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Technical Sgt. Joshua A. Kowalsky
Technical Sgt. Joshua A. Kowalsky of The USAF Band Concert Band. (AF Photo)
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 Technical Sgt. Joshua A. Kowalsky
Clinician's Corner - "The Traveling Musician"

Posted 11/20/2009   Updated 11/25/2009 Email story   Print story


by Technical Sgt. Joshua Kowalsky
The USAF Band

11/20/2009 - BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- The different units of The United States Air Force Band spend about five weeks every year touring throughout the United States and performing public concerts. Touring can be a stressful time for everyone: you are away from your home, spouse, and children for weeks at a time. On the other hand, we get to perform every day for people who have been eagerly anticipating our arrival. Our performance gives them not only musical satisfaction, but it also gives them pride and excellence of the United States Air Force. Being on the road can be very enjoyable, as long as careful thought has been given to a few last-minute details.

First, make sure that all your financial records and bills are in order. If you are going to be away over the first of the month, a lot of bills come due. Make sure you have paid your mortgage, car payments, credit card bills, etc. With Internet banking, e-pay, and auto-pay, this can be handled on the road, as long as you have access to a computer. However, taking care of your payments before travelling can alleviate a lot of stress. You can easily set up online payments in advance and have them sent automatically on the due date.

Secondly, make sure you have your communication lines open between you and your family. Don't forget your cell phone charger--this may seem like a small item, but it is very easy to forget! I use my laptop to provide photos and daily updates to my family. Social networking sites and video conferencing provide other opportunities for communication. It can be hard to connect with family with the schedule that we maintain - concerts every night, travel every morning, a rush for food in the afternoon. It is nice to be able to say that quick hello during a break and text a photo. It also helps your spouse or friends who stay home maintain a connection with what you are doing. Even in the smallest towns, most hotels and numerous cafes now offer free internet access. This makes it easy to stay in constant contact.

Next, you also have to think about yourself. I find it difficult to maintain my practice and technical ability on tour. I always take some fun music that I don't normally get an opportunity to play. I also pack some difficult pieces that require diligent practice. It is unrealistic to expect you will have extra hours every day to practice, so it is good to have something hard to keep up your technique and something fun to keep your interest - even if it is only for 30 minutes. Often I have a choice of either eating or practicing, so time is always limited.

Lastly, be sure to check out things that interest you in the cities along the way. I often look for running trails or parks that are close to our hotels. There are museums, microbreweries, cafes, antique stores, and plenty of other local places. Ask people working in stores or in the hotel for recommendations on restaurants. Too often we make due with fast food that is so readily available, and there might just be a fantastic local pub around the corner! One of the joys of traveling is taking in the local flavor. It really makes touring quite enjoyable. I often find that outside of our concerts, the one aspect I remember about a particular town is a great local restaurant I discovered.

Traveling is one of the most exciting parts of my job as a cellist in the Concert Band. We have the distinguished honor of representing the very best of the United States Air Force to the American public. For many that attend our concerts, it is the first (and perhaps, only) time that they have heard The USAF Band. With the right preparation as a traveling musician, you can enjoy the concert experience without the stresses associated with being far away from home.

Click to read a short biography of Technical Sgt. Joshua A. Kowalsky.

For biographical information about other members of The U.S. Air Force Band, please see the Ensembles section of our website.

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