Evona Wascinski is a bassist with deep roots in the local trad-jazz scene. She has at various times backed or worked with first-call locals such as Gilbert Castellanos, Mikan Zlatkovitch, and Sue Palmer at area venues such as the Turquoise Café in Pacific Beach, South Bay Fish and Grill, Little Italy’s Anthology, and Dizzy’s.
But after a decade of trying to get traction in the local music scene to pull down a steady, livable income, Wascinski says she is of necessity going to relocate to Europe for a while to see if the cash there is any greener.
“The gigs that I do have here?” she says. “The steady ones? You can’t survive on what they pay. It’s, like, gas money.”
Wascinski says she has seen a 33 percent drop in pay over the past few years. “A hundred bucks is, like, the normal pay for clubs here. But you’re lucky right now to get that. You have to fight for it.”
Even with a part–time job, Wascinski says that being a local musician is no longer a realistic way for her to make a living. “It’s sad. It’s hard.”
The irony, she says, is that she gigs almost nonstop. “I’m always busy. I rarely have any downtime at all. I’m busy, and I’m just barely getting by.”
Wascinski had to move back into her parents’ Santee home last year when finances got so bad that she was forced to give up her South Park apartment. She leaves for Poland on July 4. She hopes to set up enough contacts while there to be able to work the European circuit on a regular basis. But, did she buy a round-trip ticket? The answer is yes. Barring overseas success, Wascinski says her plan B is to move back East and go back to school.
Another aspect of the homegrown problem, she says, is that in the music world, San Diego rarely garners any out-of-town respect. “I was in Austin a couple of weeks ago talking to other musicians, and when they found out I was from San Diego they were just kind of like, oh, there’s nothing there.” She says San Diego swallows people up. “But the weather’s really nice.” She laughs.
“I feel like there is a glass ceiling here, unless you have something established with a popular touring artist. If you just stay here, San Diego is a dead end.” Wascinski, 31, says that she and her family moved here from Poland in 1986.
“I know they respect musicians way more in Europe than they do in America,” she says. “I’ve been doing research for this trip, and I’ve been finding out that there are a lot of jazz festivals just in Poland alone.”
Hence the need, she says, to ramp her career up to something approaching global stature. “Even though I grew up here, I still have more of a European soul. I really do.”