My #1 Fear (As A Musician)

I talk to my students a lot about mastering their mistakes–not getting rid of them per se, but mastering them. And one of the big ideas behind that is that you never totally get rid of your mistakes as you progress on your instrument–they just get smaller. Smaller to the point that the mistakes are only noticeable by you–at which time they are no longer ‘mistakes’ but rather ‘things that happened that you did not intend’. And…you can then use them creatively.

Isn’t that a nice idea? Well, this story isn’t about that 😉 It’s about a mistake at a big gig that everyone in the band could hear (though probably not anyone in the audience noticed–my rhythm guitarist saved my butt).

This weekend I was subbing at a gig at a church with a pro band that’s run like a Broadway production. The band is in a ‘pit’ area behind huge video screens, and while we’re playing there are multiple camera-persons shooting different members of the band to broadcast video of the musicians on the screens to the audience watching live as well as folks watching from other locations and the web (as the drummer, I get a lot of screen time ;). There are also multiple pro lighting, pro sound and pro video folks involved–it’s a big production.

So, one of things that goes with this is that things are timed to the second (there’s an actual countdown clock right by the music director so the live music in coordinated with the other elements of the show–pre-recorded video, etc.) This means that, as the drummer, I need to count in the tune at the exactly the right moment, or thing go sideways very quickly.

And guess what I screwed up? Yep, the count in–in fact the first count in of the last service! Like I said in the above, while I was flailing and not counting in the tune properly, my rhythm guitarist ignored me and just started playing the tune properly despite my flailing, and she saved the day…I love her for that!

(There were reasons for this screw up–but no excuses. The moment I was to start the count in on my hi-hat, I noticed that a) my hi-hat was broken [and would stay broken throughout that 3rd service, as the tunes all segued into one another], and b) I had the wrong chart up. *crisis*)

So…here is where the fear kicked in: I learned through this experience that one of my greatest fears is that I’ll be found out to be a fraud as a musician. You might remember that my musical career detoured for two + decades while I did corporate jobs, so Im thinking maybe I haven’t put in my good “10,000 hours” of practice, or I’m too dimwitted to keep up with the demands of being a musician, or I don’t have the right level of experience, or the right pants, or, or…the list goes on.

And while I’m playing through the service after this little moment of crisis, my musical life is flashing before my eyes–I’ll get fired, I’ll get ‘black-listed’, no one will want to ever hire me again, the Percussive Arts Society will cancel my membership ;)…all kinds of crazy, semi-rational stuff is going through my head.

But, here’s where I started to turn things around: after the service was over, I went and talked with my fellow musicians. First one was my rhythm guitarist–to thank her for jumping in and saving my butt. Then over to my bass player–he had noticed, but much worse things were happening in his world during that 3rd service (those ‘worse things’ would be a great post on their own ;), so he just figured I was starting the wrong tune–which happens on occasion. I then talked to the the worship lead/lead singer–same reaction as the bass player. And then finally to the music director–the one who’ll do all the hiring and firing. I don’t know if he was cool with it, but it wasn’t as big a deal as I had made it out to be before I talked to my rhythm guitarist, bass player and lead singer.

And so yeah, I had screwed up, but–because I had owned up to it and talked about it to everyone and confronted those fears–by the time I left for the day, it all seemed much less ominous. Not that I want to ever repeat the experience, mind you…nonono! But yeah…less foreboding and ominous.

I’m also not proud to tell you that, in my mind before I talked to my fellow band members, I was thinking of excuses to tell everyone about WHY it had happened. Excuses that, supposedly in my mind, would take the blame off of my shoulders and put me in the best possible light. But thankfully, when it came time to talk to folks about why it had happened, I stuck to the truth…as best as I could explain it. (This is probably the #1 thing I am thankful for in this whole experience.)

So then…I guess the idea for me here is that, when you feel like it’s the end of your career 😉 talk to other folks about it. It won’t change the things that led you to believe that your career would end but, if they have any empathy whatsoever, they’ll be a lot more forgiving than you were of yourself. And it won’t seem like the end of the world after all.

And, for me as a blogger, when I’m at my most vulnerable, share it in an appropriate way in a post. My sense of this (and I’m new to this whole blogging thing) is that people will connect with this stuff better than all the other self-congratulatory, “aren’t I fabulous” stuff. (I guess we’ll see about that, huh? 😉

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