“With Doc, your credo is strong and swinging,” was the tip Ed Shaughnessy gave me when I called to say Doc Severinsen’s management had hired me, on Ed’s recommendation, for a big band date Ed couldn’t make. Suddenly the opportunity of a lifetime was before me.

Hello, fellow Modern Drummer readers, David Stanoch from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, here. Some of you may have read my MD articles or my book, Mastering the Tables of Time, and I’m proud to be invited to blog about an amazing gigging experience I recently enjoyed last month.

Back in my senior year of high school, during the heyday of Doc Severinsen and the NBC Orchestra on The Tonight Show Starting Johnny Carson, Ed Shaughnessy and I performed together with my jazz ensemble. That was a true thrill, and he’s been a great friend ever since. But to be called to sub for him with Doc was something else. I didn’t doubt that I could do the job, but I didn’t take it for granted either.

My goals were to make Doc happy, make Ed proud, and enjoy the gig. I have great experience to draw on, but I prepared further by drilling some excellent chart reading studies, tweaking my up-tempo timekeeping chops, and downloading Doc’s CDs to hone my interpretation of the arrangements by studying Ed’s.

It paid off. Doc told us at rehearsal that we’d hate him at the end of the day, but love him when we’d hear the crowd react at the show. I sensed, even with Ed’s recommendation, that Doc was nervous about me, which I understood—he didn’t have Ed there to rely on. I listened to Doc carefully in rehearsal. He shared bits of his history when explaining how he wanted certain things, which was riveting. He was tough sometimes, but in a good-hearted way. He gave me great feedback as well.

During the sold-out show at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, I had Doc’s back, and the show was electric. He was right about the crowd, and we were all stoked after the gig. Doc told me, “Don’t be surprised if we do it again!” When I called Ed, he said, “Remember, Dave, I didn’t recommend you just because I like you—I did it because I knew you could not only play the book but also take Doc’s criticism the right way to make the gig better.” These are the pay-offs I impart to my students at McNally Smith College of Music. It’s one thing to be called to sub a gig, but it’s another to be called back. And no matter what, attitude is everything. I’m proud I kept focused and achieved my goal. It allowed me to live in the moment and enjoy the experience. It was an honor to serve these musical icons, and it was a night I’ll never forget.

Please check out my current events and say hello any time at www.rhythmelodic.com.