I am not a beginning.
I am not an end.
I am a link in a chain. – Keith Haring
Elbow-deep in weekend pots & pans, I’m listening to my Spotify playlist – Piano like this. Lang Lang comes on, with his virtuosic cover of We Don’t Talk About Bruno. Sometimes when I hear a brilliant performance like this, the impostor-syndrome chorale starts doing warm ups in my head… ‘Listen to that amazing phrase, I could never do that.’ ; ‘I absolutely could play like that if I just focused and practiced – for once’ ; ‘What’s the point? you should just focus on what you’re actually good at – singing.’ ; ‘Do you know how long you’d have to practice to play that run he can play while sight-reading’ …and so it goes. If you have any experience in any of the creative realms, you know the drill. It is telling that I still absorbed this all or nothing approach to music success even though I graduated with a music degree from the University of Akron. While I had some life-forming experiences and education at the U of A, it was far from the elite pinnacles of music education. Yet I still received a clear message… if you’re not a ‘professional’, singing at the Met or La Scala, or at least at a regional opera company, what is the point of trying at all? You don’t want to end up as a dilettante, do you? (The horror!)
If the beginning of the spectrum of artistic ability is someone with no experience, the other end is virtuosic skill. It’s true regardless of genre or style: rap, solo piano, writing or painting. But you can stop at any point along the way, and it doesn’t negate your journey to not be the furthest down the road.
In the end, my weekend dishwater breakthrough was this… Lang Lang’s level of skill doesn’t effect mine. The existence of someone ‘better’ doesn’t negate my gifts, or make my music pointless. I hope it’s a benefit of my increasing age but my younger self was a much harsher critic. In the end, what does it mean to be a successful musician? When people hear you play, they want to hear more.
Sing us a song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright – Billy Joel (Piano Man)