#throwbackthursday My first long term gig was as a singalong piano bar entertainer for Norwegian Cruise Lines back in the year 2000. At that point, I was a pretty established emerging jazz pianist and a pretty green singer. I had a pretty large repertoire (for a 23 year old!) but when I actually started the gig I made a horrifying discovery: most people did not want to hear jazz.
Cruise Ship Problem
Up to this point in my life, my entire musical existance had been either classical music or jazz. Yes, I listened to pop music, but I couldn’t really play any of it. This was a PROBLEM. I desperately wanted to keep the gig, plus I had given up my apartment and given away all of my wordly possessions, so I didn’t exactly have anywhere to GO.
I needed to get versatile in a hurry.
How I learned the songs
I had brought with me several hundred CDs in one of those CD albums, plus a couple of fake books, so I at least had something to work with. **NOTE TO YOUNG PEOPLE – Spotify didn’t exist yet. Neither did all those websites where the chords and lyrics are all written out for you.**
I had to old-school this problem. Every night when guests would request songs, I would write them down on a big list. I would then spend my entire day listening to songs, writing down the lyrics and transcribing the chords using a pitch pipe. (I didn’t have access to a keyboard or piano in my cabin!)
I was learning 10+ songs a DAY and I would play the new ones several times a night, so I could master them. In the 3 months I worked there, I learned over 700 songs; most of which I could play from memory.
This was one of the most incredible musical and professional experiences of my life. I learned how to really entertain and connect with people from all over the world, I learned how to build a set to keep people listening AND I lived a breathed some of the greatest music ever written.
I carry that experience with me everywhere and have been so fortunate to share my wisdom with so many other young musicians. I went on to do a total of 19 months at sea and I paid for my fancy conservatory Master’s degree in cash. #versatilityiskey
Here are a few songs I played ALLLLL the time!