- Side swingers help musicians by flipping the sides of their notes while performing.
- Michael Graham, freelance composer and conductor, earns up to $ 135 per year. Commitment to flipping.
- Such is the way it was told to Hugh Morris for Insider.
This essay being told is based on a transcribed conversation with Michael Graham, freelance musician and page turner. It has been edited for length and clarity.
A page turner is someone whose job is to turn pages with a musical score to another musician, usually a keyboard player who is constantly playing so that he cannot turn a page himself during a performance. You are there as a third limb.
I am a freelance conductor and composer. I also work as a church organist in Edinburgh, Scotland.
My side-by-side work is always very ad hoc, booked a few weeks in advance, even if you tend to get recurring concerts from friends and colleagues. I would normally do a handful of concerts that revolve around the page a month before COVID.
There are generally two ways in which people enter the subject: They are either students flipping for teachers or peers, or musicians with peers who are performers.
Most of the time you are asked to turn around as a favor in exchange for a drink or a meal of food after.
But when you have a music degree or are a well-established musician, you start getting a fixed rate of $ 27 or $ 65 per. Consideration, which usually lasts about an hour. This depends on the type of engagement.
Being asked to turn around at the Edinburgh International Festival was the most I have been paid for a single page-switching engagement: I was given $ 135 for a two-hour rehearsal and two performances in one hour. I’ve made recordings or considerations that you might get $ 67 for.
It’s easy cash and you’re going to be a part of these amazing musical experiences.
My first side-turn attack was in my late teens. I was given organ lessons and my teacher asked me to line up for a performance later.
I was so nervous, the first thing I did was stand directly between the organ player and the conductor. I was barked right away. But that experience gave me the confidence to voluntarily turn around while I was a college student during concert periods. By doing various tournament concerts, I got my name out to other artists.
It is important not to disturb the practitioner too much when turning. Your job is just to turn the pages whenever they want – usually a nod of the head or a small vocal gesture indicates exactly when to turn because you are working at their reading speed.
You do not want to turn the page too soon, but you do not turn it too late either, so you really need to be on the ball with what is happening both on the side and with the practitioner.
The most important skill you need is a high level of music skills. You also need to be sensitive; you may be the last person to know that you are doing this concert and the last one to actually see music, but you have to adapt to anything – it includes all the repetitions in the music – not just to move forward, but also to return.
One of the scary concerts that turned the page was at a conference on historical instruments. The artist used a very poorly photocopied fax score, which only they could decipher. I was looking at 17th century ripples.
Other times you show up and notes are completely decayed. Once I turned to the last page in the middle of the show and it was upside down.
The score may be a bad print or something really contemporary and hard to follow, but you need to make the artist feel as relaxed as possible.
I think it’s an unsung part of music. It is not credited on many concert programs and recordings despite being one of the most agile and difficult jobs in the industry.
It’s always a new challenge because you’re being thrown into something at the last minute. The actor has had a few months to become familiar with the piece, whereas you probably just have enough time to have a talk with the instrumentalist beforehand.
As much as the money is welcome, I think the best thing about it is to encounter new repertoire and meet fellow artists. Even though I myself am a keyboardist, it is always interesting to see how other people perform, look at selections to see their methods and find ways they get into music.
It has also improved my methods and practices and exposed me to music I would not have encountered if it were not for turning.
Now that freelance music work is slowly returning to normalcy, I hope there will be more touring concerts on the horizon.