Performers Shouldn’t Be Teachers – Don’t be a FAKE Teacher, Be a REAL Music Educator to your Student

I might ruffle a couple feathers on this one, but I’m SUPER passionate about this. I don’t think performers should be teachers. If you’ve ever had a music educator that was only in it for the money you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Fake teachers aren’t any good for anyone. Music education should be taken seriously, musicians that are teaching need to be doing it for real, a student needs a real teacher. If we’re going to be teachers we’ve got to be the REAL THING. REAL music educators dig into their craft just like real performers do. I’m sharing my quick thoughts on why performers shouldn’t be teachers, and what a REAL Music Educator does.

 

The 2018 Manifesto

Ladies and gents, it’s time for a change. I’m putting it out there in public so you can hold me accountable. I present to you a declaration of intentions for the year 2018.

In 2018 I’ll be starting 2 to 3 bands and booking them myself. I’ve had the pleasure of playing in lots of really cool groups and helping some fantastic musicians realize their own intentions but I’m ready to start pursuing my own. It’s been my dream since college to be creatively directing my own ensembles and I haven’t been pushing hard enough on that. We’ll be changing that this year.

In 2018 I’ll do much more documenting. I already started making big improvements on this in December but it’s going to get even better. There’ll be more vlogs, more blog posts, and more media. I want my students to be able to see the path I’m taking and the work I’m doing so they can learn from my successes and mistakes. It’s also a better way to reach you. If you’re reading this it’s because you care to some degree what I’m doing and I want to serve you better as well!

In 2018 I’ll be way better at the drums. I’m good at the drums, but nowhere near good enough. There’s a ton of work to be done and with a studio that I can practice in, there’s no reason for me not to be much better at the end of 2018. This has always been a goal and I feel comfortable saying I’ve met it every year. But there’s still much to learn, I mean, I can’t play like Nate Smith yet. So I need to practice!

Well there you have it folks, I’ll finish 2018 with an honest look back at this document and we’ll see if I meant what I said.

Hold me accountable and wish me luck!

Have You Thought About Adjacent Skills?

At the moment I’m on a plane headed to Atlanta. It’s 3 days before Thanksgiving and I decided that before meeting my family further south in Georgia, I’d spend some time on my own exploring the city and learning how to use my new camera. I have plans for some exciting projects in the works and I’ll need to be recording lots of video for promotion purposes. I’ll be wandering downtown for a good portion of these couple days just experimenting with this new and exciting tool, learning how to make the best use of it possible.

While I know I’m nobody’s photographer, I also know that this skill will be very valuable to me in growing my career. There are (for the most part) two ways to get things done in this profession. Do it yourself or pay someone else to do it. At some point in the future I look forward to paying others to do my demo videos for me, but that day ain’t today. If I want to get these projects off the ground, I’m going to need to do most of it myself.

The acquisition of adjacent skills – skills that aren’t exactly music, but sit next to music and are profitable for career building – has been (I think) my reason for success. In high school I was building websites and learning about HTML, just out of curiosity. In early college I started learning about social media. Later in college I started learning to audio record myself. At the end of my college career I started video recording myself. These skills at one point or another have helped me win competitions and scholarships, start a successful residency with my 8 piece band Full Force, build a significant online audience and much more.

These skills will never be a top priority for me. I’m a musician. Although I’m forever curious and I’m taking the learning of this new skill seriously, I’m not a marketer, audio engineer or photographer, and this has some important implications.

First, unless I really make building on these skills a first order priority, I’ll never become an expert. It’s important to set realistic goals with these as I don’t want to find myself in over my head or discouraged by my results. The camera that I just bought is a central tool of an entirely different profession. A photographer is never going to just pick up a drum set, practice it for several hours after they get it, read a couple books, watch some videos, and all of a sudden be able to keep up with me on the drums. Why would I expect something like that to happen for me with photography?

I have every intention of becoming proficient with a camera and no interest in becoming an expert. I’ve got to focus on my music. Photography, videography, graphic design, and film editing are and will always be no more than adjacent skills, acquired only to make the foundation of my music career more robust and wide. If it somehow became a distraction, that would be detrimental rather than profitable.

Additionally there will come a time when the acquisition of this and other skills will serve its purpose and it will be time to outsource them. This will be a good sign when this happens, it’ll mean that acquiring the skill was worth it. I’m really excited for when this happens!

Also, being able to do these skills at a level of proficiency means that I can get paid for doing them. A prime example would be what I’m doing with Giving Tree Music. Right now I’m not only a lead drum circle facilitator with GT, I’m also the media and marketing manager for the company. My adjacent knowledge of social media marketing came in handy and created an opportunity for me to make additional income with the organization. There are upsides and downsides to this. On one hand, every moment I’m working on adjacent skill building is a moment I’m not drumming. Every instance where I’m getting paid to do an adjacent skill is an instance where I’m not building my own business. Striking a balance here has been a challenge, honestly. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it but it’s getting there gradually.

Lastly, I wouldn’t invest time in adjacent skills that don’t interest me or that I wouldn’t enjoy. This decision has a cost too though. If I decide not to do this myself, I’ve got to pay someone else to do it if I ever need it. That’s an opportunity cost! It just so happens that my proclivity for curiosity makes almost every music adjacent field fascinating for me, but even that in itself has its costs! As I mentioned earlier, every moment spent learning about social media consumer behaviors is a moment spent not drumming. Those add up! Weighing all these costs and making a decision feels like the right way to decide about adjacent skills to me.

Overall, I’m convinced (based on my own experience and the observation of others’), adjacent skills are a necessity to making the beginning of your career go. From getting projects from your brain to the band stand, to making extra money, these additional tools help you start (and continue) moving towards meaningful goals.

If you’re in an entrepreneurial position of some kind, especially as a musician, have you considered what other skills you might be interested in that will help you accomplish your ultimate goal? It might just make the difference between success and failure!


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Music is Honest

If you’re a teacher you know as I do that once in awhile a gem proceeds from your mouth unannounced. You may be expressing an idea you’ve expressed hundreds of times, but for some reason the internal and external factors align so that something actually noteworthy is said. So you take note. You remember it so you can hold on to it for next time and now you’ve become a slightly more effective educator than you were before. This happened to me a few days ago when I was discussing how practicing actually makes your musical experience better. I said:

“Whatever you put into music, music will give back to you. It’s very honest that way.”

This is a truth.

Other areas of life are not so honest, but music will give you exactly what you give it. If you’ll listen to new recordings, music will give you new inspiration. If you’ll work on writing new tunes you’ll find yourself expressing new ideas. If you’ll put together an organized way of practicing and do it, you’ll get better at your instrument.

Music isn’t a master. Music isn’t a servant. It is an equal partner. It doesn’t want to exploit us and it doesn’t want to go easy on us either. It simply wants to mirror our effort back to us.

Music is justice. No mercy. If music catches us going a few weeks without practicing it’ll embarrass us on the gig. Should music sneak a peek of us not proofing our parts and handing them to band members, it’ll punish our rehearsal. If it sees you playing selfishly on a gig, music will whisper gossip in the ears of your band members and stop your phone from ringing.

And for goodness sake don’t think you can fool music. It’s been doing this since the beginning of time! When you try to do that thing that you know haven’t mastered yet on the gig, it’ll let you fail.

You might slip one by your private teacher but you and music both know as you leave your lesson that you faked it. Mrs. Hanson and Mr. Jones may coddle you, but all music will do is raise its right eyebrow. mrs-hanson-and-mr-jones-may-coddle-you

When music makes us face the consequences of our inactions it doesn’t pity us. It doesn’t put an arm around us to comfort us. It looks at us – free of any trace of emotion – and shrugs. “What did you expect to happen?” it says.

If music has any mercy at all, it’s in its forgetfulness. If after paying the dues of our lack of effort we notice our shortcomings and start working on them, music will see that and forget the past. It looks at us now and gives to us exactly as we are in this moment. But of course yesterday’s great work is quickly forgotten by music when it sees us slacking today. Thus, music’s one merciful trait may also be its most brutal.

We can let music’s honesty be a comfort to us. It’s in our hands, friends. Music won’t leave us hanging if we don’t leave it hanging. Music will reward you with the next gig, the next lick or your next great tune if you’ll toil for it. Figuring out how that minor 7, flat 5 chord works will come if you’ll sweat for it.

If you’re enjoying success that’s because of music’s honesty. If it’s not going so well, that might be music’s honesty too.

Music is honest. Let’s make sure we’re being honest with music.

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Music Is Honest

If you’re a teacher you know as I do that once in awhile a gem proceeds from your mouth unannounced. You may be expressing an idea you’ve expressed hundreds of times, but for some reason the internal and external factors align so that something actually noteworthy is said. So you take note. You remember it so you can hold on to it for next time and now you’ve become a slightly more effective educator than you were before. This happened to me a few days ago when I was discussing how practicing actually makes your musical experience better. I said:

“Whatever you put into music, music will give back to you. It’s very honest that way.”

This is a truth.

Other areas of life are not so honest, but music will give you exactly what you give it. If you’ll listen to new recordings, music will give you new inspiration. If you’ll work on writing new tunes you’ll find yourself expressing new ideas. If you’ll put together an organized way of practicing and do it, you’ll get better at your instrument.

Music isn’t a master. Music isn’t a servant. It is an equal partner. It doesn’t want to exploit us and it doesn’t want to go easy on us either. It simply wants to mirror our effort back to us.

Music is justice. No mercy. If music catches us going a few weeks without practicing it’ll embarrass us on the gig. Should music sneak a peek of us not proofing our parts and handing them to band members, it’ll punish our rehearsal. If it sees you playing selfishly on a gig, music will whisper gossip in the ears of your band members and stop your phone from ringing.

And for goodness sake don’t think you can fool music. It’s been doing this since the beginning of time! When you try to do that thing that you know haven’t mastered yet on the gig, it’ll let you fail.

You might slip one by your private teacher but you and music both know as you leave your lesson that you faked it. Mrs. Hanson and Mr. Jones may coddle you, but all music will do is raise its right eyebrow. mrs-hanson-and-mr-jones-may-coddle-you

When music makes us face the consequences of our inactions it doesn’t pity us. It doesn’t put an arm around us to comfort us. It looks at us – free of any trace of emotion – and shrugs. “What did you expect to happen?” it says.

If music has any mercy at all, it’s in its forgetfulness. If after paying the dues of our lack of effort we notice our shortcomings and start working on them, music will see that and forget the past. It looks at us now and gives to us exactly as we are in this moment. But of course yesterday’s great work is quickly forgotten by music when it sees us slacking today. Thus, music’s one merciful trait may also be its most brutal.

We can let music’s honesty be a comfort to us. It’s in our hands, friends. Music won’t leave us hanging if we don’t leave it hanging. Music will reward you with the next gig, the next lick or your next great tune if you’ll toil for it. Figuring out how that minor 7, flat 5 chord works will come if you’ll sweat for it.

If you’re enjoying success that’s because of music’s honesty. If it’s not going so well, that might be music’s honesty too.

Music is honest. Let’s make sure we’re being honest with music.

It is always a big help when you share my writing on your social media. It helps me reach more people. I’d be honored if you clicked one of the buttons below to share with your friends. I bet they can relate to this one!

This Is Not Glamorous

One Drummer’s Journey Ep. 3

All of the driving, setting up and tearing down isn’t glamorous. I get real about it in this episode.

Full Force Returns

One Drummer’s Journey Ep. 2

My band Full Force returns to play our percussionists’ wedding and I had an incredible experience hand drumming with autistic kids.

3 Cities, 3 Days

One Drummer’s Journey Ep. 1

In this episode I play three swanky private events in three cities in three days. Lot’s of driving and lot’s of great music making!