When to Say Yes
A creative’s life is full of opportunities, some we follow and some we decline. Many of my students and parents approach me when an opportunity arrises wanting to know if it is a good idea, if it’s worth it. There is no black and white answer to that question, so I answer their question with a slew of other questions (everyone’s favorite response). The most important things to keep in mind are:
Does the musician already have a clear identity about who they are as an artist?
Are they currently or will they soon be working on projects similar to this one?
Do they have goals in the next 3 years? 7 years?
Step 1: Why do I start here? Well, a musician who has a clear sense of their artistic identity won’t need to waste time on opportunities that ask them to be someone very different unless they're trying to explore a new side of themselves. However, a student or musician that’s looking to “find their niche” may chase a wider variety of opportunities in hopes of learning more about themselves and what they find inspiring. It’s important for family members to recognize when their child moves from a searching soul to a more clear artist. Pushing them to “expand their horizons” can actually cause self-doubt and a loss of the identity they’re just starting to build.
Step 2: What other projects are already on the table? The more opportunities a person juggles, the less attention they can give to each endeavor. A “searcher” needs to fully immerse themselves in each opportunity in order to learn what they like and dislike about the experience. By involving themselves in too many experiences simultaneously, they leave with a false sense of what’s involved and may make an unrealistic decision. A defined artist, on the other hand, may participate in multiple experiences simultaneously because they all work toward and with the same goals. Instead of the opportunities fighting each other for attention, they build on each other and provide a bigger playground for the artist to exercise their skill set.
Step 3: Now we approach the final question: what are their goals? This is an all ages question, even young players can express their wants if you ask the right way. Knowing short/long goals helps musicians weed out apparently awesome opportunities that will actually undermine their happiness or success in the long run. For example, a person who wants to perform as much as possible shouldn’t load up on songwriting workshops, theory classes, or any other “in your room” opportunities. Instead, they may find a solid private teacher/mentor and participate in performance programs, open mics, jam sessions, and other live applications. Their private instruction insures they are developing the skills they’ll need to achieve their performance goals without taking up unnecessary time, finances, and creativity.
If you or your family member are having a hard time deciding whether this new band, performance, workshop, collaboration, internship (etc) makes sense, try this 1-2-3 approach to see what strikes the most true for you. Hopefully it makes decision making a wee bit easier. And remember - this is a great problem to have!