John Perreault is a musician who lives in Upstate, NY. He started appreciating music at an early age. Banging on pots-and-pans, singing. His grandfather, who was a professional musician, and my supportive parents, drove his interest in music. He was always in chorus. Then when the time came, he took up the bass in fourth grade. He quit the bass playing after three years and didn’t do anything musical. He took a few music classes, but played nothing on the side. Then his grandfather passed away in ’94. After his funeral, he felt like he had let him down. This event was the turning point in his life.
He took up guitar later that year and wasn’t too sure of the future. It’s every young musician’s dream to be famous to some degree; the only problem is finding your niche. His father, the following Christmas, gave him a mandolin. It sat in his room for several months and collected dust. And in the following years, he picked up a bass, sitar, didgeridoo, and some other instruments.
It wasn’t until his War and Civilization class that his career as a musician started. He had to do a Civil War music presentation. With the help of Mike Yates, a family friend, who reenacts Civil War music. Following the presentation, Mike Yates asked him if he was interested in working with his band The NYS 77th Regimental Balladeers. He agreed and it’s been a wild time. The group’s goal is the reproduction of the music of the era and the history of the Civil War. The group consisted of John Quinn and Mike. They liked the idea of having a multi-instrumentalist on board, especially a mandolinist. He spent two weeks learning the instrument, and now he was hired because of it. Two months went by and they had our first show at Caf Lena’s, where a young Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthurie, and several other famous musicians had once played. It went well, although he was nervous the whole time. They played to a full house; people were standing along the back wall and by the stairwell. He was starting to wonder why all these people came. They added a violinist a few months later and recorded their first album, “Somebody’s Darling”. They toured that summer promoting it and ended up playing in Gettysburg, P.A., under contract from the U.S. Park Service. They played in several museums, auditoriums, small venues, and reenactments in New York that summer. Another nice thing was the paychecks.
The following year was even more hectic. He played in Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady, NY, which was incredible. The crowd was about 1500 people and they were on the front page of the Times Union. His grandfather had played there before, so it was an emotional experience for him. They cut another album in May and June. This took so much time and energy. He spent up to eight hours in the studio. They had a lot of problems with this album, but in the end of June, “Reflections” was released. It had a more professional sound then our first album and cost about several thousand more. They toured to support it through the whole summer, playing in New York mainly, but also in Pennsylvania and Virginia. It was almost the rock and roll experience, with all expenses paid and nice hotel rooms, but the road takes a lot out of you. He prefers to stay close to home.
The future of the 77th is being planned now. They recorded a live album in Windham, NY, for release this spring, and they’re also planning a tour of Ireland and England for 2002. It has been only 3 years now with them, but after this last album and tour, it feels like more years have passed. He’s looking forward to the nice five-month break.
This isn’t his only group, just the one that pays the bills. He’s currently in three other groups that perform in the Capital region. Chicos Groove, is a humorous funk/metal band that gets together a few months a year. It was my high school band that didn’t really do much. in terms of gigs. They appeared on a compilation CD, “Happily Ever After: Benefit for Children’s Cancer Research”.Pluvialus, a world/neo-baroque/avant-garde trio, showcases original compositions by its members. They perform covers of classical pieces and also an avant-garde rendition of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Pit and the Pendulum”.His other group is Cold Harbor, a Celtic/folk group. This group is composed of the Civil War band members minus one. He also performed with The Gypsy Rose Theater Company over the summer for their performance of “As you like it”. In addition, he does sessions and fills in for various groups when needed. It’s fun to be a “hired gun”, although it’s not for long term usually.
Being a musician isn’t always great. The pay is about $25+ per hour. Union members and more popular groups start much higher. Jobs aren’t always available and the competition is fierce. Being versatile and proficient on several instruments is helpful. The more styles you can play, the more jobs you’ll get. Like being an artist or an actor, you have got to be able to stick out from others in the crowd. Patience, skill, and determination are a must in this field.
In reality, musician’s all have day jobs. He’s a college student when he’s not on the road, working on a degree in history/secondary education with music minor. He’s constantly practicing scales, composing, and learning new material to better his playing. You can never practice too much; he doesn’t practice enough. What keeps him going is his love of music; he’s determined to do something he loves regardless of the pay. He’s just looking for another job to pay for his career.