By Charmaine Engelsman-Robins
Paul Crotty’s career takes off and he lands in Sarasota
At some point in our lives, most of us envision a dream career. A lucky few know what it is far enough in advance to start out on the right path from step one. Others go through a few false starts or longish term work situations before the writing appears on the wall. The least lucky either never know what their calling is and keep bumbling down all the wrong paths of the maze or … worse yet … know what it is but just can’t get it.
In the years I’ve covered musicians and other artists for various publications, one thing that has become clear is that the bumper sticker wisdom is right: “The worst day spent (insert dream position here) is still better than the best day doing anything else.” Which isn’t to say it’s all perfect all the time; lots of players are happy to have a gig … any gig … rather than get stuck in a straight job. But this doesn’t guarantee that they’re going to get up on stage and play the music they love every time. Sometimes… most times … they have to play what the audience, or the band leader, or the club manager wants them to play, even if it’s something they’d never play or even listen to if they had their druthers.
When Paul Crotty was a kid growing up as part of a musical family in Nebraska, making music was as natural as breathing. His mom and sister played piano and his three brothers all played guitar and sang. The sibs performed in school musicals and events, and then moved on to play out as a band. Most music loving audiences recognize the sound of family harmony because it’s somehow so special. The boys recognized this gift and when they played as a quartet they chose music that showed off their sound; Crosby Stills and Nash, John Denver, and other melodic covers with the quality song writing that best utilized their sound.
Later, when Paul was in college, he worked as a single act doing primarily piano-man style gigs: five nights a week, four hours a night on top of a full class schedule. But to quote yet another bumper sticker “When you do what you love you never work a day in your life.” And he did love it. So you probably think he majored in music and, when he graduated, lived happily ever after in a full time music career.
Paul spent 25 years working in Kansas City as an air traffic controller, retiring in 2010. He and his wife, Paula, have three (now grown) kids who are scattered about DC, Shreveport, and Jersey City. Paula is a speech therapist who worked in the school system up north and still enjoys working part time in her field.
Their move to Sarasota was something of a fluke: they had no relatives there, had never been down for a vacation, but in 2011 it just so happened that an RV salesman in Olathe, Kansas, told them about a Sarasota, Florida, condo that he was selling for his father. Paul came down, looked around, took some pictures, showed them to Paula and they jumped on it. After they’d made their purchase they started taking mini-vacays, coming down about five times a year, winter and summer, taking advantage of the numerous school breaks Paula got year round for Christmas, Spring Break and pretty much any time they could slip down south.
About a year after moving down in 2015 to be full-time Floridians, Paul got the idea to put an ad on Craigslist looking for a duo partner. Through sheer luck, serendipity, or fate, he first met local favorite Rob Garcia and they hit it off immediately. Rob introduced him to another established local player, Bain Beakly, and soon Paul was duoing with each of them as well as covering any solo gigs they asked him to, thus getting his foot in the door of the local music scene as a solo act.
Paul plays piano, guitar, and harmonica and still enjoys his old heroes Elton John and Billy Joel along with others, and for him that’s one of the best things about working only as often as he wishes, performing what he loves for audiences that love what he offers. Another plus is working only in places he really likes to be, favorites among those the Daiquiri Decks; he’ll be playing the newest DD on the south end of the Key on Tuesdays, 4 to 8 p.m., in June.
“It’s really fun playing there,” Paul says. “I love being able to choose my gigs and work where and when I want. It gives me a lot of control over my schedule and my life and I don’t have to worry about burn out.”
Though immediately after that statement he laughingly recalls how the last time he played there, two different birthday parties were in play and he had so much fun he ended up playing for five hours… after which he was invited to come along to the actual party at one of the celebrant’s homes. He passed, but had made a bunch of new fans/friends who would show up at his gigs regularly.
“I guess the best thing about this is that we’re here living our best life,” he notes.
Can’t ask for much more than that, no matter how or when it came to you.