I have been meaning to write since I got on the Zuiderdam in mid-August, so this post is long overdue. As some of you may know, I got a promotion to HalCats Band Leader for this contract. After two years of working on ships, I felt I was ready for something new and I was fortunate to be offered this promotion.
After two years of sitting around on the ship watching movies, then playing the gigs for the night, then sleeping for awhile, I needed something new. I looked on land for gigs, but the band leader gig on ships was the most appealing. Besides the pay raise and the very nice single cabin, I am enjoying the additional responsibilities I have been given.
As band leader, I am in charge of our six-piece band, which consists of a singer, guitar, bass, sax, drums and keyboard, which I cover. I make set lists for our daily theme nights in the Queen’s Lounge, do any conducting necessary on stage, count-off all tunes, and make sure the band sounds great. There are also other “business” responsibilities and random trainings, but I don’t let those bother me.
I got thrown a little blindly into this gig. I came on the ship to new books that we have to play out of. After being used to the same 300 songs for the last couple years, I was now thrown a new set of 400 tunes. Besides getting to know these new songs, many of the charts are filled with errors, so I spent a lot of time trying to find the errors before we played them. Fortunately, I have a very good band who have been good at keeping on their toes and going with me when we find mistakes in charts.
This ship is also one of the test ships for a brand new format they brought out in June. They are trying two HalCat bands instead of one. This makes our schedule much different than I’ve been used to, and as it is a new format, we are constantly making changes to see what works best. Fortunately, the other HalCats band leader and I get along great and have been working together to make this new format work well for everybody. The addition of a male singer to the other band has been working great. For some theme nights in the Queen’s Lounge, the band will use the male and female singer, which adds a lot to the performances.
While the other band has the male singer, I have the female singer and have been blessed with an amazing one who has a great voice, range, repertoire, and is always learning new tunes. I have a great guitarist who sings backup vocals to fill out our sound, an experienced sax player who is quite the entertainer, a very knowledgeable bass player, and a super solid drummer who is always there with me, especially when something doesn’t go as planned. Interestingly, I am the youngest member of my band, but this hasn’t been a problem.
The interesting part of HalCat bands on ships, and also one of the most frustrating things, is the constant switching out of band members. We are all booked separately, and thus don’t have the same length contracts. After going through three sax players in three weeks, the band I have had for the last three weeks is here together until we all disembark on November 30. This is a real blessing and makes my job so much easier. We are really gelling as a band now and get along great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
This new gig has its stresses and a much bigger workload, but I couldn’t be happier. I was ready for more responsibilities and these additional responsibilities have energized me and made me a much more active and proactive person.
While the itinerary (7-day Alaska cruises followed by 11-day Panama Canal cruises), is pretty lame compared to the world cruises I have done in the past, I am just glad to have this new energy and as I have said, I couldn’t be much happier. And as we leave Alaska now and head for warmer Caribbean weather, I think everyone will be much happier here on the ship!
Well, that concludes my 1 1/2 month update. Thank you all for reading and for your constant support.