I hope you get as much out of this as I did!
In my former post Online Recording/Mixing Tips, I mentioned Joe Gilder (Home Studio Corner) as a great resource. He released a podcast #135 The Real Reason You Get Nothing Done which I found to be very true-to-life. I wanted to quote/link this podcast for today’s blog post, because I think it is a valuable piece of information for all of us.
I hope you get as much out of this as I did!
I’ve been looking forward to the February break to really dig in with my practicing, and record some of my new songs. I woke up this morning and I couldn’t wait to get started, but I wanted to start the day in private devotion with the Lord (best for me when my wife and daughter are asleep). Then, I got kind of hungry and decided to eat breakfast. During breakfast, my wife reminded me that our daughter had a dentist appointment. She asked if we could go together. So, I decided to work-out and shower (just enough time for that) before leaving for the dentist.
The dentist was near Michael’s, and my wife had a gift card she wanted to use, so we also went there. While she was shopping, I got a haircut. By this time, we were getting kind of hungry, so we went out to eat. Then we stopped at a store to check out the President’s Day furniture sales. Of course on the way home, we stopped at a park to try out my daughter’s new remote control truck. Then we went online to shop for a new computer for my wife.
Now it’s 7:00 PM, and I’m typing my blog post. I haven’t recorded or practiced anything today, and I don’t think I’m going to. I am wiped-out. Blocking out a set time for practice or recording is difficult when you have a family and chores. I want to spend time with them, but I also want to spend time with my music. I wish I could split into two Rays, get both things done and then come back together at the end of the day. Since that technology has not come out yet, I’ll have to settle for balancing my time, and trying my best to set a little aside for music. We’ll see if that works tomorrow.
I got into a discussion with my students today about Mozart. Many people have written articles and posts about the Mozart Effect (increased intelligence and development through exposure to music), but that is not the subject of this post. Today I want to discuss the other Mozart Effect.
Mozart was a genius. He composed his first piece at the age of 5 and began to perform in professional public concerts at the age of 6. He achieved (and exceeded) the compositional and performance levels of many great adults of his time while he was still a child.
However, there was a cost to all of this achievement. Mozart died on December 5, 1791 at the age of only 35. The official cause of death was said to be military fever, but many people debate the true cause. The limited knowledge of medicine during that day prevented an accurate diagnosis. Many people speculate that the constant stress of public performance, composing more great musical works and staying out of financial trouble took a huge toll on his body.
We see the same results on many great performers today. Robin Williams, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Karen Carpenter and Philip Seymour Hoffman are just a few examples. The mental and physical toll placed on people of public prominence (especially in the entertainment world) can be devastating. There is a constant pressure to live up to or exceed your past performances. In addition, this type of life leads to sever feelings of loneliness. Fans and paparazzi force entertainment stars to remain secluded. They find it difficult to form meaningful relationships with others since it is difficult for them to relate to other people. For Mozart, this was especially difficult. He was both extremely popular and mentally advanced far beyond most ordinary people. Many modern stars seek to marry other stars, but the lifestyle of a star is not always conducive to faithful marriage commitments.
The lesson to learn here is that we are only human. Being driven to achieve greatness is a wonderful quality, but it is important to maintain a balanced life. Everyone needs times of rest and relaxation. Everyone needs meaningful relationships with other people. Health and longevity of life can lead to even great success by giving us more time to achieve it. So, we should all learn to find the proper balance between drive and rest.
My wife and I just hosted a birthday party for our daughter. Of course the theme was Frozen, because that is the only theme that exists in the minds of 9 year old girls right now. My wife decorated the whole house and planed tons of great games and activities.
The party games inspired the idea for this post. You see, party games are great until that awkward moment when someone wins, because that means everyone else lost. Kids don’t handle losing too well, and parents don’t enjoy explaining the harsh realities of winning and losing. Often times we will gloss over it as say something like, “Everyone did a great job!” or “You are all winners!” I witness the same thing at the elementary school where I work. Everyone is wonderful, awards are given out for everything and expectations are constantly being lowered.
Unfortunately, that is not the way real life works. Real life is competitive and there is usually only one winner. Especially in the music industry, there is a tremendous amount of competition. Even if you practice eight hours a day, gig every weekend and hit social media as hard as you can you still may not succeed. Sometimes success is more about knowing the right people or being in the right place at the right time.
So, how can a generation of “superstars” who have never actually applied themselves to achieve anything make it in the big bad world of music (or any industry)? In truth, they can’t. By cushioning the harshness of competition and reality for our children what we have actually done is render them incapable of being driven and successful. In the music industry, I see the same theme throughout the stories of many of the stars that have risen to the top. They were deeply committed to pursuing music. They faced a tremendous amount of hardship, adversity and rejection before experiencing any level of success. The main factor that caused them to achieve success was their tenacity and drive. They were not willing to give up no matter what happened along the journey.
Learning that level of tenacity and drive can be a harsh lesson. I don’t know if it is a good idea to try to teach that to young children, but it needs to be taught at some point. People need to understand that one’s full potential is not achieved automatically, and there is often only one winner in the real world. Competition can cause stress and anxiety, but it can also push driven people to achieve greatness. We need to come back to a healthy balance between encouraging our young people and challenging them to achieve their fullest potential.
Ray Melograne received his
BA and ME in music education from Queens College. He is currently
teaching music in the NY public schools. He also teaches privately on the