This is the third and final installment of my series on practicing
I have two brothers, one older and one younger. To protect their privacy from my massive database of readers (my mom and my golden retriever, Rexi), I will disguise their names (John and Kevin).
I love both of them very much and am confident they love me. Although we live in different places, have different jobs, and lead very different lives, we are connected through music. Yes, both of my brothers love music as much, if not more, than I do.
I am not sure where our shared passion for music comes from as both our parents are tone deaf. Our grandparents, you ask? Well, one had a tin ear and the other owned an organ. You know the kind that if you pressed one key it would play an entire song. That is the entirety of the Lang musical heritage. So yeah, it’s entirely possible we were all adopted.
Like I said, we all love music very much. But I believed I was the only musician in the family.
I earned the title of musician. After all, I went to college and received a couple of degrees. I performed in hundreds of ensembles and studied privately from the finest teachers. I regularly attended master classes, clinics, and workshops and I studied music history for an entire year! Yes, they may love music, but I was sure I was the only MUSICIAN in the family.
My brothers, well, they play guitar and think tablature is the way music was meant to be read. I can only assume they also believe War and Peace would have been better off as a comic book. They’ve never meet a chord they didn’t like and there no such thing as a bad key when you have a capo. Life is good when every song can be sang in the key of G!
To my way of thinking, my brothers couldn’t be musicians. Loving music is not enough, you must sacrifice. You must practice endless hours alone in a 6x6 foot practice room. You must master melodic minor scales and use terms like Phrygian and Locrian. You must be able to write a figured bass line, harmonize in four parts and take melodic dictation. Above all, you must suffer and anguish. This is how TRUE musicians are forged. There is no joy in music. There is only art!
When did I become such a musical snob? When did I become the curator of all things music and the patent holder on the term “musician?” When did all of this happen?
I don’t remember the day I decided that music had to equal suffering. I don’t remember making the actual decision that music had to be so serious and that being a musician was a binary state, all in or all out. I’m not sure when I decided that outside of the ten hours a week my students were in my rehearsal that they should practice more. I don’t remember making a conscious decision on any of this, but somewhere along the line, I did. I am convinced that along with that decision I lost some good student musicians.
On a recent trip to Denver I stayed with my little brother Kevin. As I headed out the front door to my workshop I passed him on the porch strumming his guitar and made the snarky remark, “Hey, while I go teach kids about commitment, sacrifice, dedication and what it takes to be a REAL musician, why don’t you just sit here and play your guitar.”
His reply… "Someone has to keep the joy alive while you run around the country trying to motivate band camp refugees."
Yes, I used to believe that I was the only musician in the family. That was until I saw my two brothers making music and having way too much fun.
Is it too late for me to learn guitar? My voice sounds good in the key of G!