We had the good fortune of connecting with Gary Arbuthnot and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gary, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Work life balance is something that has become more important to me in recent years. My Mother passed away from Breast Cancer when she was only 34 years old and my Father fought Multiple System Atrophy, a degenerative neurological disorder, for 10 years before passing away at 61. Each loss affected me differently and played a role in work/life balance. I was only 13 when my Mother died and I had never experienced that level of pain before. My way of dealing with the pain was to submerge myself in work. At that time I had been playing the flute for only a few years and it would become my solace which ultimately developed into my life’s passion. I was consumed with the flute and classical music. To me, it was not work and so the concept of work/life balance never occurred to me until much later in life. Losing my Father in 2010 made me stop and reevaluate my own life and I started to focus more on other things outside of music and consider the work/life balance possibly for the first time. There has definitely been a shift from work comes first to family comes first. Claudia, my wife, is an incredible woman and I have been blessed to have her love and support me and any decisions we make today are to do with finding the best work life balance for us. What is that balance? HA! I have no idea. I do not believe there is this utopian existence where it all flows in sublime equilibrium. Certainly not in my world as a musician and business owner. My life tends to be much more about intense periods where I am working on certain projects rather than a daily work schedule. But I am much more cognizant today about the phrase, “the journey is the destination”, balancing out those intense work periods with very important fun loving times with Claudia and my family and friends. Those times are what refuel me and give me the energy to jump back into the next work project.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I look back over the last 25+ years of my career it really has been the most remarkable journey yet not necessarily the one I set out on all those years ago. As a young boy growing up in Northern Ireland my dream was simple. I wanted to travel the world playing the flute. Classical music was my obsession but anyone involved in the industry (any aspect of the music or entertainment industry) will tell you it is definitely not an easy path. You have to have a very thick skin to have the courage to put yourself out there and face the criticism that will come your way, be that from auditions, concert critics, and even more so today, from social media. Any time we set foot on stage, record a new album, post a new song, it’s like stepping off the edge of a cliff. How will we or our work be received? Will people like it? Will they BUY it so we can feed our family this week? It can definitely be very precarious but you have to have an unbelievable belief in yourself and your product. When I was younger I used to get so nervous before auditions and any performances. I believed everything had to be perfect and if it wasn’t or I didn’t win the job or competition I would get so upset and take it personally. It was only as I got older and gained more experience that I learned to not worry or stress about the things that are out of my control. I can’t control who the audition panel will pick – nor if my audience will enjoy every song in my show or on my albums. But what I can control is making sure I am delivering the absolute best performance or product, at that moment in time, every time I set foot on stage or in the recording studio. And then you have to learn the hardest thing in the world to do – let it go! It’s art. It’s a reflection of a singular moment in time of who you were at that given moment. And there is no better example of that than performing on cruise ships as a guest entertainer. On land people buy tickets to come and see you. They are invested in your show before you even walk on stage. On a cruise ship, you walk out to 1000 people and none of them have any idea who you are. You just happen to be the main headline performer that night and they have come in to check you out. You have a handful of minutes to win them over or they will just walk out and go to some other event on the ship. If you were to get caught up in the psychology of it, it can be quite terrifying. Tonight, are you going to be the rock star or hear the slow crawl of crickets across the stage? And on those nights where the silence is deafening. you have to have the courage to go back out and do it all again, sometimes the very same night, and continue to believe in yourself and your product. Because the rewards are worth the risk every night of the week. Those rewards include getting to travel the world with my flute in hand and set foot on all seven continents, meeting my wife, Claudia, for the first time at a Tango dinner show in Buenos Aires and over the past decade, building a business with my own agent and friend, Jonathan Blackburn of Blackburn International Entertainment Agency, that has allowed me to continue to perform and also share my experience and help to mentor, guide and build careers at sea for over 150 incredible fellow artists. Has it been easy? Not at all. Has it been worth the risks and challenges along the way? ABSOLUTELY!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Las Vegas, NV, is a very exciting city and has so much to offer both on and off the Strip. It has incredible shows, boasts fabulous restaurants and is perfectly located to take in some wonderful National Parks. The Strip has endless options but I love taking people to local places that they may not know about. 1. Firefly Tapas, Bar & Restaurant – great little spot a few blocks from the Strip. Fabulous food, wines and Salsa music. 2. Marche Bacchus – wonderful French Bistro in Summerlin on the water. Again great food and amazing wine selection. Sadly Covid 19 has had a massive impact on the Entertainment industry in Las Vegas and we still do not know what shows will remain. But pre-covid, the following shows would have been at the top of my list. 1. Le Reve, at The Wynn Hotel & Casino. Stunningly beautiful water show in the round with a sensational cast. Sadly Le Reve was closed permanently this summer. A victim of the pandemic. 2. Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace. So long as you do not mind humor that is a bit more adult, this show with its incredible performers will have you laughing all night long. Thankfully, this show still has managed to return. For live music, there are some amazing groups such as Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns. My wife, Claudia, first took me to see them over 10 years ago and I have been a huge fan ever since. Comprised of some of the greatest musicians in Vegas and led by the incomparable Jerry Lopez, they come together every week for what they call, “The Healing”. 90 mins of the best music you will hear anywhere. Thankfully they continue to broadcast online during the Covid shutdown restrictions. Another favorite of mine is 5 times Las Vegas “Headliner of the Year”, Frankie Moreno. With his band, Frankie never does the same show twice and he will keep doing the encores as long as people want to hear more….and they do! Super high energy show and you never know what to expect. Las Vegas is also well located for many of the beautiful National Parks and other outdoor areas. For those that love to hike, Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston are on our doorstep. You can be on the water at Lake Las Vegas or Lake Mead in 30 mins. Slight further out and you have the Hoover Dam. You can visit the west part of the Grand Canyon in a few hours. And in approx 3 hours the other direction you will find yourself at Zion National Park. Finally, for those who enjoy the adrenaline rush there is nothing to compare with Sky Combat Ace and experiencing what it is like to be a stunt fighter pilot for the day. It certainly gets the heart rate up. I’ve been fortunate to go multiple times and cannot wait to get back again and bring friends who are daring enough to join me.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My wife Claudia. I would not be able to do any of this without her incredible love and support. She is my rock. My family – my sister Kellie, her husband Alan and my three gorgeous nieces, Katherine, Sophie & Scarlett whose love and support are endless. Colin Fleming – Principal Flute, Ulster Orchestra, Northern Ireland. I would not have had the opportunity to pursue a career in music without Colin’s endless hours of teaching, mentorship, guidance and friendship. He took me from someone who could barely get a note out of the instrument and helped build a foundation that has guided me through my career. Sir James Galway, Emmanuel Pahud, Michael Cox and Sebastian Bell – incredible teachers and mentors who have greatly influenced and supported me over the years. Jonathan Blackburn – my friend, agent and business partner for 20 years who has given me the opportunities to help build a great career and business. To every music club & society, performing venue, music teacher, conductor, promotor, booking agent and arts organization, large & small, that have supported me financially or given me the opportunity to perform. Their belief in me from the earliest days helped to harbor my passion for music and encouraged me to take the next steps on this incredible journey.
Ella Gagiano Richard Dutkowski