Saxophonist John Doheny was born in Seattle Washington in 1953 but has spent much of his adult life in Canada, primarily in Vancouver and Toronto. After early experiences accompanying strippers in bars and cabarets he became a professional R&B sideman in the late 1970s, touring and recording with artists both prominent and obscure. In 1991 he returned to Vancouver and began a program of intense musical study, both in academe (Vancouver Community College, the University of British Columbia) and in the more informal area of performance. He asserts that "all human intercourse is either an opportunity to learn or to teach. Everything that I know about jazz performance (to the extent that I know anything at all) I owe to those players, teachers and students who have suffered to share the bandstand and the teaching studio with me." Since 2003, Mr. Doheny has been a permanent resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, but makes every effort to spend summers in Canada because "it's too damn hot down here then."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vacation (not).

I'm noticing a palpable slowdown in activity this time of year. People are harder to get hold of, or, if you can get hold of them, are more reluctant to commit to things. Apparently this is because of the Vacation.

Up until I started working at Tulane, my response to this would have been, "what is this 'vacation' of which you speak?" I've now come to understand that this means a period of time in which one does not work, and yet paychecks continue to be deposited in one's bank account. Many people actually leave home and check into a hotel somewhere (something I've always associated with work) during this period of idleness.

All kidding aside, I was 50 years old before I ever had a 'paid vacation.' Prior to that I'd certainly had times of no-work, but that was called being 'unemployed' and simply meant it was time to panic and start casting around for gigs or, if those were particularly thin on the ground, the dreaded 'day job,' usually some low-level scut-work thing that didn't require much in the way of commitment, like cab driving or bartending or day labor. Even when I was a high school band sub, I was paid on a per diem basis. If I wasn't working, I wasn't earning. Then, in late August of 2005, Tulane hired me as visiting professor of music under a one year contract. A week later, Katrina hit.

So, my first 'paid vacation' consisted of fleeing the greatest natural disaster and engineering failure in U.S. history, not exactly a low-stress holiday. But when I discovered (much to my surprise and delight) that Tulane had electronically deposited two months pay (my official hiring date was July 1st, 2005) into my bank account, it actually did soak up some of the worry. I had no idea whether our house was still standing or not (or whether it was submerged) but both Darlene and I still had jobs, and we even had a few bucks in the bank. I could take gigs on the basis of whether they were interesting and fullfilling, rather than just grabbing the best paying ones. It has been my experience that there is often a direct, inverse relationship between how much a gig pays and how interesting/fun it is.

Tulane, god bless 'em, kept it's faculty on full salary the whole four months we were gone. The next spring, I had an opportunity to take advantage of my first 'paid vacation' over the summer break.

I took a pass, instead using the break to tour personal projects, write new music, write articles for academic journals, and incubate schemes for expanding and improving the jazz performance studies department. I've continued to do these things every summer since, and quite frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way. Lying on the beach is overrated.

Currently, I'm spending time in my office practising, preparing music for two CDs (one with the faculty band the Professors of Pleasure, and one with bassist/composer Rob Kohler), preparing syllabi and course outlines for the fall semester, and conferring with Jesse Mcbride about who we'll be booking for the upcoming "Jazz at the Rat" series. More on this in my next post, and remember; idle hands are the Devil's tinsnips.