Someday, I’m going to write a book called “All I Really Need to Know, I Didn’t Learn in Music School.” The chapter on traveling will be the longest. It’s a given that musicians spend at least some of their lives on the road. Mind you, we’re certainly not unique in this regard; many business people spend more time in airports and hotels than we do. I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I was singularly unprepared to deal with the contradictory demands of producing great art and packing the right clothes. Decades of experience have led me to develop Loebel’s Laws of Musician Travel. Here are a few of them.
Always assume that your suitcase will get lost, so never pack your music in checked luggage; shoes or a toothbrush you can buy or borrow, but the Poughkeepsie Public Library probably doesn’t own a score to Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony. While you’re at it, always check the luggage all the way to your final destination; odds are, it will catch up with you eventually. Also, keep in mind that, for some unfathomable reason, dirty clothes take up less space in your suitcase than clean clothes do, even though they weigh more.
Figure out an ideal schedule for sleeping and eating before a concert. Mine involves a substantial lunch, taking a nap four hours before the concert and then eating a nutritious, high-energy snack. Once you’ve established such a regimen, forget about being able to stick with it; regard doing so as an unreachable goal to be attained only in the abstract.
A highly developed sixth sense about hotels comes in handy. When you get really good, you’ll be able to spot a bad one by simply reading about it online. When you’ve mastered hotels, there’s the matter of laundry, but talking about that requires more time than I have just now.
Contrary of public opinion, musicians are not obsessed with music; they’re obsessed with food. Networking with your peers about such matters as where to get the world’s best peanut butter pancakes will help your career at least as much as a successful Carnegie Hall debut. In case you’re wondering, you’ll find them at Aunt Martha’s Pancake House in Springfield, Missouri; the chocolate pancakes aren’t bad either.
KWMU commentary 1993, revised 2019
UPDATE: Aunt Martha’s Pancake House closed in 2015. RIP.