Thursday, April 15, 2010

What is Success?

What does it mean to be successful musically? 

Does it mean speed?  I don't think so.  Is fast always better?  Probably not.  Is it exciting?  Yes, probably so.  What is speed without feeling?  Just a bunch of notes. 

Is it perfection?  One of my flute teachers once told me after I had practiced very diligently on a difficult passage, "Well, you played all the notes."  I thought I had done really great because I had spent a lot of time making sure every note was played exactly correctly.  In the end, I was more robotic than anything.

This makes me think of banjo midi files.  Have you ever heard one before?  It is basically computerized banjo playing.  It sounds like a keyboard playing banjo notes.  There are no accents and it is absolutely perfect in rhythm and pitch.  And it's horrible...

Does fast playing really move you?  Sometimes.  Think "Rawhide" or "Orange Blossom Special."  These are great fast tunes.  They don't sound the same at all if they are played slow.  How about "Duelin' Banjos"?  It utilizes different speeds, and that really makes it a fun song.  You are being led up to the fast finish, but even the slow part is fun.

Is it fame?  I don't think so.  I know lots and lots of really great musicians who aren't famous.  Some become famous after they've passed on.  Think about Stephen Foster.  He is one of American's great folk song writers.  He wrote My Old Kentucky Home, Camptown Races, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, and more.  Did you know he died in his 20's, a pennyless alcoholic?

What about Elvis Presley?  Was he successful?  In one way, yes.  Would you want to live his life?  Probably not.  His music was great, but at what expense?  Follow that with Michael Jackson...

What about fortune?  Does that make you successful?  In the Bible, Solomon had it all and realized it was nothing at all.  I think we can all name wealthy people that have tons of scandals that follow them.  Somehow, that's not my idea of success either.

I think success is in all the little things we do in life.  It is in all the small accomplishments we make every day.  Maybe even things that others don't notice.

As a teacher, success is seeing a student get something that they couldn't get before.  It's seeing all the small improvements that maybe only me and the student know about.  It's about Nick raising his hands after countless beginning jam sessions when he finally played a kick-off correctly.  It's about Larry using some of his fill-in licks to make fake breaks on-the-spot.  It's about  Bill keeping rhythm for a break.  And Barb and Mallory using guitar runs they have learned in the songs they play.  It's not about a perfect break.  It's about going on.  Never giving up.  Striving to be the best you can be.

There's no need to compare yourself to others.  If you are worse than everyone else you compare yourself to, you'll end up feeling bad.  If you think you are better than everyone you compare yourself to, you'll be all puffed up with pride.  It's about setting reasonable goals for yourself and then figuring out how to achieve them, or modify them if necessary.  It's about being confident and comfortable with who and where you are, but also knowing that you are striving for more.

Perfection is boring.  Give me something to look forward to!

No comments: