by Chris Ellis, music instructor
Does this sound familiar?
“I want my child to have the chance I never had to become a musician…” or “ I started playing in school but gave it up. I wish I hadn’t” or “I loved it but then I had something happened on stage and I could never confront it again”.
As a music teacher I have heard these statements over and over.
Each of these reasons was tendered with a look of regret and hope that their child will somehow magically be spared the devastating unhappiness of a treasured goal that has been disappointed.
So what happened? Why did you give it up? Chances are you have a reason but deep down, there is something more… some other elusive reason.
In my role as music instructor, I have rehabilitated many musicians.
It is not difficult. All you have to do is listen to their story and have a basic understanding of life and human behavior to pull out the real reason they gave it up and to handle that reason.
Of all the “reasons” someone might give for abandoning their dream in whatever form (singing, or playing an instrument) there are a few that happen more often than others and I will explain them to you today as you may just recognize yourself in one of them and find the tools to regain your passion and start making beautiful music again.
1. Someone pooped on your goal, your enthusiasm or your skills.
This is not as uncommon as we would hope. It occurs often in “polite society”. If you have put yourself out there and performed, I am sure you have run into someone who wants to give you “constructive criticism”.
I don’t know why some people think they have the right to do so or what makes them think their critiques are welcome but they are not. I never critique anyone unless they specifically ask me for it and I NEVER do so unless I can give them the solution and how to correct it immediately.
During the probably hundreds to thousand times I have performed, I have had people come up to me and say my “F” was flat (Really? Which “F” was that?), that the players I was playing with were not as good as me (This is a compliment?) that I played pretty good for a girl, and other completely inane statements.
No artist is spared. If you perform and expose your art you WILL get this crap.
If you let it affect you, you will get disheartened and quit. Don’t let it! Get away from people who do that and stay away.
One of the best rejoinders I have used when someone has come out of a crowd and said something like that is “Where are you playing? I’d like to come critique your performance.” Invariably they are not playing out and have never done so. It shuts them up quite handily.
Understand that anyone who does that has issues. Ditch them and move on.
2. You just didn’t understand the subject.
Let’s face it. Music theory is a term that strikes fear into the hearts of many people who have tried to study it. I have actually had students tell me that they didn't want to learn theory, they just wanted to play.
Again, life does not work that way. That is like saying you don’ t want to know how a car works, you just want to fix them. You can’t.
Any subject consists of theory or the laws and principles behind the subject (how it works) and the practical application or the doing of the thing.
Even learning has its own theory and practical application (http://www.appliedscholastics.org) and is a subject unto itself.
Written music is simply a set of symbols that allow you to read or write music so that it persists and can be duplicated by yourself or other artists. Each symbol has a specific meaning and once you understand (you don’t even have to memorize them) you can understand music and will find it extremely interesting and easy.
Since I found myself spending too much time in private lessons explaining music symbols and how they worked, I wrote a book that is extremely simple and effective. When I piloted this book my end product was failed musicians whose interest was rekindled after reading the book and applying the information. One for one it worked. (You can get the book HERE.)
It is a well known fact that one will give up a subject if he does not understand the words or the symbols. All it takes to rekindle someone is to get the words and symbols defined.
3. “Something happened on stage and I was mortified and never went back.”
This is the most disheartening and upsetting of all the reasons. There are some wonderful people who live with this heartbreak for years, hiding that it occurred and feeling completely alone.
I have had grownups cry when they told me about this. It is that much of a heart break.
What they don't realize is this: performing onstage is its own skill and you can only perfect it by performing on stage. There is nothing that can prepare you totally for the nerves, the unexpected interruptions and the reactions of the audience.
The best strategy is to learn your act so completely that you can do it in your sleep. Then take it to an open mic or karaoke where there is a limited number of people. Then increase your exposure on a gradient. Work your way up to big crowds.
The other thing to understand is that everyone, EVERYONE bombs at some time or another. I can still recall my most painful bomb as if it were yesterday. The trick is to understand that it comes with the territory and use the bomb to learn from it. Some day you might be swapping war stories with other seasoned musicians and hear about their bombs. It is a rite of passage almost.
Also understand that everyone has nerves and the more you perform with them, the more you know how to handle them. Performing can be like riding a roller coaster. You are terrified before you get on and so exhilarated when you get off that you can’t wait to get back on.
The main thing to understand is that most people do not go up on stage, at least not while they are sober.
Just putting yourself out there as an artist is somewhat akin to holding your soul in your outstretched hands and offering it to someone holding a razor blade. It is personal and vulnerable because it is you.
Also understand that the artists who continue to put themselves out there without reservation even after the failures, the bombs, the criticism and all of the rest are the ones we love the most. They let us in to their private universes and share all of themselves with us. How lucky are we to be invited?
If you do this, you are special and wonderful. Keep doing it. You are giving the world a great gift.
If you gave it up, download my book and read it next to your keyboard. You will want to go back to it.
Music is the greatest joy in life in my view. Do not deny yourself the exhilaration and camaraderie that musicians enjoy.
If you are stuck and need more assistance, contact me and I will help you.
Article by Chris Ellis
Michelangelo once said, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” At Artists Run This Planet we see Earth as our marble and we hold a chisel and hammer up to it every day. This beautiful canvas of a planet waits for us to paint it daily. Gone are the days of suppressing art, of pursuits less noble than creating. We have the technology available to create in any medium, and faster than ever before. As artists we are the creators of every new innovation and idea that takes shape. We are mankind’s continual hope and driving force — “Artists Run This Planet." - David Carus, Art Planet CEO & Founder