5 Questions for #JazzDay with Ryan McCaffrey, Jazz Musician


“Started playing keys when I was 7 or 8, took up clarinet after asking my music teacher which is the more jazzy, the clarinet or the oboe?”

A jazz fan from a young age. Ryan McCaffery is a jazz musician, music teacher and songwriter and producer based in Hastings. Over his long career, he has shared the stage with big names in jazz including Roberto Manzin, Barnes, Clark Tracey and Trevor Tomkins. We sat down with him and learned more about the life of a self-employed musician.

1. What is a typical workday like? How are you marking International #JazzDay?

It depends what day of the week. I usually have a rehearsal at some time during the day. I’m in five different bands so I might be doing up to three or four rehearsals a week sometimes. I also teach so I have private students, and I work at a Contemporary Music School which is only a 10 minute walk away.

As for Jazz day, I haven’t thought that far ahead – I usually focus on the gigs which are mainly at the weekend so maybe practising some songs. In one of my bands we play my own music, and we have only just had a second rehearsal so it would be nice to get a gig with that band for International Jazz Day.

The amount of time I waste contacting venues and trying to get a gig significantly eats into my practice time.

It’s annoying when you tell people about it, and they’re enthusiastic about it, but then they don’t get back to you.

2. When you are not performing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to practice. I recently started working on a new practice regime which is quite exciting. It’s run by a guy in Georgia over in the States. I contacted him because when I came off a cruise ship, I flew to Atlanta early to avoid Hurricane Isaac and ended up in a jazz club called the Churchill Grounds. Terence Harper and his family ran it. His dad won an award – I mentioned it to the guy who runs this course with a method of learning, and he told me he ‘Yeah I know Terrance! Great guy and a great player. His dad ran that session before him, and he and I shared an office while grad assistants at GSU. Small world!’

3. What advice would you give to other self-employed musicians?

Be prepared to keep every receipt and make a note of how much you get, what gig you’ve done, where and how you got there because if you leave it to the last minute, you forget everything!!!

A diary is great. I’m with the musicians union, and maybe they’re a bit expensive, but I make a record of everything musical I get up to including rehearsals and pretty much everything is tax deductible, but you need to make a record of your expenses which is why I found 1tap receipts so helpful and worthwhile. I can’t believe the number of expense receipts I have come up with!

4. How do you deal with your taxes?

I have an accountant, and he usually sorts everything out for me. I give him my expenses and my income for the year. Sometimes, when I was working on the ship, I would be covered by Seafarer’s Allowance, but it’s handy for someone in the know to tell you based on their knowledge and experience. It also acts as a buffer. Now I have sent him a link to my expenses with 1tap receipts so should be much easier to find out what I can and can’t claim for.

5. What tax claims are specific to musicians and what was the oddest tax claim you made?

Musical equipment is the big one. Travel is probably second – getting to each gig and back, parking, paying the congestion charge or dart charge, parking tickets, mileage, petrol receipts, car insurance, car tax etc.

Rehearsals aren’t paid, but they are important and specific to musicians. It’s surprising how they add up.

The oddest tax claim I’ve had to make – not sure about that one. I always find CD’s a bit difficult or concert tickets if I’m going to see my mate’s band play, I like to support other musicians. It’s beneficial to me because you never know who you’re going to meet and you never know where meeting a particular person could lead. It might take years before you get something from it so the value of that concert ticket or going to see that friend play can me be potentially life-changing. CD’s – I listen to, and I learn from them, so surely they have to count for something?

Ryan McCaffrey has been playing professionally since he was 14 years old and jazz has taken him all over the world. He has performed at The Jagger Club in St. Petersburg, and the world’s biggest extreme sports festival in Norway, as well as around the world playing on cruise ships. Nowadays he’s available as a musician for hire, as well as offering piano, flute, clarinet and saxophone lessons. He also writes, records and produces his own music.

International #JazzDay In November 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.

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