Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 263 of Practice: On Musical Success

Sometimes our minds get to odd places, and there are no bread crumbs to take us back home. Today my mind got to ramblin' about success. I don't know how it got to thinking that way. Let us get to retracing our steps.

The scene: Bedtime stories are being read upstairs and rain is splattering off a gutter outside the office window.

Action!

Our heroine walks down the practice room (um... the basement Irish bar) not to practice but to find that bottle of red that's been sitting there on a shelf. All she wants is to pour a nice glass of wine and sit at the computer to write away a rainy Monday. And she thinks, as she looks around the practice space, "Hey, maybe I should be practicing right now. Wouldn't a real musician want to be practicing now?"

Yes, they would. The ones who are famous and successful, that is. But what about the ones who are just doing it for a living, getting by, and enjoying the ride? The successful, not famous ones?

Act II.

Get philosophical. Our heroine rubs her goatee, sips her brandy, lights her pipe, leans back on her elbow patches, and ponders: "What is success?"

It is a particularly scary question to ask of the person who got voted "Most Likely to Succeed" in high school. Me and Harold. For the yearbook photo shoot, they shoved handfuls of Monopoly money into our hands and told us to smile. We thought it was utterly ridiculous, and the photo proves it. Averted eyes, smirks, and general annoyed bewilderment. It's one of those photos that the more vain would have burned, the more perceptive would have laughed with, and the more oblivious would ignore. Or mock. Perfect. At 18, making a mockery of success.

To the matter at hand, practice. It's been 263 days of a daily practice campaign, and success at this point would mean what? That I've practiced every day? Have I? Have you? (If so, may I kiss your feet?) I have not, but I certainly do it more than I ever did. And I have become much better friends with my flute and my sax. So much so that I don't even feel guilty asking to borrow money from them anymore.

Does that mean success? Dunno. Life would be so much easier if it were black and white. (For some it is, and we have special television stations set aside for their viewing pleasure.)

Questions remain. How do we define success: progress or achievement? How do we recognize success: material possessions or the unerring maintenance of transcendent values? How do we manifest success: spend money or share smiles?

Don't bother answering. I think I already know, and that, for me, is success.

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