We had the good fortune of connecting with Tony Rinaldi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tony, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
A healthy work life balance is an essential part to being a productive freelance artist. It took me years to dial in a good sense of balance as a freelance musician in all honesty, but when I realized the value I strive to make sure I have a good balance daily now. A healthy work/life balance is something I always stress to all of my students. You can’t be productive with your art if you have burned yourself out. And if you have burned yourself out it’s going be really hard to find what makes you happy and resets those creative braincells. I started freelancing in 2012 professionally. When I first started I did not have a great perception on work/life balance. I only had a dog so I had very little responsibility at the time. I had just graduated from college so I was eager to jump in to the deep end and get to work. For my first year I worked almost non stop in 2012 touring the world with a pop band from Denmark, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, When I returned to LA I immediately put my head down and got to work saying yes to any gig or session I could get. It’s important to do this as a new freelancer but I didn’t realize I was doing more harm than good by not balancing myself out. I met my now wife, in the end of 2012 and that’s when, by default, I started to make more room for life. Naturally, I wanted to hang out and be with her more so that took time away from my practice. We would go to yoga, hikes, the renaissance fair, biking, etc… and for the first time in years I would miss a day of playing here or there. At first I got upset because of that fear place we all go to as artists. I thought I would lose gigs and be unhappy but quite the opposite happened. I found that I stopped saying yes to all gigs and just the ones that sounded like fun or paid a little bit more. This led me to find that I was more happy not trying to stretch myself thin for everyone else. If I took a little bit of time to do something for myself, I actually found a lot more joy in my professional playing. As artists we tend to obsess over whatever our artistic path may be. I think it’s absolutely essential to step outside of that obsessive bubble and find a hobby or something physically engaging that makes us happy. For me I find that trail running, longboarding, hiking, connecting with nature, or yoga all take me away from art and engage and reward me in different ways that my music never could. When I return to playing my trombone I feel refreshed mentally and physically. I find new creativity and new life in my art when I’m able to truly step away from it for a little bit. In regards to this fine balance I have found right now in my life, I know it’s going to be shattered and change completely. I have a baby boy joining this world any day now and I know that my work/life balance is going to completely shift again. BUT I do know that being a parent will have its own rewards even when it detracts from my art. This is the natural flow of life. I’ve learned to be patient and always make sure to have a little time to myself every day.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a musician by trade and playing the trombone is my specialty. As a musician I thrive in the live music industry. I love playing on stage every night in a different city. Touring around the world in a tour bus has been one of the highlights of my career. I absolutely love the connection you get from an audience and a band at a live show. There is nothing like playing music for someone and seeing that person have a physical or emotional reaction to what you’re doing. I have always enjoyed recording in the studio as well. I’m an incredibly detail oriented person so I find that I can really get that out in a studio setting. Since the onset of Covid-19 I have gotten even more adept at my skills in my home recording studio. In the last few years I have started a small private studio and found some serious joy in educating others. Not only do I get to pass along the knowledge I have acquired but I get educated myself when I teach others. I would have to say that one of my best skills is my live performance. I really enjoy the whole aspect of stage performance. Dancing, audience interaction, small choreography here and there, etc… Just playing the horn lines is great but if you can move while you’re doing it that will truly engage the audience. It really makes a show when you can go up on stage and put everything you have into that 90 minutes. If you’re not sweating afterwards you’re not doing it right! The are many reasons I got to where I am today in my professional career. One of the biggest reasons is my attitude. I try my hardest to stay humble and not get an ego on my shoulders. I’ve found that you can’t just play your instrument really well. Don’t get me wrong, that’s also part of it, but being humble will get you further than talent sometimes. Or it will make that one off gig a more permanent thing. I’ve always been a person who is attracted to that musician who can absolutely own their instrument and still be a decent person with no ego after they put it down. I strive to be that musician. Let the music speak for itself. I’ve encountered many challenges along the way in my career. One of the toughest ones for me to overcome was my own battle with alcohol. I am a recovering alcoholic of 9+ years and when I first sobered up it was really difficult for me to navigate the social realm of the music scene while not drinking myself. They told me I needed to let go of my old life and find new friends and social circles but as a professional musician I didn’t have that luxury. I needed to reinvent how I was going to be social and not let my personal decision to not drink alcohol affect my social interactions with my music colleagues. Instead I figured out that not having the conversation of my sobriety at all was the best case scenario the majority of the time. And I found that having something as simple as a glass of water in my hand deterred that awkward question of, “Do you want something to drink”? If you ask me about my journey I’m happy to share, but I find that in general interactions things can get awkward if my sobriety is the first topic I bring up. Having a drink in my hand completely voids that awkwardness and tends to keep my interactions, both personal and professional, a little more honest and real. I have small tricks up my sleeve for navigating this world but the temptation is always there. That has been the hardest part for me sometimes, is the easy access to alcohol everywhere in my professional business. But I also have a strong track record to show for not drinking, so it keeps me going as well. I consider these little wins here and there but they do boost my confidence in continuing not to drinking and maintaining a strong foothold as a professional musician. Another big challenge I really want to address is, establishing and truly knowing your own self worth as a musician. It took me a long time to understand this concept and thrive with it. I see a lot of other young freelancers who are in the same boat as I used to be. I feel like just shedding a little light on the topic can benefit both the individual freelancer and the community. Musicians need to value their work at a higher dollar value. It’s hard to establish that but for me personally, I made leaps and bounds professionally and personally when I set a very simple rule down for myself. I told myself, no more free work for others. I will not play my instrument for less than $100. In doing this, I cut out all of the extra free rehearsals and bar gigs for $40-$60. This single act allowed me to make money every time I played and feel valued for the time I put in to make the music great. It also freed up time in my personal life so I could do things that made me happy. Skateboarding, running, hiking, going to the movies with my wife. These may seem ordinary to people with a 9-5 but for freelancers you know that these things are a luxury every now and then. If you establish your value as a musician at a low or free rate you have then lowered the bar for the whole community. We all need to eat, YES, but when you devalue what we do for a living no one can eat in the long run. It’s about building yourself and your community together. The freelance community needs to come together more than they need to compete. This way everyone wins in the long run. I’ve learned many lessons in my short career as a professional trombonist but I do have to say that what I have learned I’m grateful I learned earlier rather than later. Always stay humble and know your self worth. As freelance musicians you’re gonna lose 100 gigs before you find that 1 gig. Persistence in practice, patience, and trust in yourself are absolutely key to a successful freelance career.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well for me personally I’m a very outdoors centric person. I always connected deeply with nature so when I’m asked for what to do around LA I always recommend going for a hike or finding a trail network inside the actual city of LA. They have some really beautiful and challenging trails all over and I feel like they don’t get enough recognition. I always recommend going to Fryman Canyon, Griffith Park trails, or this spot located in the Burbank hills. The trails are really well maintained and if you go off the main trails a little bit you can find some decent seclusion in nature inside of a big city! My wife and I always frequented this small yoga studio in Burbank called, Yoga Blend. Sadly they are closing their physical space because of covid but their community remains strong and they are establishing a strong online presence. Where do I start with food?!?! I lived near the North Hollywood area so I will share my spots that I frequented around that area. I absolutely love this coffee spot, Groundworks. They are located in the heart of north Hollywood right next to the north end of the red line metro. I spent way too much money here. Rodini Park is an amazing Greek food spot also located in north Hollywood. I highly recommend trying out this one small Thai restaurant called, Noodle Monster. Last but no least is my all time favorite breakfast spot in Los Angeles. They could use the help right now so please support them if you can. Egg Plantation located in Santa Clarita has the best brunch hands down! And one of the biggest menus I have ever seen to top it off. Highly recommend the strawberry stuffed French toast! If you’re looking for great night life I find great live music in Silverlake, Hollywood, and Echo Park areas. You can usually find live music every day of the week when we aren’t in the middle of an international pandemic! The Blue Whale also has a fantastic mix of live music. Ranging from contemporary to jazz. They always have really great music there!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to shoutout the most current group of guys I have been playing trombone with, Iration. These guys have welcomed me with open arms over the last two years. I first started playing with them in the spring of 2018 on the recommendation of my great friend and colleague Drake Peterson. Drake has played trumpet with Iration since 2016 and brought me into the mix in 2018 to form Iration’s horn section! They have been amazing at incorporating me into their reggae family. I have had the privilege of touring across the USA with them and even getting to record on their new album, Coastin, being released this summer, July 10, 2020. I’m grateful for their friendship and all the amazing opportunities they have presented me with the last 2 years. They have made me and wife feel welcomed and loved and I couldn’t be more grateful.
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B/W lifestyle photo credit: Rebecca Borrowman IG: @beccabees_photography @beccabees_boutique All other photos credit: Chris Colclasure IG: @chrisfiq