Musicker’s Musing #2: Classically Trained

#2: Classically Trained

(*note: for the purposes of this discussion, I’m going with the more generalized use of the term “classical music” as opposed to the specific era in music by that name.)

I’ve noticed an inclination among some musicians: they like to casually mention that they’ve been classically trained. I’m actually referring to musicians who don’t play classical music and who generally don’t seem to want to be associated with those who do (perhaps seeing those musicians as snobby, stiff, antiquated.)

Yet paradoxically, in the minds of these renegades of classical training, it would seem that to have been trained to play classically gives them a certain legitimacy. Almost a kind of “street cred” among fellow musicians, as if having been trained that way but having the good sense to turn from it makes them a little more special – a little more “in-the-know” about making quality music.

And maybe it does.

But in the declaration of their shunned training do I also detect the presence of ego? (*note 2: I fully realize trying to detect and eliminate one’s ego is akin to a dog chasing its tail, but here I go, circling and barking anyway…)

Yes, some ego is sure be present wherever musicians gather, but from my experience, the more a fellow musician allows their ego to get involved, the less likely we are to meet in the music.

So, if you’ve been classically trained, great. If you haven’t, great. The question is: can you get outside (or inside) yourself enough to meet me (or anyone else) in the music?

Musicker’s Musing #1: Musical Taste

#1: Taste

I found this quote:

“I believe that a person’s taste in music tells you a lot about them. In some cases, it tells you everything you need to know.”

Hmm…

My initial reaction is to agree. There are certain artists/albums/songs that have meant a lot to me. It seems whenever I find someone who shares a love for one of those particular works, I feel closer to that person – almost as if we’re part of some secret society.

Then there is some music that – for whatever reason – repels more than attracts me. I admit I have been guilty at times of losing interest in getting to know someone whom I’ve discovered is attracted by the kind music which leaves me cold.

Certainly musical taste is a Thing to be reckoned with, but as I’ve aged, I seem to have discovered there is great nuance here. For example, how many of us share the same musical taste with the closest people in our lives? We might overlap in places but there always seems to be some (if not great) divergence in taste.

I’ve been teaching music lessons for twenty years now and over that time students have made requests for songs they want to learn that are truly all over the musical spectrum. Not uncommonly a request has taken me into a part of the spectrum I didn’t really want to go. Perhaps as a survival technique, I made the decision long ago that I would push – not past, not through – but into the music that repelled me. I would enter the music by learning to play it so that I might share the “way in” with the student who was looking for an entrance. I want to share with them what I’ve discovered: there’s something immensely satisfying about playing a favorite song – crudely or not – with one’s own hands.

And after all these years of entering music that I normally would have stayed clear from, has my musical taste changed? Become more encompassing?

Maybe a little, but truthfully, not so much…

But have I become less judgmental of people and their musical tastes? Yes, I think I actually have. Some say you should try to “see through the other person’s eyes” or “walk around in their shoes”. I think “hearing music with another person’s ears” has been a great empathetic tool for me.