Hey guys,

I could use some thoughts as I'm contemplating venturing someplace I've never been before.

Setting: A Mexican restaurant in a small town. I know, not exactly where a person might be thinking of piano music.

The place I'm thinking about is, I believe, the most popular restaurant in this small town. It's not a fancy restaurant but it's a decent sit down place where a lot of locals and a few tourists get mixed in. If it helps, a typical meal there for my wife and myself is something like $20 to $25, plus tip. It's not upscale, but it's not Burger King either.

The guys running it are brothers and they're nice guys. I've been on pretty friendly terms with them and they will often stop to chat with me a little bit even when we're out away from the restaurant.

Several times we've been to the restaurant, there has been live music. Some nights, they have a Mariachi band, and they're good. They travel around to various tables and play a pretty decent repertoire of the kinds of songs you'd expect. And last week, they had a couple of guys playing in the back with a couple of guitars and a mic doing some "county" stuff. Ok, I guess, seemed to work.

My wife decided to ask the owner whether he would like to have me play piano and noted that Christmas was coming. The owner actually kinda liked the idea but we didn't really go into it right there.

But it did get me to wondering about how something like that might work. I would guess there is no pay from the restaurant but I'm sure I'd be able to set up a tip jar. My physical appearance (white beard, larger belly than I should have) might be "seasonally appropriate", especially with just the right hat.

I've played church music since I was a kid. (I'm 51.) I've done weddings (both piano and organ), I've done some wedding reception music but that's been a long time ago. I have a jazz style and can easily break out the "Christmas Time is Here" or "Linus & Lucy" Vince Guaraldi with hardly a second thought. I like things jazzy and I can do most any style from Joplin to some real quiet and gentle stuff like a variation of Dave Brubeck's "Stardust".

Anyway, what I was curious about was what others might think of how much time I should plan to fill, how to mix up "softer and quieter" with "lively and exciting", how long to make "sets", whether such a setting would even allow for some of the sacred Christmas classics (Silent Night, Go Tell it on the Mountain, Joy to the World, those kinds), or whether it would be better to stick more with the White Christmas, Christmas Waltz, Frosty the Snowperson, Jingle Bells, those kinds, stick with just Christmas music, or should I kick in some odds and ends such as Maple Leaf Rag, MalagueƱa, Across the Alley from the Alamo maybe, some of those could be fun.

As far as actual printed music, I wouldn't be using it. About the only thing I would be likely to do would be to make myself a list of songs to make it easy to just roll from one to the next to the next without having to sit and try to remember what it was I was going to play.

Anyway, I just was feeling a little nervous about trying something like this out, whether I'll like doing it, whether the public or my friends at the restaurant would like me doing it there, whether potential tips would make it even worthwhile to drag out the keyboard and powered speakers, whether it would be better to only do a couple of hours or whether it would be better to pretty much start at maybe 4:30pm and go pretty much until 9:00pm or so.

Like I said, I never even thought about doing this kind of thing before. Mostly, I've done stuff that was more structured. That's not to say I'd have any trouble providing an hour of background music while friends just sit and talk, I've done that many, many times in a church setting.

One thing I really can't do, though, is make small-talk while I play. I can play and I can talk but I can't do them at at the same time! ;-)

I don't know how it might work but I do have a friend that might kinda enjoy bringing his soprano sax and playing a few tunes with me but I haven't approached him yet as I'm not even sure if =I= want to do it yet.

Anyway, if you have some suggestions, warnings, tidbits you might have discovered, I'd be interested in reading.