Honestly, I haven't had that many fantastic stories the last couple of years. Without music and travel, life has become very dull indeed.
This past week was certainly a different story however.
Sunday afternoon I received an email from an unknown person requesting my stilt walking violin skills. The gig was 6 days away in NYC, in downtown Manhattan. I figured there was no way to possibly make it work, but I replied that I was in Mexico and my stilts and electric violin were in the US (not in NYC).
To my surprise, I heard back on Monday that they were still interested. They'd pay for the flights and hotel as well.
So I inquired more into the extent of the gig: what music, what salary, what time(s), etc.
The (what I assume was) the assistant and I exchanged several emails and then that evening I spoke with the agency owner on the phone. She told me there were only two sets of 20 minutes for a Bar Mitzvah with a mix of dj music and a grand entrance song, all starting at 6:00p.m.
We agreed on my requested salary and that she would transfer me the money to pay for my preferred tickets and hotel. I asked her to get the music for me by morning so I would have two days to listen and learn before starting my travels. I say two days because I needed one day to reach my stilts and they wanted me to be in NYC a day before the event, just to be safe, because of all the airline delays and cancellations and covid testing requirements at the event.
She also wanted me to let her know what equipment I needed since she was accustomed to musicians supplying their own apparently. I only come with my violin and backing tracks and the venues supply the transmitters, receivers, etc., for their specific space in my experience, but apparently my experience was vastly different from hers. Nonetheless, she told me to let her know what I wasn't bringing so she could get it for the gig.
So I spent until 3a.m. Monday evening getting flight info, hotel info, and equipment info. I then messaged it all to her with prices and screen shots.
Tuesday morning I got up at 8a.m. (yes, I was actually up that early!) to start working on the project. I assumed I would have an email with music and confirmation to buy the tickets. Well, I did have confirmation to buy the tickets, but not the music. Straight away I went to purchase the tickets, but while we were sleeping, you guessed it, the prices had gone up. The first flight on Thursday to go get my stilts and violin was only about $150 more, but the flight on Friday to get to NYC had gone up over $650! I was floored to say the least.
I went ahead and purchased the first flight to get into the USA and pick up my stilts and violin. But instead of purchasing the second flight, I messaged the owner to let her know the new flight prices I was now looking at. I did a thorough search of other airlines as well but found nothing with decent times and decent prices. The least expensive flight available would have me starting my departing journeys after the gig with an all-nighter due to travel times and a super early flight.
To help out I searched from 8a.m. until 2p.m. without breakfast or shower or break, trying to find something remotely closer in price to what the flight had been on Monday evening. I did not succeed.
So at 2p.m., I gave in to a cold shower (there was no gas and I had not realized because I hadn't tried to cook anything nor wash any dishes) and a quick lunch before spending the evening on the phone with the assistant while still simultaneously checking flight prices and messaging the owner.
By that evening, we had finally settled on a flight and I bought it. I also let both the owner and the assistant know that I had not received the music and I would need that by the end of the night to be able to use the one remaining non-travel day to get as much practicing in as I could.
There was now only one day to schedule and get a covid test, do laundry and hang it out to dry (I don't have a dryer so doing laundry is actually a much bigger task), pack, practice, get paperwork together for the international travel, etc.
To say I was stressed is a severe understatement. Two days to do it all had felt nearly impossible. Only one day felt beyond ridiculous and it wasn't a question of what I would forget, but how much.
In addition to stating I needed the music that night, I also stated I needed the agreed upon transfer of funds to cover the ticket and hotel prices. If not, the 24hr free cancellation period would expire by the next morning for the first flight I had purchased and I was not going to let that happen. They either transferred the money or I canceled the flight. And they were thus informed.
That night was when things started going really awry.
At first I was asked if I would provide a contract. I had been expecting one, but was surprised to be asked to provide it since usually the person contracting provides the contract..... I suggested as such and never received a response, nor a contract.
Then after sending all the screen shots with prices, I was asked for the total. I added it all up and emailed it. The response back was that the price I quoted and theirs did not agree. I wasn't sure how it was up for debate since the screen shots all had the TOTAL: $$$ in them, so we shouldn't have been using different numbers. But still, I wrote them all down one by one to help add them up in my reply.
The response I then received was could I go buy new tickets with the company credit card. (Reminder, I had just spend 2 days doing nothing but flight research and debating over prices to get the last minute tickets and a couple of the tickets I bought were indeed the last ones available!)
I said no. I said I had already bought the tickets and was not spending a sleepless night looking for more. We had agreed to that and I had worked two days under that assumption and had only one day left to prepare everything. What I needed was the music and the money transferred by the end of the night.
Well, you may have guessed it, but I did not receive neither the money nor the music that night. So around 11:30p.m. I wrote a diplomatically kind letter not blaming anyone but stating that without either the money or the music, I would be unable to the gig. Maybe next time.
Then I cancelled all the flights and hotel before my window expired.
The next morning I received a message asking if I had already purchased the new airfare with the company credit card. I replied that I had not and to please refer to the previous message from the night before where I said I would not go through all the hassle again. The tickets had already been purchased. And then I suggested she read her email since I hadn't received a reply to it.
That afternoon I received another message saying the email had been read and asking how to change my mind. Then it was added that I didn't need to play any music but my own. Now I didn't even need to play the grand entrance or any dj music; just my own tracks. Fantastic. That would have been great to know at any point during the last two days.
I told the owner that this wouldn't change my mind. She proceeded to stroke my ego by saying there was no one else available (she is correct in that I believe I am the only stilt walking professional violinist currently advertising on the American continent) and they'd rather have me than anyone else....cough cough spit spit. I received this message mid afternoon.
I then had to spell it out more clearly that I had no flights. I had no hotels. I had spent the last two days researching and booking those and had not worked on any set lists of my own because I was told I was going to be playing other music. There was simply to way, that in less than half a day, I could pull everything together that was necessary to fly out in the wee hours of the coming morning, when my flight would have to leave to get there on time.
If she had just done her job, she could have had the one and only American stilt walking violinist. I could have finally had a performance gig after 2 years of tears and failures.
Instead, she pittered and pattered around sufficiently that I ran out of the time necessary to get there and do my job.
Fantastic it was.
For fantastic is how excited I became. Fantastic was the idea it seemed. Fantastic was the opportunity it was. Fantastic was the level of stress I felt. Fantastic was the disparity of the letdown.