Let go of practicality… who said music is practical?

In a recent blog post on the Savvy Musicianwebsite, David Cutler talks about the importance of having big dreams for your career and your life in general. He also makes another great point– that our big dreams are often educated out of us.I have spent my whole life trying to outdream everyone else. Maybe it is my natural tendency to favor dissent, but I always tend to reject being made to conform, or someone else’s practicality. I think you should try it.

Without being too esoteric, ask yourself the following question: why do we let other people set the parameters of what we are capable of achieving as artists? Think about that. The performing arts seem to be rife with people who seemingly think that they have the authority to grant “permission” for someone to be successful. I don’t think that the other fine arts are quite as afflicted as we are.

It seems to me that the visual arts have more opportunity to break past these sentinels of opportunity than any other form of art. Perhaps the respect for the visual artist’s creation as a direct extension of his or her imagination often overrides concerns about technical ability, or thought process. Even in my atelier style watercolor classes at the Student Art League of New York, there is a respect for everyone’s work, even my humble beginning pieces.  Art is considered to be so diverse and divergent that we are educated to keep our minds open and accepting of new art we may encounter– regardless of how “practical” we may deem it to be.

In the performing arts, open minds and varied viewpoints often come few and far between.
There are our colleagues, professors, teachers, and often ourselves who keep us from taking the creative high-road because we have been educated that risk taking is well— too risky for us.

Somewhere in a studio in a city, there is a musician studying with an amazing teacher who will encourage the student to take extraordinary risks with music. Odd and unconventional repertoire choices, traditional and improvisational training, encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit, re-imagining where and how music can be performed— the teacher coaches the student with a spirit of creativity and imagination. But sadly, this is not often the case.

We are often told that unless we only choose to play “good” music, or in the “right” venues, we won’t have a “successful” and “fulfilling” career and that “our audience” won’t “like” us. Did I use enough“ quotations” for you? Don’t worry, I’m not grammatically inept! I wanted to show you that each of these words may have an entirely different meaning depending on who is saying it.

I encourage you to never take just one definition of these words as gospel. You are the one who decides what is good, what successful means to you, what fulfills your wildest dreams, and who your audience is.  It doesn’t have to be practical to be awesome.

You have the power to define your life and your career on your own terms. Sometimes what is the practical and well-beaten path is not always what is right for you– and that is okay. Embrace your rebellious nature. For me, when I have that little nagging voice on the inside that says NO!, that usually means I am on the trail of something worth following.

Keep up the good work! I want to hear about when you have revolted against convention and practicality!


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