5 Stars for STICKING IT OUT by Patti Niemi – BOOK REVIEW – Release Date April 2016

Title: STICKING IT OUT: From Juilliard to the Orchestra Pit, a Percussionist’s Memoir


Type of Book: ARC – Softcover 

Length: 248 pages


Release Date: APRIL 2016

Publisher: ECW PRESS

ISBN: 978-1-77041-273-6

Price: $24.95 U.S. / $26.95 CDN

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
~ I received a free ARC of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program. 

So, I should probably admit a couple of things before reviewing this book. One is that I know very little about orchestras and musical instruments and before reading this phenomenal book, I knew exactly nothing about percussion. I had no idea that a single person was expected to coordinate and play so many different instruments. When I first read the list all of the instruments that Patti Niemi was expected to not only learn, but to perfect, I was astonished. 


Photo obtained from http://www.musixcool.com

I also admit that I had preconceived notions about how orchestra musicians lived. I thought that they all grew up in the lap of luxury and that even before landing a job and while they attended Juilliard, that they livid lavishly and knew nothing of financial hardship or struggles. I was dead wrong about this., as you will find out if you read this book. Yes, it takes money to buy the instruments and pay for lessons, so most musicians of Patti’s caliber come from well off families. However, the paying jobs are so scarce after completing school that many people end up quitting music entirely and take “real” jobs. 

Why don’t we hear more about percussionists? Why are they not given more accolades? I still don’t have an answer to those questions, but I do have a new and profound respect for anyone who undergoes the ridiculously rigorous training and never ending practicing that it takes to become a professional percussionist. 

STICKING IT OUT could have been a drab, boring book full of technical information that no one who isn’t a professional musician would understand. Instead, it is a witty, sometimes hilarious look at the life of Patti Niemi; a life that I found myself utterly fascinated by.  

She has included numerous anecdotes about her life and experiences. One that sticks out in my mind happened when she was attending music camp in the summer of 1980. One of her friends mailed her a joint. Yes, I said mailed. Not only is that just ridiculous, but since there was nowhere to smoke it, she and her friend Zora locked themselves in the bathroom and ate it off a cracker. Then they walked around the camp pretending that eating it had actually made them much higher than they actually were. 

But of course, Patti’s story is not all fun and crazy antics. In fact, this behaviour was an anomaly. Patti was an EXTREMELY anxious person. She could even have been considered neurotic, or, at the very least: obsessive compulsive. 

When Patti went to orientation on her first day at Juilliard, the students were told that whether it was playing music, acting or dancing that their chosen art was their identity from that moment on. They were informed that no one at the school cared about their private life. The students were expected only to make the school look good. That orientation speech set the tone for the rest of her time at Juilliard.


The original Juilliard building

You would think that the hardest part of Patti’s musical career was over. After all, she had been accepted to the most famous and prestigious music school in the world. But that was not the case. She knew that there were, realistically, only a few paying orchestra jobs in the entire country and she knew that competition to land one of those coveted spots would be incredibly fierce. In fact, the Juilliard students were similar to vultures in that they were waiting for existing orchestra members to either retire or die so that a spot would become available. It may sound harsh, and people may have the idea in their heads that orchestra musicians are a quiet, reserved group, but the truth is that competition for paying jobs was fierce and sometimes cutthroat. 

Patti has proven that she is an exceptional musician and she can now add “talented author” to her personal biography. 

I was sucked into this book from the first chapter and kept enthralled throughout the book. Patti has led a fascinating, sometimes crazy life and STICKING IT OUT offers a chance for those of us who are non-musical to get a glimpse of this fascinating profession. Her candidness about herself, her fellow musicians, life at Juilliard and the way she truly felt about those competing against her makes this book come alive. She also talks about a specific problem she had during her schooling that will strike a chord with many female readers. 

If you had asked me before I started reading this book what I thought it would be like, I would probably have said that it would mildly interesting, but dull. I WOULD HAVE BEEN WRONG. 

I am going to recommend this book to all my friends, as well as to the readers of my blog. Patti’s life and mine have exactly nothing in common and yet I feel like I learned a lot from and about her. Patti’s dedication to her dream is awe inspiring. She has worked incredibly hard to get to where she is today. She has earned it.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 




PATTI NIEMI has played percussion in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra since 1992. She graduated from the Eastman School of Music Preparatory Department in 1983 and earned a bachelor of music from the Juilliard School in 1987. Niemi was a member of the New World Symphony in Miami from 1988-1992.  

To learn more about the author visit: 


The San Francisco Opera – Photo obtained from http://www.sfopera.com

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