Working as a Showband musician onboard cruise ships is a musically very challenging job. The main job is to play in the orchestra for Broadway style cast production shows onboard. The Showband also plays music for world class visiting artists. Staying cool under pressure with a limited amount of time to rehearse is essential. The Showband is located in the main Show lounge of the ship, which is typically a two tier theater seating up to 1000 audience members and often contains multi-million dollar lighting and sound equipment.
A high degree of versatility is required and musicians must be able to perform to a professional standard in a wide variety of musical styles. Musical styles can range from Classical, Pop, Broadway, Rock, Jazz, Country, Flamenco, or any other style of music called for by a particular show. A high level of sight reading ability is required.
A typical rehearsal takes place on the day of the show and time is very limited, (so too is the patience of the other musicians in the orchestra). Musicians are given the sheet music for the show just moments before the rehearsal begins and a flawless performance is expected when playing the music for the first time. Mistakes are not acceptable and any musician whose performance falls below the required standard will find their career very short indeed. I have known musicians flown home from a remote destination just days after starting a contract onboard a ship if it is found that their musical ability is not up to the demands of the position.
Aside from playing the shows, Showband musicians are also called upon to play dance sets. The band may have charts, head arrangements, or they may fake tunes, depending on the situation. Showband musicians need to have a good command of the vocabulary and idioms of jazz, pop, and contemporary music, and be able to improvise.
As the Pianist in the Showband my duties also included playing solo piano for various functions around the ship and also duo, trio and quartet performances for formal receptions, dinner music and deck parties as well as occasionally filling-in in the piano bar.
After completing several contracts for Holland America I was delighted to be selected to play for the "Grand World Voyage". Musicians are selected for this prestigious contract based on their outstanding musical ability, their professional conduct and the reputation they have earned during the course of their previous work for the company.
I believe it would be fair to say that only the best musicians the company hires are selected to work on this flagship cruise which caters for the companies most esteemed clients. I have included a link to a song that I recorded as a member of the MS Amsterdam Orchestra, "I Got Rhythm Medley", which was recorded just before the 2003 World Voyage while we were sailing through Antarctica. This was one song from a 50 minute show of non-stop music. This song was recorded after the orchestra had played the song just one time.
If you have any questions about life as a musician working on board a 5 star cruise ship please feel free to email me. I was very fortunate to sail just about everywhere that cruise ships travel to visiting over 250 destinations in around 100 countries on all seven continents during this time and I love to share my experience of this time which was a very rewarding and fulfilling both professionally and personally.