Steer clear of the Bubble Mentality!
As musicians, we have to stay motivated to improve at what we do and keep learning. I remember when I first started getting more interested in music; I was in 8th grade when my parents bought me CDs of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane for Christmas. I remember how the music made me so excited that I listened to it constantly, absorbing the sounds of Bird and Trane as I fell asleep each night. I loved playing in jazz band and participated in jazz camps during the summer.
Nowadays, music can sometimes become "just a job," something to pass the time with as a professional musician who's grown past the "honeymoon phase" with music. Music does not have the same elusive quality of mystique that it used to and does not grab me in the same visceral way that I remember from when I was younger.
As we grow and learn, we have to remember the reason that music means something to us. It's not just a means to make money, and its not meant to make us famous. It's an artistic experience that goes beyond the mundane. For me, that means that music is for worship of the Lord.
Whatever the personal reasons each and every person has for pursuing a career in music, there is no doubt in my mind that we have to be on the lookout within our own attitudes for the "Bubble Mentality."
WHAT IS THE BUBBLE MENTALITY?
The Bubble Mentality is my way of describing the misleading sense of accomplishment that often exists in the college environment. When you're "first chair" in some ensemble or whatever, it is easy to get too comfortable and develop a false sense of security. The worst part is when we start to think that we're better at something than we actually are! Trust me, I say this 100% from personal experience. I sometimes get an inflated sense of my ego and view myself more highly than I should. This comes from being in the "academic bubble" where you're being compared to your peers instead of the professionals on the scene. When you compare yourself to other students, you might look pretty dang good! But step out of that frame of reference and look forward to when you will be in the real world, unsheltered by the walls of your college and you will see that there is far more to learn.
I believe this is a very common pitfall for musicians to fall into. BEWARE OF THIS: If you're in the first chair of your school's top ensemble, that doesn't mean ANYTHING! I don't care if you're at one of the world's most renowned music schools. DO NOT EVALUATE YOUR OWN MUSICIANSHIP BY WHAT CHAIR PLACEMENT YOU ARE IN!!!! EVER!!! PERIOD!!!
We all have the responsibility to ourselves to be honest and real when we analyze our own musicianship. If you have an inflated ego but you can't properly voice-lead over a ii-V-I, then you're not being honest with yourself! There's always an infinite number of things we can't do yet, so there's never a reason to get an inflated ego! Some people play fast complicated licks but they can't play them with good time! I myself lack many skills that I would like to have and have much room for improvement.
I think we are all pretty humbled when we take an honest look at our playing. There is no reason to ever be cocky about our musicianship. It's simply not in our best interest. When students enter the professional world, there's no "chair placements" anymore. There's just you and your skills. Why waste valuable time getting cocky when you could be honing your skills for your career?
The truth is, its all to easy to start living in this bubble. The answer is pretty simple: pop the bubble and assess your skills for what they are. That is the way to get better. I promise you that you will learn far faster that way.
is a saxophonist/composer residing in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.