The more I look around each day the more I'm reminded of one of the cool things about being back in school later in life:
Man I am sooooooo glad social media wasn't around when I was 19.
Seriously, I doubt I would have made it through school or gotten a job ANYWHERE. I had a penchant for humor when it wasn't appropriate, inappropriate humor when it was even less appropriate, and just a general penchant for sticking my foot in my mouth. Impulse control issues, ADD, and social media are a bad combo.
Over the years I've gotten better but still, I'm always learning. You see, young grasshoppers, wisdom is acquired slowly....and all too often....very painfully.
So where am I going with this?
It's pretty simple, kiddos, there is SO MUCH MORE to the field of music than how much you know or how well you can play.
I had a conversation with undergrads recently. They asked me, as a saxophonist, the biggest difference between when I started years ago and now. I explained, the difference is pretty striking...
When I was an 18-20 year old, there were three or four universities where the true bad asses resided. I mean, the guys who could really PLAY. There was Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, North Texas, maybe a smattering of others. Oh, and it was either jazz or classical. You didn't see guys who could really do both.
EVERYONE can PLAY. I don't care if it's the professor at PoDunk State U in Bumblesnort. They are likely a beast and, more often than not, they can not only play classical lit at a high level but solo over ii V I's with ease.
It isn't just enough to be good anymore. EVERYONE is good. High schoolers are beasts now.
This isn't meant to discourage anyone. Keep working and you'll get there. I tell myself that daily. The point is that there's so much more to this whole thing. Here's what is important.
- Remember that your words AND deeds follow you. Everybody knows everybody. You may not think so but yeah, the music world is much smaller than you think.
- The above is especially true on social media. The internet is forever and screen shots are a thing. You might have deleted the ugly thing you impulsively posted but yeah, people probably saw it. Someone might have saved it.
- You're going to screw up. You might screw up badly. OWN IT. Say 'Yes, that was me.' Apologize, mean it, and do your best to make it right. The response will be remembered as much if not more than the gaffe.
- Work your butt off. Yes, it's ok to relax. Yes, we all need breaks. The problem comes when the breaks aren't the exception but the rule.
- Treat your classes like job training. This is supposed to be your career. Treat it as such.
- Choose your battles. There are ways to handle situations; especially with professors. If you pick a fight with a professor (of course I don't mean physical here) you are going to lose. Even if you think you win; that will follow you. There are ways to handle things. Be professional. Follow protocols as outlined in your student handbook.
- As a followup to the above statement. If you skip class with the excuse "The professor doesn't teach to my learning style." or "The professor doesn't know what they are doing." you just lost any argument you had. How would you know what and how they're teaching IF YOU AREN'T EVEN THERE?!
- It isn't enough to want the gig. It isn't even enough to earn the gig. You have to continue earning it every single day. The people who do that.....those are the ones who are consistently successful. This applies to Dean's list, chair placement, rank in the studio, a job, whatever. Simply put in the work.
- Try to be someone who's pleasant to be around. I know some folks are introverts. I get it. I am somewhat of an introvert myself; though I often come across as outgoing. You don't have to be the life of the party. You simply need to be professional, easy to work with, and pleasant to be around.
Folks, being a success comes down to two things. Attitude and effort. I know I'm not the first one to tell you this. However, everyone needs a bit of a reminder and for someone to occasionally impart wisdom gained over the years....and often the hard, painful way....
Keep your game face on.
Get to work.