I am a honkey tonk piano player with jazz chops, but I play multiple instruments including cornet/trumpet, Bb baritone horn, clarinet, penny whistle, banjo,  guitar, fiddle, guitalele, harmonicas, melodica, and accordion.   I played the lounge and bar circuit in western Canada in my twenties.  I've gigged at pubs and casinos in Ontario.  I've played in concert bands and eighteen piece big bands that use note charts, as well as smaller quartets and combos that rely on chord charts.  I've organized British Pub Night sing alongs, Pirate Day songs for sailors and their children, Oktoberfest dances and similar events at my yacht club.  My wife Deborah plays tenor uke and banjolele.

       My joy over the past year has been to organize sessions for musicians and singers at local community centres, with common charts projected on the wall. 
Deborah plays and runs the laptop and projector for us.  We have a Monday afternoon "vintage jazz" group where I get to play keys, cornet and baritone, a Tuesday evening Sing Along group, and a Wednesday evening all-instruments Play Along.  The Play Along has between a dozen and fifteen participants every week, lots of guitar players backed by bass, keyboard and snare, and often bongo, cajon and hand percussion players, so I also get to pick up my fiddle and other instruments.  For about five years I've played in a seven piece jazz combo that does occasional retirement home gigs.  Sometimes we cobble together a country music quartet or a a bluegrass combo with a friend who plays mandolin. So we keep busy. One satisfying element of this musical life is that we get to explore and play many songs that are not the usual 70's bar fare.  In any given week we'll do songs from 1855 or earlier right up to the current decade.


   
         I read scores, but I also chord by ear, improvise lead breaks and sing improvised harmonies.  I have a tiny collection of youtube video samples.  I don't like dragging too many instruments around, so my main gigging instrument remains the keyboard, and/or whatever other instruments match the session genre.



            My musical efforts took an interesting turn as I got older.  I don't like late nights and commuting any more, lugging equipment to gigs.  I began going out to play nearby open mics with a younger friend but quickly realized that I was providing a free service for bar owners who pay all their other employees but not the musicians: not a free drink, or a meal, or even their parking costs.  I played to rooms full of shouting bar patrons who force you to crank up your amps and sing through a p.a. to be heard in a room with a capacity crowd of no more than sixty.  At my community Play Along I can sing while a dozen musicians are playing, and I can be heard without a p.a.  At the open mics, I dragged my thousand dollar keyboard to each venue and set it up to do just a handful of songs for them, and then the open mic organizer expected me to leave it set up for other players to use, to knock over, or to spill their beer on.  At another venue, a girl leapt on stage and shoved her tiny phone in my face to chord for her from a very bad arrangement that didn't match what she wanted to sing, to accompany her for three minutes of joy singing in public, karaoke-style.  In a different key.   I had to transpose on the fly.  This was considered normal and acceptable by the open mic organizer.  I felt exploited.  Like many older musicians, I don't drink, especially when I play; but bar owners expect open mic musicians to draw in their friends to buy drinks, and to create a party atmosphere that will encourage other customers to stay and buy drinks.  Open mic musicians are, in effect, "animators" like the ones employed at resorts and on cruise ships; but they are expected to perform the same function without being paid.  To me that's just bizarre, and profoundly dissatisfying.
            In casting about for a more satisfying solution, I started organizing groups of musicians to rehearse and play down at the yacht club, and then a ukulele group that ran for a few years in a private home, and a guitar group that we ran at the yacht club which migrated a year later to someone else's home for a few years.   Finally I discovered that community centre managers are eager to find people who can organize community programming.  The facilities provide free space, and sometimes free equipment for our use. Birchmount Community Centre, for example, provides us with a really good keyboard and a projector.  
Musicians responded to my invitation, and in effect, the musicians are their own appreciative audience, which satisfies our mutual craving for recognition.  And we get home to bed at a reasonable hour.  For all of this, I happily organize and play for free.  I'll play for free in a park, or for charity, for school fundraisers, for nursing home and hospital audiences.  Those venues make me feel appreciated, and they are listeners who are grateful that you brought your music to them.