Scholarship gigs

By JON GARELICK  |  August 4, 2009

The changes have to do with the city and also with how Bernstein sees himself. "I moved to New York in 1979. It was always a downtown scene. You didn't get rich, but rent was cheap, and you got paid to play. Now, it's 30 years later, New York is 10 times more expensive, and people are passing the hat at gigs." He tends to avoid those clubs, even to hear friends. "I don't want them to be able to say that a professional musician walked through their doors."

But in those 30 years, Bernstein has also developed a reputation, so there's always work somewhere. As we talked, he was preparing a set of Sly Stone arrangements for the MTO to play New York's River to River Festival in a special Woodstock tribute, with guests like Bernie Worrell, Vernon Reid, and Martha Wainwright. And his long-term relationships with a vast network of musicians has offset that lack of casual weekly gigs. "I'm really lucky with crazy commissions and gigs that keep happening. And I get paid to put music together."

NEWPOLI | Regattabar, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St, Cambridge | July 29 at 7:30 pm | $15 | 617.395.7757 or | STEVEN BERNSTEIN'S MILLENNIAL TERRITORY ORCHESTRA | George Wein's CareFusion Jazz Festival 55 | Fort Adams State Park, Newport, Rhode Island | August 9 | 800.514.3849 or

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