Careers in Jazz
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Jazz Classes, in Detail

Working Wives*

Jazz musicians with working wives may be nearly as fortunate as the Silver Spoons, and freed to lead similarly privileged lifestyles.  Or they may discover over time that their jazz career and the terms of their marital relationship are virtually incompatible.  It all depends on a complex formula that charts the timing of an artist’s marriage against the progress of his career to that point.  The results of this equation can be distilled into two subsets, with highly divergent outcomes.

A jazz artist who marries young, when his bride shares his delusion that he might become a Chosen One, eventually develops an inevitable air of failure and defeat.  His once idealistic wife, hardened by the burden of becoming the family provider, constantly reminds him that his career choice has proven to be a selfish indulgence.  Though she once bought into the jazz community’s inflated sense of self-importance, she quickly loses interest in her husband’s gigs, considering them—as does the rest of the outside world— trivial and irrelevant.  Forced to carry his weight, he becomes unavailable for rehearsals, instead preparing family meals or driving his kids to soccer games.  He may cancel gigs at the last minute because his wife needs—a night out with the girls,—and he can’t find a sitter.  Deemed unreliable and uncommitted by his jazz peers, he gets fewer and fewer calls.  Under pressure—especially if his wife can’t fully pay the bills—he gradually morphs into a Gig Whore of the most desperate variety, eventually landing in a high-paying, soul-crushing variety band.  In the worst-case scenario, the wife at that point discovers that her husband—who if nothing else was at least once an idealistic artist—has lost all appeal.  She leaves him for a successful businessman who has a clear concept of self, doesn’t work nights, and listens to music that isn’t all crazy.  The artist’s life continues its downward spiral until he hits bottom as a bitter Survivalist.

By contrast, the jazz artist who is already an established Epiphyte by the time he meets his future wife has found his salvation.  The wife-to-be understands the realities of the jazz world, perceives her future husband’s devotion to his financially unviable art form as romantic, and marries the husband and his music alike.  Such women are the angels of mercy in the jazz world; the sole counter-evidence to cosmic indifference.  Their fortunate husbands become, in a sense, quasi-Chosen Ones, minus the true Chosen Ones’ fame and (modest) fortune.

Identifying Signs
  • Artists supported by their spouses are better dressed, better fed, and better mannered than most of their peers. They have no survival techniques, as their fate is fully in the hands of another.

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