Luck is When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Posted: August 23, 2013 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

BackToFutureI wrote briefly in my Audition Post  that I was the guitar coach to Michael J. Fox on the film “Back to the Future”. During the ’80s that job really opened up some doors for me. I was just thinking about the wacky way I got the gig. This is a true story, really!

In the ‘80s I graduated from MI (Musicians Institute) in Hollywood. I then set up shop teaching guitar at my house in the North Hollywood area. After a few years I built up a decent clientele. One of my ex-students enrolled at MI and noticed there were a lot of jazz instructors and not many rock teachers, so he recommended me to the Ron Benson who was the head of the faculty. Most of Hollywood’s session players who made up MI’s teaching staff, at the time, were jazz and fusion players. 

Before I knew it I was teaching a couple days a week at MI. Not long after, in between classes one afternoon, I was goofing around showing the MI receptionist how I could play a guitar lick with my teeth (I don’t remember her name).

Here’s the coincidence and it’s the way the world works. Bones Howe, the music supervisor for the film “Back to the Future”, which was just starting production, called up MI later on that same day looking for a guitar teacher. The receptionist I had just been hanging out with answered the call. Bones specifically said he wanted a guitar teacher who could teach the actor how to play with his teeth and behind his head. The receptionist of course said: you have to get Paul Hanson and gave Bones my phone number! That’s a true story and it’s the weird way gigs happen.

This is an excellent example of being in the right place at the right time, right? Well think of this. Five years before I lived in Seattle and as a guitarist I was going nowhere. I had married a very smart girl and she suggested I get odd jobs and save enough dough for us to move to LA. That’s what we did. It was hard work, I painted houses, set up waterbeds and sold cheap guitars at a small music store, but we saved several thousand dollars.

I attended MI in Hollywood and practiced eight hours a day. Afterwards I got into a band, “The Brooklyn Brats”. We were a great band but we watched our contemporaries, Ratt and Poison get the big record deals and we never did. So I kept teaching to pay the bills. After a few years my reputation as a guitar teacher grew which helped me get the gig at MI.

Okay, you get the idea. Before I could take advantage of that coincidence, or opportunity, I put in a lot of preparation. I’m sure you’ve had coincidences too and you’ll continue to have them. I’m over 50 years old and have seen so many unexpected connections that I think coincidences are how the world is wired. But, you have to be prepared for when your coincidences occur. Don’t follow my path, everyone has to make their own, but as long as you keep at it you will get your break. Maybe it won’t be what you expect, I never set out to be Hollywood’s Guitar Coach, it just happened. Be ready for it. Keep preparing!

Btw, my screen credit was for a “Pinhead”! The Pinheads was Marty’s band that didn’t pass the audition.

Hello… McFly!

  1. Sloflo says:

    Great story and advice!

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