At some point the gig comes to an end. It is the nature of the business.

I do not dwell on this. When a show or musical performance closes I usually reflect on the opportunity and experience and then move on to what ever is next. I am not one for regret or loss at the close of the curtain. As I said, it is the nature of the business.

I gained a fatalistic perspective through years of experience and so many shows and gigs that were one offs. Some were well-paying, some so-so paying and most forgotten. I spent years cobbling together a living and lifestyle just so I could play music. A few were memorable.

I once was hired from Christmas to New Years to play Holiday Carols in the front window at Macy’s Department Store dressed in a jester’s costume. Another time I was hired to play sea chanties and hornpipes and wear a silly polyester pirate outfit for a weekend cruise where people acted out being on a pirate ship (I was thrilled when that one ended). I was hired to dress and impersonate a Charlie Chaplin like character and while performing with a waltz quartet for atmospheric effect (they were thrilled when that ended).

While most of these required the skills I had, none needed any real preparation on my part. In none of these performances did I have a lot of personal and musical investment other than maintaining character and giving all to my performance and music. There were, however, musical opportunities that did require me to invest my time, expertise, and practice.

I would spend months, sometimes years practicing pieces for hours and hours a day in preparation for one of my musical recitals with my accompanist. I performed at Carnegie Hall a concert of the music of Kurt Weil with an orchestra in which I had two prominent solos. I arranged and recorded the music for a three person Off Broadway Show that had a limited run in Greenwich Village. I performed the Bach Double Violin Concerto with Serge Matueswitch in recital at Lincoln Center in Alice Tully Hall. I am proud of each of these opportunities and performances for the process and work I invested into them. An investment of my artistic self.

It is an incredible strength of will and personal leap of faith to decide to pursue life as an artist. You do so against all odds of guaranteed success. A dedication to a life that is alien to all but those who believe in themselves when others do not or will not. And once you make that leap you exist precariously on the edge of constant self-doubt and loss of ego. You must commit and hope the water stays deep enough and warm enough when you dive.

I am seldom given to moodiness or melancholy. But there have been times when, despite how hard I work or how much I believe in myself, it just does not work out. There is that moment of regret and sadness. It is a moment of doubt of purpose and self worth. You question yourself and your abilities.

I had a musical endeavor in which I poured myself into. Despite being overly enthusiastic, scheduling rehearsals and booking gigs, I watched it slowly dissipate and finally come to an end. I did see it coming but was disappointed none the less. In a moment of self reflection I thought maybe I was not artistically or musically up to the task. What could I have done differently? This is a very lonely place to be as an artist.

This is when I open my case, lift out my EC, and spend time just playing. I pour any self-doubt and emotion into my music. Almost instinctively I gravitate to one of my 16 musical collections of Etude Studies for Violin. An Etude is a musical composition written for a particular instrument to enhance a particular musical skill. I have etude studies collections from 40 years ago to the ones I recently purchased during the pandemic. I randomly take one of the books and open to any page. I may not know or remember the particular piece selected, but I am certain of each note on the page. I have played them all before. I practice slowly and methodically. I feel the touch of the buttons and the air moving through my open bellows. I feel the sound each note makes and I play. Play. And play.

Eventually my practice session ends. I return to the basics of just me, my concertina, and my music. I trust the choices I made. Will make. There will be another performance, another gig. That performance will end as well but the process of being a musician and artist does not. Each moment of practicing, playing, performing is there to enhance my life and artistic skills. I need to recognize this each time I encounter it.

I just need to keep playing.



Randy Stein - English Concertina

Randy Stein is a classically trained musician and recording artist who plays and performs internationally on the English Concertina. Website: