For decades, my life as a working musician was a search for the next gig. My mindset told me I needed all the gigs I could get in order to survive. It didn’t matter how much it paid; of course, I liked the higher paying ones better. I believed that next gig would somehow make my life okay. Getting a gig became a constant source of anxiety, an unstoppable mind dance. Even my tour in Japan and the Philippines with the Platters ended with me believing I had to start over and that I would never be successful! After that tour, about twenty years ago, depression became my unwanted truth.
In this state of catatonic, anxious and debilitating depression, I could not even hold a conversation; my calendar was empty and I couldn’t figure out how to fill it up again. I found myself alone and in darkness like when I was in my late teens and early twenties. All I felt like doing was sleeping. I was drowning in this horrible state. Something inside told me that I had to do something to get out of it. I joined AIMP (Association of Independent Music Producers) to force myself to join the monthly lunch meeting at a House of Blues private room. Going there not only forced me to talk to people - there were ten to a table so I had no choice but to stay if I wanted to eat lunch - I affirmed my intention to be the composer and prepare my music. I decided to be “on the map”.
Not long after, I was asked to rehearsal pianist for a new musical. The rehearsals were way out in Montrose, so I had plenty of time to contemplate, meditate and think. One night, as I drove to the rehearsal, I got the idea that once my Mom passed, I could use the inheritance to rent a studio somewhere. On the return home, this voice in my head told me I could simply take out a small business loan and do it now. I didn’t have to wait.
I found a wonderful space behind one of those chic “Restaurant Row” places on La Cienega. The rental price was affordable. After DIY painting and new carpet, I moved in. After a while, clients were hiring me to provide various services like accompaniment, arranging songs for live performance, recording sessions, etc. I was no longer depressed; now I was back to my old struggling attitude with all the trappings: I’m never going to make it, I’m not good enough, etc. Crazy thoughts? I’ll say!
In 2007, the economy became depressed. My wife encouraged me to keep at it; we would make things work. The Unity church where I was pianist lost its lease, so I lost my only steady gig at the time. Fortunately, Ahiah CSL hired me. I had substituted for their pianist and the minister and his wife wanted me whenever they could get me. The first thing I did was call
Ahiah. I began that Sunday! Around the same time, I took a gig singing and playing piano once a week at a dive bar in Covina, and another at an Italian restaurant in Downey. With my position as music director at Ahiah, I now had three steady weekly gigs. As a bonus, I got to take dinner home from the Italian restaurant. Somehow, we managed to make ends meet. It was some hard times, but we were okay. Another bonus: I took the Foundations class at Ahiah as I really liked what the ministers said at the Sunday services. Besides the gigs, I had accumulated some steady clients at my studio by then.
After a couple years, I was offered a two week tour with a well-known R@B band. The money was okay, but not great. I would have to drive my older Jeep Cherokee through the deserts of California, Nevada and Arizona, a risky proposition. What if I got stranded? I leaned towards taking the gig, but told the bandleader I would let him know next day. One of the things I learned at the Foundations class was that it was ok to take some time before an important decision like going on tour. He was ok with that. Boy was I glad I waited. Next day one of my clients, an entertainer/actress showed up at my studio in despair, saying that the pianist at an upcoming show had been fired by the producer and she did not know how she was going to be able to do the performance. I suggested she call the producer and give him my name as a pianist - at this point I had no idea what or where the show was. That night, I sent my stuff to the producer, somehow knowing that he would call me the next day with good news. Sure enough, when I answered the phone in the morning, his words were: “You’re at the top of the class. The gig is yours if you want it. The dress rehearsal is tomorrow and the first show is the next day”.
The rehearsal was at a fancy West Hollywood bar on Sunset Blvd. The place was full of people, most of them rehearsing and/or auditioning to be in the singer showcase the next night at House of Blues, the place that helped me get out of my depression. As the new music director, I quickly put a trio together to back up singers at the showcase. I declined the R@B band tour. I never looked back. By the next week, there was a line of people waiting to rehearse with me for the upcoming show. I was making so much money, the producer made me give him a percentage of my rehearsal income. Life was better than ever and I began to thing the Ahiah gig was not a gig anymore. It had become much more. When I began at Ahiah, it was a gig. It became so much more, that I no longer thought of it as a gig. In fact, when the ministers and several practitioners suggested that I become a Practitioner, I did just that.
Perhaps the idea of something being a “gig” is just another external belief by others about someone else having the gig or not. It’s just an empty word. My relationship with Ahiah began when I was hired as a musician. It was work for pay. There were no other obligations. Fifteen years later, it is no longer a gig in that sense, nor is it that which I thought would solve all my struggles. I have learned to know there is no perfect gig that can magically transform my life. When I opened myself to the idea of our abundant universe, opportunities appeared around every corner; my life filled with clients, songs, performances and music.