March 5, 2012

Make your own path

I'm not sure what made me think of this, but a while back (it must have been a long time, since it has been several months since I removed myself from internet forums in order to enjoy my life more) maybe a year or two I remember someone saying he planned to spend the next year immersing himself in the music of one composer. The responses varied, but I believe the general feeling was that in the interest of being a well-rounded musician, this was not a good idea.

Well, if your goal is to be a well-rounded musician, maybe so. Being a well-rounded musician is a great thing. On the other hand, if the music of Fernando Sor is what gets you out of bed in the morning, I think you should go with it. Cultivate the obsession and learn as much about Sor and as much of his music as you can.

Several years ago, for a variety of reasons, I quit playing guitar altogether for about a year. I used to really regret it; I did lose some technical ground and some flexibility in my hands that took a long time to regain. On the other hand, during that time, I became a pretty good irish flute player because that was the obsession that drove me at the time. Flute led me to a world of social music-making that has helped me make some very close friends and enriched my life. Making music in that kind of capacity has brought me a wealth of insight into the nature of music and performing, following the flow of and getting carried away by music. All these things could have happened if I'd followed a straighter path, but they would have been different.

A few years before that, I'd been working hard to prepare myself to audition for music school. I was ready to quit my job and start my life over, despite being deeply in debt at the time. In the end, I stuck with my job and paid off my debt. A long the way, I fell in love and got married, and together the two of us saved up a substantial amount of money and went for a 7-month road trip. I'd probably be a much better guitarist by now if I'd stuck to the plan and gone to music school, but instead I had the experience of a lifetime, the likes of which most people may never get a chance to have. Was it a better choice? I don't know. The right choice? For me, yes.

I'm not saying you shouldn't go to music school or that you shouldn't try to become a well-rounded musician. I'm saying that if you should never regret following your dreams and making the best of whatever you end up doing. To paraphrase a famous quote, it's better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.

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