Know Thyself

It really is an honor to “know thyself”, or so a mentor once told me.  When I realized I was a musician, and most adult family members think it’s often better to “know thyself” in a different context, I was one confused kid.

Even if you have evidence to suggest to your fam. that you’re naturally drawn to and good at music, this probably won’t be enough to keep them from directing you elsewhere. So, how do we approach announcing to our families that we’re choosing a life that we’re passionate about and forgoing a traditional career in something else? You pretty much gotta drop “the bomb”.

“The bomb” isn’t really a bomb (as the quotes suggest) because your family, if they have been paying attention to who you are at all, will know you well enough that they’re probably expecting said bomb to drop.

They know it’s coming, but they don’t want it to come. And, in some cases, they will go to great lengths to make certain you comply with their vision for you rather than your own… and, I agree that their vision for you might be safe and warm, with plenty of resources to keep you from going hungry or taking any risks, but that’s not you… and the sooner they understand it, the better off you’re going to be.  

Sure, everyone I knew as a kid thought it was cool I was a guitar player, and my band was gigging, but they all assumed it was a passing phase: a hobby of sorts. Turns out it wasn’t, and the music industry, in all its varying forms, has distinctly called to me from the time I could understand what a musical instrument was – and I know myself well… too well, at times. But my folks didn’t see it.

Heck, I used to collect pop bottles and cans as a young kid so I could save my dimes (Michigan refund was and still is 10 cents per can) – after a grocery store cash in, I’d hit the record stores on Saturdays with a huge smile on my face. During the week I would come home from school and fall asleep with my Dad’s giant pair of Sony headphones on – right there on the living room floor, listening to all kinds of amazing music. I would’ve spun records all night long if they would’ve let me. But they still didn’t get it.

When I was between 5 and 8 years old my Dad took a road trip without Mom and I, and he left me some cash. I couldn’t wait to spend it on vinyl… I’m pretty sure I bought the Bee Gee’s Spirits Having Flown that weekend (I never could figure out what they thought was cool about that album title). Don’t laugh, I was very young, and those guys were kickin it huge back in the late 70’s. Do you remember the song “Tragedy”? I didn’t think so – I’m fortunate to have the education, even if disco is a part of it – Enter digression, page left…

For many of you this message comes too late. Indeed it is my intention to speak to both those who have not yet committed to our professions, and to those who are here with us now. Many of you who have “stuck-it-out” know that even after you’ve made your decision your families will still struggle with it. Let them. I didn’t understand the thorn my family was until I had a kid of my own… then they started asking me… “knowing what you know now, would you be okay with your own kid becoming a musician, a producer, an engineer, etc.?” My answer is yes.  I know the dangers, and I know how to navigate them, but I’m still here. I also know that any career choice requires hard work and dedication, and the music industry is no different. Just remember:

”.. No matter where u go u are what u are player, And u can try to change but that’s just the top layer, Man u was who u was before u got here..” – Jay-Z, “Public Service Announcement”.

Congratulations Summer 2011 IPR Graduates – we are eagerly awaiting your successes (as are your families)!

We’d like to hear your story or what you think about ours; please leave your comments below.

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