|Doubters are the kind of folks that all musicians should avoid at all costs. They are very good at discouraging you from succeeding, relying on their constant negative input to sway you. If you ignore them, you’ll always be assured of one less pain in the butt. While they’ve been so good at telling you that you’ll never make it, you win by holding fast to your dreams. Some folks are luckier than others, but that doesn’t mean that you should doubt yourself because the road to success has been a long one.
It is just as important that you try to keep from having self-doubt as well. One will achieve one’s aspirations when the time comes. Of course, being able to see the success in one’s lifetime is even better. I can imagine how the ghosts of great artists like Van Gogh feel every time a painting sells for a “zillion” dollars! Day jobs can break your spirit too, if you let them. You see, there are “regular people” and “artists”. Artists think differently and sometimes ordinary people just don’t understand them. I’m not trying to put folks down, but an artistic mind is just different and the more artistically intelligent the mind, the more “different” the person will be. No matter how long you have to pave your way to get your music out, don’t let the routine of a day job change you. Unfortunately, some musicians get involved with someone too quickly, have kids and instruments fall by the wayside, collecting dust. They turn their attention to the day job that pays bills and forget about what they once loved to do. I’ve seen this happen with men and women. They let someone tell them that they’d be better off doing something “more stable”. That may be true in some cases, but with others it was a matter of losing his/her musical identity. They let someone talk them into to doubting the possibility of success and in turn they let go of an intricate part of themselves. Success comes in all forms. You may not be a millionaire, but so what? You could be a musical director for a theatrical company or someone who likes to work behind-the-scenes, such as arranging music or background singing or become a part of an orchestra.
Be confident in yourself and know that you have value. Believe that you have something to offer. That’s hard to do nowadays with all of the glitter of trying to create the “next number-one hit”. At the same time, I just read today that our beloved music business is in trouble. For those of us still trying just to get a decent record deal, that’s not the kind of headline you want to see. It was stated that one of the main reasons for the industry’s woes is the lack of good music. Doesn’t that make you want to scream?! You’re out there writing damned good music, playing your heart out, but the record deals usually go to the one with lesser talent! Why shouldn’t there be a lack of more original, good music? It’s like you want to tell the world, “Hey, we’re out here! If you’d just bother to look, you’d see us!” I have to put dancers and actors in this situation as well, for they go through the same ups and downs with trying to get a decent gig.
Sometimes it gets to the point that you even start to doubt yourself, wondering why in hell you should stay in a profession where you give so much of yourself. You reach a point in your life where you may ponder whether you had made the right decision. If you love music so much that you couldn’t bear the thought of giving it up, then don’t! Your day will come… I tell myself that all the time. In 2000, I had a shell of a fifty-year-old plywood American Standard acoustic-bass. It needed everything: bridge, strings, tail pin, the fingerboard needed some work, it needed a new case, a bow, et cetera. I had people I’d see who would doubt whether I’d ever play it, saying things to me that hinted at “it was too much of an instrument”; “maybe I should stick with the electric-bass.” All that year, I would tell myself off an on that “I was going to get that bass fixed. I’m going to play it one day.” Finally, near the end of the year, things worked out and now my bass in sitting in the living room, totally “on-line”. I’m currently playing it for a musical celebrating the Harlem Renaissance. I didn’t let the negativity of others stop me from making something become a reality.
I know what all of you are going through out there, because I face the same things in my city. Sometimes when I can’t get work it’s because of male chauvinism, racism or jealousy, but not for one minute will I doubt myself. I know that when one door is shut to me, another will open. There have been times when I thought that the idea of staying in music was crazy, especially when it sometimes seems that the public would rather listen to music that was less cerebral. There was a time in the 1960’s when there was so much creativity going on; a new world was unfolding. Every type of music was expanding, whether it was jazz, rock or country music. I believe that the types of people who embraced that creativity will come forward again, demanding more unique and newer ideas in the arts. That’s where folks like you and I will shine… I know that all of this may be coming off as “too positive”, but what other choice is there? Don’t let yourself succumb to words of doubt by others. Don’t fall prey to self-doubt, either. Continue to compose, sing or play your instruments to the best of your abilities. If it is truly meant for you to achieve success in music, it will happen.
A journey in the world of music is a tough one. You will have your moments of “high art” as well as periods when you’d like to throw your instrument out a window! No matter what you do, don’t let somebody come along and make you doubt yourself. You know who you are and what you can accomplish. Now stick with it so that the rest of us will be able to appreciate it one day…
BY Kim Michele LaCoste
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