Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Catching the Fever

Music is not an Olympic sport....thank goodness!  Yet some people turn it into a competition, falling into the trap of "compare, compete".

This week, I've watched young men and women telling themselves that they are failures because they didn't win "gold" at the Olympic Games.  Yet they've already proved they are 'winners' [whatever that means] by simply being good enough to be selected to participate in a world games.

How often do I see musicians telling themselves that they are 'hopeless' because they don't play or sing as well as another musician?!  How often do I hear musicians expressing destructive envy because someone else got the gig and they didn't?! (it goes something like this ...."oh listen to THAT, I could run rings around him/her, how come THEY're getting payed to play here, I should be playing not them, he/she is crap, I'm better than that). 

Perhaps its simply a human trait to measure ourselves against others....then again, maybe it's something we learn from a competitive society.  Either way, when it comes to music comparison with others is demeaning to ourself as well as diminishing them.  Engaging in competition with other musicians is purely useless - what does it prove?  Compare and Compete is fruitless exercise, it's highly negative, and it doesn't uplift either party. 

And isn't that what music is supposed to do?.......uplift us all?

Celebrate the uniqueness in each one of us I say! Admire the skill of other musicians, aspire to do better if you must, but recognise that you don't have to sound the same as anyone else. Enjoy and appreciate the skill that you have.  Because those who have the ability to play an instrument or to sing are blessed with a gift. Such a gift is compounded when it is shared with others.  The more you give it away, the more rewarded you feel.
So don't catch the disease of compare/compete.....but catch the fever of uplifting each other through music.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Music in the Community

I had the pleasure this week of addressing a local Rotary Club where I shared  some of my songs, along with some insight into the life of a working musician.

Just as there's a marked difference to working in a major corporation vs working in a small to micro-small business, so it is with Music and the Arts.   Some musicians are in there for fame, fortune, recognition ....and few of those will achieve their big dreams in a world where commercial interests take priority over the artform.  But - and leaving aside the hobbyist players - there is a substantial number of musicians, working at community level, with a whole different set of priorities.

Community musicians have a passion to engage with their community, to make a contribution to the betterment of their community, and to foster a passion for their art within the community.  Some of them do this by actively working with  individuals and groups - teaching, sharing, encouraging others to get involved in music.  {A great example locally is Mark Jackson who instigated the Newcastle Ukestra which now numbers hundreds of individual members.  Many of those had never known the joy of making music.  The movement has community members helping other community members in small groups and encouraging friendship and connection amongst people of all ages}.

Others make a difference in the daily life of individuals by busking - uplifting someone with a smile makes a difference. A thread of music from another human being may just distract and uplift someone carrying a particularly  heavy burden at that moment.  Whilst others take the stories of individuals in the community and write them in songs, creating a melodic record of the day to day life in our community, our society.

It's an important role that these artists fill in the world around us.  Yet they are - for the most part - terribly undervalued,  underrated and unrecognised for the contribution they make.

Mega concerts and huge arts events may be a commercial drawcard which benefits Councils and governments through tourism dollars.  But it is the smaller, intimate, community-focused, Arts & Music-based functions and events which enriches the individuals who live in the community and which builds a community spirit.  And it's community musicians and artists that make those things come alive.