You don’t need permission to be an innovative artist.


Sentinel (Photo credit: Pete Reed)

Have you ever considered this? If you are like me, and have read your fair share of self-education books about music performance, then you probably have considered the question of not needing the permission of others to be an artist. But there is a key component often not addressed in self-education books that can only be learned in the real world: Who are we not getting permission from? Who is holding us back?

Building healthy audiences, pioneering innovations in performance, and being a champion of innovative music education are at the core mission of Tuxedo Revolt. There is one caveat though; each of these goals relies heavily on the artist being a risk-taker and an innovator at the individual level. Many musicians and performing artists feel like they don’t have permission to break away from the pack and be innovators.

Today, I want to empower you to take risks and to seek innovation in your performance. You will see that you can be innovative and outstanding in performing, teaching, presenting concerts—whatever it is that you are passionate about.  Innovation is the key to rising above mediocrity, and the first step to being extraordinary is to explore unknown territories. You really don’t need permission to do it.

This will be the first of two posts that will help you to blow past the people who may be holding you back, to question their authority, and to revolt against anything but your own plans.

Ok, so let’s try this again: “You don’t need permission to be an innovative artist.” 

Along your path to becoming a rock star, an opera diva, or the next great virtuoso you will encounter the kind of person I loathe most in the music world: a Sentinel. Remember those terrifying robo-squid things from the movie, The Matrix? Most likely, you’ve already had your fair share of run-in’s with this demonic creature in real life.  Over these posts, we are going to take a look at what is a Sentinel, how do identify one, and how to disarm it.

What is a Sentinel?

Sentinels are the people who stand in the doorway between you and where you want to go. This can be either figurative or completely literal.  Often, these people have attained some degree of success in whatever it is they specialize in—this alone is not the problem. The problem stems from the way that they jealously guard their success by blocking others from taking the same pathways to success.

I have seen these people in varying degrees of intensity from the casual blow-off all the way to the audition saboteur.  I feel certain that it is in the form of Sentinels that musicians gain the reputation for being a little crazy. They don’t have to be outwardly hostile either. Sentinels can also take the form or well-meaning mentors, teachers, and loved ones.  Over the years, I have become convinced that many of these people don’t know how much damage they are doing to other musicians or fellow performers.


How to Identify a Sentinel:

The following are some quick and dirty tips for identifying the Sentinels in your life:

  1. Sentinels love to tell you all the reasons why something can’t be done but rarely give you any ideas to help you get something done.
  2. Sentinels usually aren’t ultra-successful people, but rather those who have achieved low to mid-level success. They will tell you stories about how they slaved for years to achieve what they have now. They may say things like “It’s a long road, with plenty of bumps—you have to have your fair share.”
  3. Sentinels are often cold or indifferent when you present them with an idea or new concept that might be more innovative than what they are accustomed to.
  4. Sentinels may believe that age and the number of years of experience they have acquired is the only way to become an expert or “professional” in a given field.
  5. Sentinels may always treat your ideas and dreams with skepticism. This is because your aspirations may exceed theirs, and this is both frightening and depressing for them. They have a fear that you might surpass them. Or perhaps they just don’t understand you.

Take this list of characteristics and examine the people in your life. Take a good look at who might fit this list.  Tomorrow, let’s examine how you can disarm these sentinels and kindly ask them to step aside and let you through the door to success.

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