I am a honkey tonk piano player with some jazz chops, but I play multiple instruments: cornet/trumpet, baritone/euphonium, accordion/melodica, clarinet, guitar, banjo, fiddle.  I played the lounge and bar circuit in western Canada for many years in my twenties.  I've gigged at pubs and casinos in Ontario.  I've played in concert bands and eighteen piece big bands as well as many smaller quartets and combos.  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 latest joy is to organize play along sessions for musicians and singers at local community centres, with common charts projected on the wall.  We have a small Monday afternoon traditional jazz group. 
On Tuesday evenings I play piano for a sing along group.  Our Wednesday evening group has upwards of fifteen participants every week, mostly guitar players backed up by bass, keyboard and snare, and a few bongo and cajon players.  Deborah plays tenor uke and banjolele in these groups, and runs the laptop and projector.  For about five years I've played in a seven piece jazz combo that does occasional retirement home gigs, and on Thursday afternoons I host a country-ish yacht club band: keys, bass and two guitars, and we sing harmonies.  So I keep busy.


   
         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 practice accordion, fiddle and clarinet, and can play them well enough to contribute bits of sonic variety in arrangements.  I don't like dragging so many instruments around, so my main gigging instruments remain the keyboard, or the cornet, euphonium and melodica if I'm doing traditional jazz.



            My musical efforts took an interesting turn as I got older.  I developed a strong dislike for the current state of playing in commercial venues.  I played two open mics to support a friend who was looking for "exposure".  We performed for free 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 dragged my thousand dollar keyboard to the venue and set it up to do just a handful of songs for them, and then the 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 their friends who will buy drinks, or to create a party atmosphere for them that will encourage other customers to stay and to buy drinks.  They 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 solution, I started organizing groups of musicians to rehearse and play down at the yacht club (we still do that), and then a ukulele group that ran for a few years in a private home, then 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 activities.  The facilities provide free space, and often free equipment for our use, including a really good keyboard and a projector.  
Musicians responded to my invitational ads, and in effect, the musicians become their own appreciative audience, which satisfies our mutual social and musical needs.  And we get home to bed at a reasonable hour.  For all of this, I happily play for free.