Longform

Musicians Day Jobs

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And then there's Charlie Pickett, who for a decade was perhaps the brightest light on the local-scene horizon. During the Eighties, Pickett, along with various sidemen, performed hundreds of shows in area clubs, earning from critic Jon Marlowe the accolade of "best bar band in America." Pickett and his groups recorded a number of albums, including Route 33 for the Minneapolis-based label Twin/Tone. About a year ago Pickett gave up his day job - running heavy equipment at a quarry - and his exalted place in the local musical milieu. He moved to Lansing, Michigan, and enrolled in Thomas Cooley law school, where he is currently at the top of his class.

There are literally hundreds of talented local musicians humming and strumming after the gold ring of national stardom, and very few of them have law practices to support that effort. They acquire instruments, learn to play, write some songs, rehearse, appear at area clubs, rehearse some more, record demo tapes, rehearse, and sometimes cut actual albums for release to the public. For many of these fledgling songsters, all this takes place on top of a full-time job often unrelated to their musical pursuits. So far the American agenda has not called for subsidization of sonic artists - no group health plan, no pension, no endowments or grants. Music makers have bills, rent to pay, groceries to stock, all the draining obligations everyone else must attempt to fulfill.

For some the day job supersedes the artistic endeavors. For others, a vocation is a way to finance the band. The lucky few escape the rigors of labor altogether. The bottom line is that most of these artists are not remunerated in kind for the pleasure they give to the public.

Jim Wurster
Singer-guitarist-lyricist
Black Janet

This five-piece outfit recently won Best New Band honors at the South Florida Rock Awards and released their first album, In Many Colors, a dark, moody, affecting collection of seven originals and a cover of Vesper Sparrow's "Don't Give Your Love Away." The selection of the latter is fitting. Black Janet's singer-guitarist, Jim Wurster, knows this essential fact of life: money makes the world go 'round. That axiom is essential to the American History lessons Wurster teaches to advanced students at Piper High School in Sunrise. (He was nominated for Broward Teacher of the Year.) But listening to Black Janet's "relationship" songs, you wonder if it isn't love that spins this planet. Or maybe music.

In his eighth year of educating, Wurster says he was drawn to that career during high school, when he came to admire a couple of his own teachers. After graduating from Hollywood Hills, he went on to Florida Atlantic University, where he began playing guitar. "Black Janet is my first band," he says, "and it was more of a hobby at first. Now the band has become like a second profession. With solicitations from record companies, we'll have to make a decision. But I do not want to guess at this point. If the offer was good, it would be hard not to give it a shot. I can always come back to teaching. Plus the rest of the band would probably shoot me if I didn't say that."

Steve Kornicks
Percussionist
A native Miamian, Kornicks began banging the drums in high school, but didn't allow his rhythmic efforts to interfere with more traditional study, which led him to get involved with drugs. "I'm from a family where you have to have a real job," Kornicks explains. "And music wasn't a real job." He finished high school in 1975 and then went to Miami-Dade Community College, where he "met a guy and had a chance to play the tourist hotels in Mexico." Simultaneously, Kornicks was accepted to the University of Florida's pharmacy school. "I had a steady girlfriend," he recalls, "and I was going to school and keeping up with my playing."

While working 60 hours per week, including weekends, Kornicks met tragedy. "My oldest daughter passed away," he recounts. "After that I cut back my hours to a normal schedule. Working weekends hurt my music, but then I got weekends off." He began sitting in at jam sessions, as he had in Gainesville. The first was at Cactus Cantina, where [Little Nicky and the Slicks drummer] John Yarling was the host. "When John saw me bring in my congas," Kornicks says, "he told me, `We don't do Latin here.' I told him, `Good, because neither do I.'" Versatile but especially attracted to rock and R&B, Kornicks has lent his licks to Fleet Starbuck's band, Lynne Noble, Willy Vega, John Soler, Foreign Affairs, Alive By Night, the Children's Hour, and lawyer Joe Imperato's the Source.

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Greg Baker