Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Musings

Minor Musing:
       I really don't like Judas Priest very much. It isn't any one thing. I just listened to "Breaking the Law." It's so repetitive and bland. It sounds like something a good musician should be able to play in his sleep, it doesn't really have much meaning or emotional content, it's extremely repetitive........I just don't understand the artistic appeal. I don't like it.

Major Musing:
       I've never had a student in six years of teaching who I felt was disrespectful or exhibited poor behavior in my studio. I was pondering this the other day, and I was thinking about observations I made while growing up. I used to wonder at why kids in other homes behaved differently than I did. It wasn't that all my friends were brats (or had siblings who were), or that my peers seemed to get away with more mischief than I did, I just noticed while I was growing up that other kids my age seldom related to their parents the same way I would relate to mine. There was something different about it, and I think I've figured it out: respect.
       My parents always treated me like an adult no matter what age I was. I don't mean that I was expected to perform adult tasks, or given adult responsibilities, or that they didn't discipline me as parents when I misbehaved. I mean that they always talked to me with an attitude that I should be brought up to their level, an attitude that assumed I was capable of understanding everything they said even if I didn't, and attitude that I was an intelligent human being. They didn't assume that I was stupid just becaue I was young. I think that was the difference.
      When I looked at a lot of my friend's homes, and saw the way their parents talked to them or to their siblings, most of time the conversation had a different tone to it. One that implied that the children were like smart animals, whereas when my parents talked to me, it had more of a tone that they were talking to a dumb human. It's hard to really put into concrete terms what I'm talking about, but it has to do with respect.
       I'm not saying I never will have a student who gives me trouble or behaves poorly, I'm sure eventually it will happen. But while I haven't seen it yet, I have seen students who are well behaved in a lesson, and as they walk out the door with their parents, before the door is even shut, they turn into totally different people. And I have gotten comments from parents who say that I'm incredibly "patient" with students. My response to this is: "What am I supposed to do, yell at them? How is that going to help?" Then they'll just get more frustrated, and probably resent me for not trying harder to work with them. If anything it will hinder our progress.
     The point is: I think I've figured out why students behave the way they do around me, and why they sometimes turn into different people when they leave. They know I expect them to behave reasonably, and I don't even have to say it to them, because I treat them with respect.

Advice on becoming a musician:
      As long as we're talking about respect, today's advice is a continuation of the last post about getting along with your band mates with a word about respect.
       I recently saw an interview of the magic duo Penn&Teller (I'm secretly a big fan). They were asked what kind of personal relationship they have outside of their work together, and Penn explained something that I think is a very important concept to apply to many areas of life, including choosing your band members. Penn said that while they have been working together for several decades, and they have spent a lot of time together, living together, traveling together, rehearsing and performing together, they never really had a relationship outside of their business relationship, at least not until recently, and he thinks that's important.
       He used the example of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They became friends, and had a lot of shared tastes and interests. Eventually they ended up starting a band together, and becoming one of the most well known songwriting teams in history. The problem with what they did is that after The Beatles "made it," the members all started to remember that they had their own ideas, tastes, and agendas. After their manager died and they started having differences, they took it personally, and they lost respect for each other. When things started to go wrong, they stopped feeling the love. The business crumbled because it was built on the emotional friendship between the members of the band.
       Penn and Teller used a different model.
       They started when Penn was 18 and Teller was 25 (or maybe he said 26, quite an age difference to people so young!) They didn't have any emotional relationship with each other, or any desire to be friends, but they shared common interests and ideas, so they decided to go into business together. After living together as room mates, traveling together, working and performing together for many years, they did develop a friendship, because it's hard not to become friends with someone you spend that much time with, but it was a friendship that was built on respect.
       The thing that made them different from The Beatles is that they don't care if they like each other or not. They understand that they have a working relationship that comes before their personal relationship, and that's what held them together. There were times when they may not have been getting along during their career as a magic duo, but it didn't matter, because they were accountable to each other to do their job before they were accountable to be each other's friend.
       Penn likened it to working at a convenience store, and disliking the guy who cleans the slurpee machine. You might not like the guy who cleans the slurpee machine, but so what? He does his job, and you do yours. You still treat him with respect because he does his job and that's all he needs to do.

What is my point?
       The point is, it's great if you can be in business with your friends (or be friends with the people you are in business with). But you need to understand (and they do too) that if you want to be successful in bussiness or in a band together, your relationship needs to be built on respect first and foremost, and not on some likeability possessed by the other party. Emotions change with the wind, it's foolish to build your business (band) on them.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Muddled Musings

Musing 1: The album "A Quick One" by The Who is amazing! Especially from a song writing standpoint. I'm not sure how many of those songs are covers, but I *wish* I could write songs that catchy. I love it.
Musing 2: The phrase "played the church organ like a boss" just tickles my phunny bone for some reason (misspelling intentional). I don't know why.
Musing 3: A friend of mine once said: "I don't care how I get along with someone on a personal level, if they're really talented, I'll work with them." I recently realized that my friend doesn't know what he's talking about. It's rare for musicians to dislike each other and still work well together. Sam and Dave are an incredibly rare exception to the rule. At the end of the day, I have to ask myself: "If I work with this person, will I look back on that time and be able to honestly say that I got some enjoyment out of it?" If the answer is no, I don't want to be in that group. That's not to say that you need to get along perfectly with everyone all the time, and you certainly should be flexible and willing to compromise. But in the situation described above, it doesn't matter if we're the biggest band in history, it's more important to me that I can have some fun with what I'm doing.
Advice on being a musician: "The music business is the worst business on the planet."-Kevin O'Leary, on ABC's "Shark Tank."
The fact of the matter is that yes, the music business is risky. Get over it. Everything is risky. Everything is hard. If you want to be the best at what you do, it will take effort. If you want to make a lot of money you have to take risks. Get smart, work hard, and don't be afraid of the risk. If you love what you do, you're in a good business.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Music as a career

So here's the deal:
        I've realized recently that I have a lot of thoughts about life, music, business, and the music business that flow through my head everyday, and I'm not recording them or sharing them with anyone. Recently I was asked to put several presentations together about writing and recording music, and making a career in the music business, that I will be giving over the next few days to a group of music students. In the process of putting these presentations together, I realized that I have outlined a lot of these thoughts that I never wrote down.

But here's a problem: I hate blogging.

        It's just so much work, so time consuming to write so much down, and I hardly ever remember everything I thought of during the day. So I'm hoping to start posting to this space more often, and hopefully I won't say very much in each post. I want to share just enough information that it's more useful than just a proverb or saying, but not so lengthy that we both lose interest by the end. Sound like fun?

I will start with pursuing music as a career.
First post:
        So you want to be a musician, huh? Play in a band and make it big? Maybe not, maybe you just want to be an accompanist, a songwriter, or a director for a large ensemble. Maybe you want to be a music teacher. Maybe you don't want to be in the music business at all. Whether you're in the music business or not, the following advice is for you: Figure out your priorities.
        One of my favorite lyrics that's ever made an impact on me is from the song "Freewill" by the band Rush. It says: "you can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice, if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice." I think that's brilliant! There's far too many people today who don't even know that they've made a choice.
        If you don't know already, you should figure out what you believe....about everything. Religion, politics, philosophy, values, everything. Even if you're not sure what to believe, you should be aware of that! A lot of people have made the choice of not knowing what to believe, and they don't even know it, because they've never questioned themselves. Even if you have no clue about anything, recognizing you have no clue is extremely valuable. It's like breaking an addiction, admitting you have a problem is the first step.
        I think a lot of people are addicted to just getting through one more day, and trying not to think about the big picture, because they're scared, or lazy, or because they never have before. Stop it! Take the first step.
        Even if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.