New York City is great. It’s full of culture, opportunities, and life. It’s a place that will test your resolve, test your wallet, and test your peace of mind. It’s where Jazz musicians have been coming to hone their craft for most of the 20th century. The history is here, the opportunities for gigs and work are here. When you travel the world and say, “I’m from New York”, you get automatic respect from anyone and everyone in the international Jazz community because it is a badge of authority, of courage even. If you’re a Jazz musician from New York you have authority.
Yet, I’m not sure New York is doing Jazz musicians any favors. In a recent article for the Observer, Matthew Kassell notes that many music venues, not only Jazz related, are closing their doors. That will come as no surprise to most working musicians. In my small realm of the NY music scene I saw two of my favorite places to play close within a few months of eachother just last year: Silver Lining and Sofia’s. But even as more clubs close, I see another problem silently creeping up on us.
There’s no space to work on our craft.
Before I moved to New York I was practicing up to 10 hours a day (or I should say, a night, since most of my practice was nocturnal) and when I wasn’t practicing I was rehearsing with my band, or just jamming with fellow musicians. I would have people over all the time to learn tunes and listen to music. Since moving to New York those experiences have diminished severely.
I don’t have a rehearsal space where I can practice, I practice at home; which means I can only practice at certain times of the day when I’m not disturbing my neighbors. I can’t have sessions in my place because of the noise. That means I have to rent a space for rehearsals at around $40 an hour, which means that rehearsals which once could be had just for fun and to play, have to be efficient and controlled since every note is on my dime.
These problems could be said to be mere inconveniences compared to many musicians who can’t practice in their home at all, or who simply can’t practice because they are too busy working a day job to pay their rent.
Working on our craft should be a daily pursuit, a pursuit we can enjoy. New York City’s high cost of living, rapidly closing venues, and lack of actual space to live are making it harder and harder on all of us. I see friends moving to Los Angeles, Nashville, Chicago, Austin TX, etc., to pursue their music dreams and still I stay, because against all odds New York City still is the home of Jazz. But for how long?
Let me know what you think and how you handle these issues in the comments. Thanks for reading!