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Pete McCann: Looking Forward

By Published: December 22, 2009
Pete McCannAAJ: You live in New York, which has been the focal point of the jazz world for many decades. Jazz seems to be taking a hit in other cities across the country right now. How is the scene holding up in New York?

PM: First of all, there aren't enough gigs to go around. In my case I'll do just about anything I get a call for. I'll do teaching, I'll do sideman gigs and demo projects. For instance, last night I spent time at my friend's studio recording radio jingles for Virgin Atlantic radio. He has a contract with them so I went in and did ten ID's on rock guitar, acoustic guitar and mandolin. It pays really well. It has nothing to do with advancing my art but it pays the bills [laughs].

I have to do many different things to help make ends meet because forty dollar jazz gigs don't really cover the bills at the end of the month. When I first came to New York I was living in an apartment with some friends and the rent wasn't bad. Now I have a house with my family and the mortgage is a lot more than rent was twenty years ago. I know a lot of my friends are involved in Broadway and club dates, and I do club dates as well. When the phone rings we have to be ready to take the gig in order to make things happen.

AAJ: What advice would you have for a young guitarist who's just out of high school or college and is thinking of moving to New York to start their career as a professional musician?

PM: I get asked that question a lot, from my students especially. One of the most important things for me, surprisingly enough, is to have really good computer chops. Learning music notation software as well as editing and recording software can really come in handy when first starting out. I have a computer downstairs that I record music on and I think any student coming out of school these days should at least have a cursory knowledge of music software.

The other advice I would offer is practice, practice, practice, which is what everyone told me when I was in school and darned if they weren't right [laughs]. It's really important to be able to read well, on top of knowing tunes and being able to comp and blow.

I was lucky that I was on scholarship when I went to school, but I worry about the next generation of music students who've had to take on a ton of debt to get through college. That's why I think knowing how to use recording and editing software, or other skills besides playing, can really help younger players make a living in the music business these days. It's always great to have something to fall back on when the gigs are sparse.

Selected Discography

Pete McCann, Extra Mile (Nineteen-Eight Records, 2009)

Pete McCann, Most Folks (Omnitone Records, 2007)

Pete McCann, Parable (Palmetto Records, 2000)

Pete McCann, You Remind Me of Someone (Palmetto Records, 1998)

Photo Credits

All photos courtesy Pete McCann

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