Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why I Do Not Choose a Career in Music

When I say that I do not intend to pursue a career in music, this is not something that comes lightly for me. In fact, I have come to believe that a musical career is one of the greatest things a person can have, and turning away from it is something that I do reluctantly.

Now some may applaud this decision for its maturity, but I would not be so quick to agree. Practically-minded people will think that making a career out of music is a risk, but I would actually say the opposite. Making a conscious decision not to pursue a career in music carries a unique danger all to its own, and this fact is grossly overlooked. There are many would-be geniuses walking around carrying bitter what-ifs. Cubicles across the world are full of those who wish that they had taken the plunge when they were still young and care-free. People with hidden dreams of musical greatness appear anywhere you may look, but you would not necessary know it at first, because their music has taken a back seat to the mundane pressures of a "normal" life, and all the expectations society attaches to it. In my life I have also met a number of people who have, in fact, recognized this other little-talked-about danger, and followed the dreams that so many others do not. They decided to take the road into a musical life, not only because they recognized their own excellence, but also because any other path would be unacceptable.

These people are my heroes, and I do wish I were one of them too. But I have found a different path, one that I find equally fulfilling. For the last year and a half I have worked as a court advocate for crime victims, particularly victims of domestic violence. It is truly an honor to do this work. In this field I have found a new equally-important dream, one that uses my talents to the fullest and improves my surroundings. I have decided to apply to law school to further develop the potential impact I can make. In the excitement of this new discovery, I sometimes take a step back and say "But wait, what about music?"

When I think about it, this is actually a question that I have been grappling with for as long as I can remember. And I suppose the best answer I can come up with is another question. "Do I want to rely on my creative process for my income?" When it comes to music, and so many other things in life, I am a searcher. I write "weird" music because I wonder what new and exciting places it will take me. But the commercial forces that operate today don't share that curiosity. So if you were to ask me, "can you trust yourself to create something that will support you financially?" the answer is an emphatic no.

By making this decision, I want to reiterate that I do not think things would be better if everyone followed my lead. Quite the opposite, in fact, and in any field, there is surely room at the top. We need musicians who are forward-thinking and imaginative to do what I do not have the courage to do. The status quo needs to be challenged, and new ideas need to be brought forward, even if commercial forces push back the other way.

People have asked me "why not teach music?" It would seem to be the perfect way to improve the world, provide financial security, and do what I love. This is a very good question, and my answer is somewhat cynical. I believe people usually go into teaching for the right reasons, but they do not as often go into law for the rights reasons. However, the attorneys who do take the spirit of service to heart are the ones who are really doing a world of good, and I want to take part in that tradition. My choice is unique to my set of circumstances, but of course, my story does not necessarily need to be your story. I would say to anyone, whether you are musically inclined or not, that you should follow whatever path leads you to the most good, and no one except you can say what that might be.

As for me, music will always be part of my life. I have every intention of being an old man in a basement studio turning knobs on a mixer trying to reach that unattainable perfection. The only difference is, I will only need to answer to myself, and not the commercial forces that may or may not care what I'm doing. In a way, those of us who choose not to make a career out of music have the greater responsibility. We are the music-lovers, and we are the ones charged with supporting our friends who have done the right thing and devoted themselves to music full-time. If we the consumers of this art do not prop it up, no one will. And, of course, we must continue to contribute our own talents to the mix. It is far too easy for us to give up the faith, to let our creative processes fall by the wayside while we take care of our real-world problems. But we cannot let this happen. The more we sing in choirs, play in bands, or run through string quartets on the weekends, the better we become, and the more we add our voices to humanity's library, the better we make the world.

1 comment:

  1. I deeply empathize with your decision and am all too familiar with your soul searching. It's a true shame that, as society has chronologically progressed, we've needed to specialize more and more. The idyll of polymaths are far too infrequent these days, given the amount of effort needed to succeed in only one field. That being said, I admire that you've already found another field that draws your passion. Here's to being those old guys who play with holographic bands in the basement.