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In my experience, the role of the music teacher isn’t necessarily to teach. Yes, it’s important to review subjects like scales, theory, sight reading, and improvisation, but time and time again, the thing I found is most valuable to students is the relationship shared between student and teacher.
For younger students, it’s one of the only times in their week where they get true, regular, one on one time with an adult other than their parents. This is also time that’s centered around them rather than the adult.
Music lessons have the benefit of being involved in the creative and expressive realm. The attentive teacher can recognize what’s important in and relevant to their student’s and help channel those concepts into meaningful ways of creative self expression.
When students are able to use what they learn in music to connect with their friends, family, or even complete strangers and feel better understood because of it, we the music teachers have truly done our job.
Today, I turn 28.
In the words of my girlfriend, “still young, but not that young anymore.” In my recent reflections, I’ve been giving a lot of thought of Reality vs Dreaming, mostly in context with my career. 28 is a big age developmentally for musicians. 30 is even bigger.
1. Time is running out. Right?
In conversations with a good musician friend of mine, Trevor H., the idea that we’d be 30+ year old dudes playing in local bars and clubs in hopes of one day “making it” seemed unacceptable. It still is. While do I feel like I’m “making it,” perhaps the better phrase is “making it happen.” The reality of what it takes to be an independent musician in this radically changing business climate is daunting, but this is our professional degree via the school of hard knocks.
Being a musician is like being a shark: one must constantly be moving or risk drowning in the very environment that gives you life. Creating and practicing is such a miniscule part of the day-to-day activity. There are plenty of better-written articles that talk about how much work goes into putting on even a moderately successful show. The point is that I feel like I’ve been working hard, working smart, and working long hours. But I still feel like I’m not working enough.
However, feeling like there’s never enough time is a good thing. I go to sleep excited, barely able to wait until I have a chance to move things even more forward.
2. Maintaining turns me into a caveman.
A lesson that I’ve learned this year was about the importance of adapting. Trends change so quickly, and what once was profitable, hip, and seemingly eternal can disappear. As another one of my musician friends (Geoff B.) had observed, guys who stick to the old ways are essentially cavemen still swinging branches in an age of bows & arrows. I realized that I was playing catch-up to a destination that was still going to leave me lagging woefully behind.
If I want true success, I have to take risks, suck-up failures from experimentation, and anticipate where trends are moving. Sure people will continue to find success in the traditional way of doing things, and maybe I will too, but even the rock stars of old have had to change to survive in today’s market. And I’m no rock star.
3. Touring is wonderful. Family is even better.
I began my 27th year of life single. I felt great about it: I was going to be a road dog, traveling nonstop so I can perform my music. With no ties emotional ties to a significant other, I wasn’t really hurting anyone, and I had a way of keeping the machine going, at least for a little while.
Then I fell in love.
After my summer tour, we moved in together. We had a puppy. I didn’t want to be traveling all the time anymore. But my finances suffered because of my extended time away from the road. After all, I’d planned my next few years of life as a performing artist with a packed schedule. Plans change.
I’m blessed to have a girlfriend who begs me to stick with music. She dismisses any notion of my getting a “real job.” She’d told me, “I can’t see you doing anything else. You found your calling and are meant to do this. It hurts me to think that you’d consider doing anything other than what you love.” Then she added, “It’d be a completely different story if I felt that your music sucked.”
We haven’t quite found the right balance yet, but I don’t think it ever gets easy being away from your girlfriend and puppy.
27’s given me a lot of lessons, some learned harder than others. I’m looking forward to seeing where 28 takes me! A big thank you to everyone who’s been supporting my music and making this all possible!
Last year on Valentine’s Day, I was single, just as I was for the previous V-Day, and many before that. No matter how one slices it, it sucks being single on February 14th.
To everyone, whether you’re single, involved or just getting into/out of a relationship: cherish your family. Cherish your friends. Above all, cherish yourself. No matter what you think of this holiday, one thing is true: the world can always use more love.
I’m so thankful to all of my friends new and old, casual and intimate, near and far who’ve helped me through difficult times and celebrated with me during triumphant ones. I love my family: they anchor me and are my constants in an ever changing world.
This weekend, I will celebrate my first Valentine’s Day in over half a decade. I’ve been looking forward to it but also wish lots of love on those who need it.
Welcome to the first episode of a series where I teach you how to play my music!
I’m focusing my efforts on this series over the 5 minute tutorials because I feel that they will be more helpful to people. We’ll go over specific techniques I use in the songs so that you can learn my song or add some more tools to your arsenal!
Grab your guitar, and let’s get started!
One of my favorite movies of all time is Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, a film I feel to be Miyazaki at the height of his game. Natasia and I watched it over the weekend and marveled at the storytelling, the incredibly imaginative scenery/visuals, and the beautiful ethic driving the film. Spirited Away was a movie I remember anticipating highly in high school. I listened Joe Hisaishi’s soundtrack months before the film had released in the US, and several of the numbers tug at my heart strings with more vigor than classical music mainstays.
Like any good work of art, so many interpretations and angles can be taken from the movie, but one particular theme that resonated with me was that of loneliness. Protagonist Chihiro struggles with loneliness: she’s an only child, is in the process of moving at the beginning of the film, gets separated from her parents, gets isolated in the strange spirit world she finds herself, and [SPOILER ALERT] has to say goodbye to all the friends she’s made by the film’s end. However, she seems to resolve many of her initial loneliness issues by helping others confront theirs.
One of the most heart-warming things about the movie is the cast of outcasts who help her in spite of a world and culture that demands the contrary. Not all are kind to her, but they are genuine. My philosophy is ever-changing, but something that has changed was that most of us as individuals cannot do much to make sweeping changes to the world around us. However, we do exercise a great amount of power in the way we conduct ourselves in our everyday lives.
A little bit of kindness and respect go a long way in making the world a better place. While it’s easy and basic instinct to blame others for the bad in the world, it’s much harder to look within, acknowledge our own faults, and live our lives in a way that helps the people around us. I feel that many people–myself included–are too quick to assume the worst from others or be weary of the trustworthiness, generosity, and kindness of strangers. Yet when we allow the fear of having that trust betrayed rule our lives, we further isolate ourselves and feel ever more lonely.
I elect we stick together and be a positive influence in our community, no matter how big or small.