Everything I Know About Polyamory, I Learned as a Gigging Musician

a picture of a saxophone and a flute, propped up on music stands
Image by Garry Knight / CC BY

A lot of my favorite poly bloggers share a similar story: They came to polyamory naturally. Monogamy just wasn’t a thing that they did well (or at all).

Sure, some of them tried to fit themselves into that box, particularly when they came upon someone they truly cared about who expressed that exclusivity was important to them, signaled commitment.

But there was something naturally different about how they approached relationships, and eventually they’d be back to their normal ways of approaching and structuring relationships.

This is not at all how things went for me.  I was instead convinced by others of poly (I’d done mono and casual non-mono) and when I gave it a shot, I found unexpected benefits so then I did work to make it sustainable for me.

And as I worked through these new life experiences, I recognized a lot of the same feelings and themes from another part of my life: From the days when I supported myself as a professional musician.

You Don’t Worry if You’re the Best Sax Player They’ve Ever Played With

Gigging as a musician is a collaborative effort, not a competitive one. You focus on playing the best music you can with the people who are with you at the time. Playing well is about doing a solid job. Not being the best the audience has ever heard. Or about needing to be most accomplished musician on the stage.

And you sure as heck don’t worry if you’re the best saxophone player your bandmates have ever played with. You’re just happy to have the gig.

If You Want to Be Better at Something, You Practice

If you feel like you’re bad at something and you want to do better, you don’t sit there putting yourself down. Or going around asking  others to reassure you.

Instead, you evaluate where you’re falling short and put in the hours in the practice room.

You Can Like Different People for Drastically Different Reasons

At the height of my gigging, I was playing with 5 groups regularly and occasionally guesting at many others. And even now, I can’t tell you which one was my favorite band to play with.

I got paid better by some groups, sure. But in other bands I had more of a controlling interest and the ability to shape things creatively.

I raked in cash for local black tie affairs with a group that played big band music for moneyed clients.

But I also often drove 2 hours each way for little more than gas money and dinner to play funk and R&B covers with one band because they were so much fun to jam with.

And I did more than a few dinner music gigs where we were basically live muzak, including one where we played the same song over and over again in all 12 keys to test whether anyone would notice (they didn’t).

Was everything equal from band to band? No way. It was a hot mess. A tangle of inequalities. It wasn’t even internally consistent within any given group. Some gigs had amazing food, free booze, good pay. Others were complete shit shows.

But there was value in all of it, and I had a blast.

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My book is out!

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory

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