There is a phrase uttered quite often in the music world (and probably other worlds too). “Those who can’t do, teach”. Have you heard this before? Have you said or thought this before? I have. Not towards another person though, towards myself. Musicians may seem to have a ton of confidence but sometimes it’s an act. I’d guess that every musician (and maybe every person) feels doubt and insecurity in their abilities from time to time. I also think that it’s healthy to be realistic about what you can and can’t do and to see where you can improve. In the past when I struggled, or messed up, or was just having an off day the phrase “those who can’t do, teach” could bounce into my head. It never motivated me. Over time I changed my mindset and when I struggle now a new phrase pops into my head. More on that later.
A few weekends ago I was a “real” musician for a week. I had the pleasure of playing with four different groups in the span of one week. Three nights in row with three different groups, then a few days later with the fourth. Each group played different music with different people but some people played in multiple groups like myself. I didn’t count the the number of songs performed but I’d say between 30 and 40 each night so between 120 to 160 songs? Nothing crashed and burned (well, sorta… there was a fire at one of the gigs across the parking lot!). And even with just a few hours of practice with some of the groups the musicians on stage and the audiences seemed to enjoy it. Not bad for “just a teacher” right?
The first group to perform was the Star City Syndicate. This would be our third performance this year. While this group has been playing together for 5 (I think) years we only had the chance to practice twice to prepare for the summer season. It’s hard to tell but the crowd goes way back from where we are and they liked us so much we play an extra 45 minutes!
The second to group to perform is a band called Common Crossing. This group is a crowd pleasing group that plays a variety of music that just makes people happy! I am subbing (sitting in) for the bass player for this band for one or two shows this summer. While the members of Common Crossing are in the Syndicate we had never played in this formation before. It was super fun!
The third night brought a brand new group to the stage. Basically all the members of the Syndicate who don’t play a wind instrument created a group (that can play when the Syndicate is unable) called Reverend Funk and the Congregation. This is an eclectic group that plays songs that I don’t think many other groups (if any) cover.
The last group I played with (after a few days of rest thankfully) was a band called Too Far North. This group has been playing together in some formation for 27 years. It shows too, they have some super dedicated fans! They also have the largest catalog of music I needed to learn. The Syndicate is getting up there in songs but Too Far North has more that they have as options to play. I started playing with the group three years ago and it’s a blast.
“Those who can’t do, teach”. I don’t buy it. In the groups above there is a combination of teachers by profession who are performing and performers who can teach. I wasn’t a “real” musician for a week because I always am a real musician. We all just put our talents and efforts into the direction that makes the most sense for who we are. It doesn’t matter that avenue it only matters that we are happy. The phrase that I say to myself now when I’m having an off day is “the best musicians are the ones who know they aren’t the best musicians”. I find this much more motivating. It doesn’t put anyone down and shows that improvement happens when you are true to yourself. You are good if you are who you want to be, doing what you want to do, and moving in the direction you want to to be moving.