Music Should Be Fun!
By Dave Latchaw
Music should be fun! Players, educators, and students very often forget this fact about music. It is easy to be distracted by many things that have nothing to do with playing music. We all have a variety of circumstances or situations that may cause frustration, angst or anything else that gets in the way of having good time with music.
Some players are wrapped up with the “it’s a job” aspect of making music, either as a freelance musician or in a band. We all cannot be Sting or Madonna or play in their bands. Unfortunately, many musicians feel they will be successful only if they achieve something of a similar magnitude. We can all strive for that level of expertise, but there is just not enough demand to allow every artist to achieve that kind of success. Nothing wrong with attempting to have that kind of success, and very cool if one achieves it, but it is important that we have a good time doing it, and dig the fact that we can make music. Sharon Osbourne once said to me, “Ozzy would be Ozzy regardless of whether he was famous or not.” I am sure he prefers being famous, the money, and all that, but if he were not famous, he would still be out there somewhere rocking out, the way only Ozzy can. This is a cool space to be in for any artist, it’s liberating. Making music because you dig it is the only way to go. If you can make a living with music that can even be better fun for you.
Musicians have to deal with an immense level of competition. The competition that goes with making music can bring fragile egos and insecurities to forefront. Many times this can bring a dark vibe to the music making. The musicians who do not have their ego and insecurities in check play as if they have to prove something to the other musicians in the band and their audience. They are wrapped up more with themselves than the music, and this gets in the way of a band sounding cohesive and allowing the listener to truly have a meaningful experience. When a musician can be in control of their ego and insecurities it allows them to be selfless and submit to the music. Being selfless can lead to a higher level of music making, which makes for a better experience for player and the listener. Making the music experience more fun for everyone involved is a wonderful goal.
Some music educators are fed up with the tediousness of teaching. It does take an amazing amount of energy, focus and drive to do it well. The amount of training an educator has to have to know their subject matter is often not obvious to most, which leads to educators not fully appreciated. In addition, the pressures from some school administrations and parents to have a competitive music program can lead to potential burnout for both educators and students. When burnout happens, music educators and students end up preferring to do anything else but music, which will lead to a great deal of frustration for all involved. Convincing parents and administrations to be more concerned about having a positive enlightening musical experience is not the easiest thing to do. They try to make music into a sport; sports are more tangible to them. Winning competitions becomes more important than an enriching musical experience for the student. The more an educator can enlighten all parties involved with the school music program that it is about learning to love and appreciate the music, the more fun they and their students will have with the musical experience.
When teaching music, one has to be aware of their own abilities, limitations, and neuroses, especially in private teaching situations. A lot of personal teaching style is from one’s own teachers, which potentially means passing on both excellent musical knowledge and hang-ups from generation to generation. Sometimes private teachers are players that only teach to add to their income. Players who are frustrated about teaching should remember that it is not the student’s fault that one cannot make a living fully from performing alone. The time a teacher spends with the student is to help them to get further down their own musical path. Thinking that the student should only follow the teacher’s musical path is just the teacher being self-absorbed. The more confidence a private educator has about themselves, the easier it will be to help the student improve, which is more rewarding and fun for student and teacher alike.
Sometimes students of music forget that improving musical skills takes time and effort. If it were easy, everyone would do it! A student that is not willing to put in the time is not going to have as much fun, simple as that. Music students also need to learn not to be sensitive. The very nature of taking lessons involves learning to try things differently than the way you are currently doing it. If you are defensive rather than open to new ideas, you may miss a wide area of musical possibilities. Remember, if you make the appropriate commitment to music you will be a student of music all of your life. If you embrace being a life-long student of music, you can reach greater heights of musical satisfaction and fun. Have a good time all the time!