Dear #classicalmusic fan,
In a society that craves accolade and attention it is disheartening to see so much about music reduced to competition, technical perfection and sales.
On the other hand, when we focus on the music and its multitude ways it impacts both communities and individuals, we actually see a very different approach to life… of which music is just a part.
Rather than chasing the substantially arrogant pipe dream of being “The Best!” perhaps it is time we started looking to being the best fans of classical music we can be… whether we’re performing or listening. There is a big difference between being The Best and becoming the best we can be.
Becoming The Best is temporary, an illusion, and only means you (or someone else) judges you to be better than the person sitting next to you. At least for today until someone else comes along who is 10% better than you are. It is then devastating when someone comes along who doesn’t care how good you or they are, but it turns out they are ten times (1000%) better than you. I’ve seen people crushed by the realization that they weren’t as good as they were led to believe (especially musicians who arrive at a music college). Although they may have been The Best in their limited sphere of influence, it turns out that there is a whole wide world of passionate folk who seem to be far more accomplished.
You don’t have to be particularly good at what you do, but you can still be The Best at it…
Think of a chess tournament among a troop of monkeys.
One of them is The Best!
Until Levon Aronian turns up.
On the other hand, if you choose to be the best that you can be, it no longer matters (quite so much) what those around you are accomplishing or capable of. Don’t get me wrong: surround yourself with others who are striving to be the best they can be, as well as those who have achieved a good level of accomplishment, as they will help motivate you in your own quest. But the burden of sharing live music with others shifts from an outward image-based comparison to an inner desire to discover the “more” behind There’s more to music than music.
It becomes our own private responsibility to dive deeper and achieve more than we ever thought possible, not for the sake of those we share music with, but for our own peace and understanding of how this world actually works.
And how we can communicate emotion with each other when words fail us.
One of the problems with today’s Western World in particular, is the self-esteem boosting trend of the late 80s and 90s.
As Simon Sinek said, Millennials are struggling at work because their parents “gave them medals for coming last.” I’m no Millennial, but most Gen Xers who spent their teens in the USA suffered just the same misguided brandishment: I once received a medal for sitting in the fourth chair (of eight) of the third clarinets in Regional Junior Varsity Band III. I still have it (buried in a box in storage, otherwise I’d have taken a picture). And wonder why I ever got it. Sinek observes that one of the many downsides to overtly disproportionate praise is that recipients actually feel worse, because deep down they know they didn’t deserve a medal.
I was relieved to hear someone explain it to me that way.
The push to become The Best builds arrogance, entitlement, and does society no favors at all.
The push to congratulate and praise everything we do is just as bad.
We all need encouragement to be the best we can be, and we need honest guides to show us how to travel that path: folk who say “Good job! Now let’s work on this…”
It’s funny that Rose Mallare and I just spoke about that in my podcast’s latest pilot episode.
Listen to it here: