My Brief Career as a Musical Entertainer
Prior to writing and publishing The Drummer Drives! Everybody Else Rides, I was known as a home business expert and author of several books on that topic with nearly forty years' involvement in this industry. In all those years of writing, however, I never had occasion to talk about my other life back in the late fifties and early sixties when music was my passion and I was performing professionally in the Chicago area. In one chapter of my memoir, I've described the path I took that gradually led me to Harry and written about the lessons I learned as a novice entertainer and some of the cold realities of the music business in those days.
IT WAS ONLY DURING THE WRITING OF my memoir that I began to think about what Harry—who was ten years older than I—was doing at different stages of my musical life (an exercise other couples might enjoy exploring when they contemplate how they came to meet and marry). For example, in 1949 when I was twelve years old and had picked the marimba as my instrument of choice, Harry was performing in the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Shortly after I graduated from grade school in 1951, he was joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and getting married, believing that both his marriage and the job was for life.
Who could have imagined then that he would lose this job five years later because of a vindictive conductor who didn't like him as a man? That was in 1956, the same year I was just getting situated in Chicago as a secretary and continuing my marimba lessons with James Dutton at the American Conservatory of Music. I was participating in his percussion ensembles and getting ready to present solo marimba recitals. In those days, I was living in The Three Arts Club (girl's club) in Chicago, which was home to many artists, musicians, and singers who were allowed to make as much noise as they wished up until 10 o'clock p.m.
Years later I would learn how losing the Symphony job had destroyed Harry's career as a symphony musician and ultimately led to the failure of his marriage in 1959, the same year I was just "breaking into the business" as an entertainer at womenís clubs, private parties, and weddings that needed background music. A short stint as an entertainer in a South Shore supper club in 1960 made me feel like I had the world on a string. I didn't know it at the time, but every musical step I had taken to his point was bringing me one step closer to Harry.
I HAD NEVER HEARD OF HARRY BRABEC until I got a call out of the blue in August, 1961 from this guy who was asking to meet me on a blind date at the suggestion of a mutual friend, a percussionist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and someone I'd previously dated. Three days later, Harry proposed and we married just 18 days after we met. I will always believe that the marimba was my divine connection to Harry and that only God could have orchestrated our individual journeys so we'd end up together in the same place at just the right time in both of our lives.
I ceased performing after my last job in May 1962, figuring that one professional musician in the family was enough. But I was always grateful to have had a little taste of the music business before I met Harry because it helped me to understand what he was going through as he struggled to pick up the pieces of his personal life and make a living as a freelance musician.
Barbara Brabec, Marimbist and Entertainer (PDF document)
Drummer Drives Book Page (to order on Amazon and Barnes&Noble)