I’m a bassist. I’ve played for 16 years.I bought my first bass on October 1 and played my first show on Halloween night, dressed as Roller Girl from Boogie Nights (sans skates for safety). My boyfriend’s band needed a bassist, and I signed up because I’d been in the school band, grew up with a piano teacher mom, and had some Pixies CDs. Also, I thought, it’d be kinda easy.I became a digital project manager in much the same way. I’d been a copy editor, moved into web editing, did some basic programming, and a job opened. I signed up. I got it. Half the time, being a PM feels like playing the root notes. You need a meeting scheduled? Check. Agendas? I got ‘em. Budget reports? Sure, what format?When you’re on a project when this is your role, that’s cool. But it can feel unimportant (how hard is Outlook with Scheduling Assistant, really?) and less than challenging. Like a song that needs a 1–4–5 walking bass line, I can do it; tell me the key, and I’ll play it. Hell, I’ll kind of love it. Playing root notes can be pretty rock and roll — just throw on a Ramones record.But for the longest time, I beat myself up for playing the root notes, on my bass and as a project manager. While I knew the song or the project wouldn’t be the same without me, and my mistakes would be pretty damn obvious, I knew I could do more. I’d just need the right band, the right project, and some practice.A recent project presented the opportunity to do just that. I work as a consultant now, after years of being on the client side of web development, and the transition wasn’t easy. One of my first projects didn’t work out when the client “wanted a PM, not a friend.” I didn’t want to stop my cheery hellos on conference calls, but the experience did set me back a bit. (Since then, I’ve found a better balance between friend and project manager. It’s some of both, but that’s for another thought.)This challenging project was both root notes and complicated stretches. Moments of meeting coordination followed by days of hard conversations, strategic guidance, and calling in the forces for last-minute changes. Plus, we had a hard deadline with about 15 business days to execute some pretty serious development. In the midst of it, I realized that I was the constant, even if I wasn’t the one signing the contracts or making All The Decisions. I was the person our client could reach out to at a moment’s notice, the one they “ran things by” if they wanted to escalate something above me, an ongoing presence, like the rumble of John Entwistle’s bass on “My Generation.” With some picking on the root notes, and doubling Pete’s guitar part of the time, John’s there, but Roger’s stuttering is what you listen to.Until the bass solo. My bass solo came just three days before our deadline, when, in the midst of final development, I needed to have a hard conversation about priorities. Our available devs were putting the final touches on a social sharing piece, but the content folks were turning up bugs in the CMS that needed our developers’ attention. Knowing that the social component was key to the success of the project, I put it this way: “Sharing content on social media is important, but having clean, authorable content to talk about in the first place is even more important.”And it was a breeze. It made perfect sense, and no one could argue about priorities, or debate how many cars we could fit in our one-car garage. And it was articulate and clear and I was doing my job as a project manager, steering things in the right direction.Next time you’re playing the root notes, give “My Generation” a listen. You’re the guy thumping along, driving the song. They need you there. It’d be incomplete without you. And maybe you’ll need to play a solo at some point, a memorable solo, that could make all the difference. And you can do it.Rock on.