..."practice!" goes the old punch line. Jim Hall actually used that one on me a few years ago, when we performing at Avery Fisher Hall in NYC. I was lost downstairs somewhere and was literally asking how to get to the venue - he nailed me with it.
Anyway, I've been teaching music all week in California to a great bunch of kids, many of whom's futures could hold a successful jazz career (whatever that means...). Success in jazz isn't measured in money, it's in how clearly you're able to express what's inside you, and how well you connect with your (small but appreciative) audiences. Everyone deserves a chance to earn a living doing what they love, but I wonder how it's going to be for these kids - we're training more and more players for a business that has fewer opportunities than when I was in college.
There's a dude who keeps writing me on Facebook, asking me how to "get into the music business". I finally responded, saying "Basically, you practice your ass off, get out and meet people, and play as much as you can." Let me repeat... be excellent at what you do, and GET OUT AND MEET PEOPLE. That's it, kid. No short cuts that I'm aware of. And he wrote back a few minutes later and said "Thanks for the advice! So how did you get into the music business?" Argghhh... My next answer will be "How you get into the business is you stop bugging people on Facebook and start practicing!"
Playing music is hard work. I love my job, and can't imagine doing anything else. When musicians go on the road, it's not a vacation. Europe? Great! I've seen the airports, train stations, backstages and 3 AM roadside truck stops in 30 countries. Someday I may travel there on vacation, but you can be sure I ain't gonna show up at a jam session!