What do You get for not Playing Your Music

not playing, band, musician, unemployment relief, $600 a week
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I got this “what do you get for not playing?” idea from a WSJ piece by Gregg Opelka, a musical-theater composer-lyricist.

We’re all Marxists now. Not Karl, Groucho. There’s a famous sketch in “Animal Crackers” (1930) in which Groucho (as Captain Spaulding) quizzes Chico (Signor Emanuel Ravelli) on how much money the band gets paid. “What do you fellas get an hour?” Groucho asks. “For playing we get $10 an hour,” Chico replies. 

Groucho presses: “I see. What do you get for not playing?” “For not playing we get $12 an hour. . . . Now for rehearsing, we make special rate. That’s $15 an hour.” Groucho: “That’s for rehearsing? And what do you get for not rehearsing?” Chico: “You couldn’t afford it. You see, if we don’t rehearse, we don’t play. And if we don’t play, that runs into money.”

Then he goes on about his real life friend.

I have a musician friend, Jim. He plays the bass. Jim is a talented man, and his gigging takes many forms—studio recording as well as live performance. As has happened to so many, his entire livelihood dried up overnight in mid-March. After filing for unemployment relief, he was grateful to receive the bulk of his lost weekly income but equally surprised by the unexpected $600-a-week bonus.

Without auditioning for it, Jim has become an unofficial member of Signor Ravelli’s Animal Crackers orchestra. He recently complained, only half ironically, that he doesn’t know how he’ll make ends meet once he can work again. 

Gregg Opelka, Wall Street Journal

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