Music was a part of my life before I was even born. I know from exploring the history of my parents and their families that we have had some pretty incredible talent throughout our family lines. I guess you could say that it was inevitable that at least one out of my four sisters and I would be musical, and be good at it (come to find, we all did music at one point or another; I just seemed to keep going with the writing and schooling).
Now, a quick disclaimer: I am, by no means, a Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart-esque composer. I told myself at a pretty young age that theory and the “know how” of music wasn’t important to me, and that I didn’t need to know it (kicking myself for that, now).
Unfortunately, this belief system followed me all through college…I passed theory classes with flying colors, but had a knack for letting things go in one ear and out the other. If you asked me today what polyphonic triggering was, the picture to best describe my facial expression might be similar to someone seeing the Red Wedding for the first time. Music, for me, was so far beyond the technicality.
I don’t think I could ever be on the level of some of the greats, but, maybe that’s still my own comparative shame talking. One thing is certain; I have grown through music. I have become me through music. Music has been by me during every celebration in my life, every moment of pure joy, and all the moments of pain and utter downfall. I could always go to music to make the emotions I was currently experiencing so much more intense – without fail.
Music was probably my drug. Today, it’s a friend.
It is something I have to consciously remind myself to check-in with, amidst the busy-ness of my days working in a career that doesn’t call for the practice of scales or interpretive melodies. But, without fail, every time I sit down to the keyboard…the notes flow. They come with a friendly tone, recognizing me, and we connect for hours (which seem to feel more like seconds). It’s similar to a friendship with someone that just picks right back up where you left off the last time you saw them.
So, without further ado, here are 4 truths that I have learned about myself from being a musician:
I am creative.
My sister can do art. And when I say “she can do art”, I mean she can create some of the most intricate, beautiful pieces of visual expression I think I have ever seen. I used to look at her, and other talented people with their paints and pens, and so longingly wish I could do that.
The creativity and simplicity of each stroke was so incredible to me. And, of course, the fact that I could not do that type of artistry added to my internal “you suck; you aren’t that talented; you aren’t a true creator” mentality (mostly subconscious, but later much more obvious).
The truth is, I am an artist. In fact, I am more of a Van Goh than I’ll ever be a Chopin. Though some of the melodies I have created over the years grew out of the angst of having to practice what I then saw as the redundant classics, they were beautiful, unique, and timeless. Sounds a lot like the way people describe “Starry Night”, eh?
I have come to hear and believe that the songs I have created, however technically boring and simple they may be, are special to me and something that no one else can ever replicate out of their own mind and heart. That’s what fascinates me about writing music; no one will ever write the same piece I create. Ever. That makes me feel pretty darn creative.
Sometimes, it’s not about what you know. It’s about how you feel.
I go back to that whole idea that I told myself I didn’t need to know what I was playing. Well, a part of me still partially sticks by that belief. I grew up watching my Dad improv amazing songs on piano (and he had no idea how to play piano or read music!). It was really kind of awesome. Maybe that’s where my thought process of ‘I don’t need to know what I’m doing’ came from. I remember looking down at theory tests thinking, ‘this is so boring! I want to be playing.’
Now, years later, I can see the benefits of knowing what you’re playing, why it makes sense, and how it’s happening…but I also feel like that’s just an added bonus if you are a true artist. I believe the difference in being a musician and an artist is that artists have that extra sense; they feel it, they move it, they are it.
When I say that I feel music, I know some of you understand what I mean by this. It’s a very subjective experience. It is physical, emotional, mental, and it is even spiritual. The feelings and experiences I can tap into when playing music I have somehow created are pretty unexplainable. They get me through difficult times, they help me fall deeper in love. They take me back to moments in my life from years prior. The more I can feel and connect with myself, the more grounded I am in my daily living. For me, that’s often more important than knowing chord inversions.
My talent is different than yours, and just as good.
I mentioned earlier that I could never compare myself to being on the talent level of some of the greats. But music has actually shown me that, yes, I can believe I’m that great. It is amazing that I can create, from my own brain and fingers, gorgeous and thought-provoking melodies. It’s amazing that you can, too.
It’s incredible that the greatest paintings and songs of our world were all born from feelings and visions (and, okay, some technical know-how as well). I have come to believe that, while my creations may not be as intricate enough for the music world hall of fame, it’s still pretty fantastic in the grand scheme of things. Music is the universe, and I’m a star. We are all stars.
I am good enough.
With any kind of performance or competitive talents (where are the gymnasts, actors, dancers, artists, etc!), there comes an external locus of “be better; you’re not good enough; you’re good…but…” etc. There are always exceptions. Where you are is never quite good enough, even if you’re the best.
Now, whether or not you allow yourself to latch onto these beliefs in your heart and define who you are is in your control (which is, of course, harder to manage and combat at times). Sometimes, we write these lies on ourselves as a means to motivate. But I’ve learned that it does me no good to keep thinking I need to be somewhere beyond where I am. The music I write, right here and right now, is who I am. My music is me, and I am more than enough.
So, what has music taught you about you? What is your passion, and are you allowing yourself to continue cultivating it? Be the star you were born to be.