These past few weeks for me have been wonderful, as I have gotten to perform as a member of several brass bands, was a soloist, and have done some amazing teaching, with my college and private students. However, over the last few weeks, I am noticing a trend in musicians, both students and professionals, that is really concerning, and I really feel the need to address this.
Every music school that I can think of should have a class called:
Musicians: Do You Realize How Lucky We Are?
We get to wake up every single day, and share the most wonderful thing in the world with people: music. We get to express our emotions freely, without any ridicule from others. We get to teach some of the brightest and best students around. Yes, there are some parts of our job that aren't pleasant, but remember, we are lucky!
This class would be about one basic concept: Make a music student spend time doing something completely non-related to music. Whether that's carpentry, being an accountant, or anything else, I don't care, but I think every music student should experience what life is like doing something that involves NO MUSIC WHATSOEVER.
I have worked many jobs in my life that weren't musical at all. I was a cook, worked as a maintenance person, I've done retail, and a few other odd jobs in order to make ends meet. And everyday, no matter how much I have going on, I remind myself that I am the luckiest person in the world that I don't have to do that to survive anymore.
I understand that we as musicians believe that sometimes, we are overworked, underpaid, and have to fight for everything that we believe in. But where else can you be as passionate, artistic, emotionally driven, and spend your day doing something so amazing as making music, and get paid for it?
We all have our moments where we question things in life, or we just don't think anything will make us happy. When I have those moments, I go back to when I was in college, and worked for a temp agency for a few months over the summer. I worked for 3 days in a cosmetic prototyping factory, where I had one job. I screwed on mascara caps. For eight hours a day. That was 12 years ago, and I still remember how bored, miserable, and just overall awful I felt while I tightened those mascara caps as fast as I could.
The next morning, I got up, and practiced, and remembered just how awesome it was to be able to play an instrument, and share my love of music for other people. If we could only get younger students to understand this more, I think that the music world would be a better place, both in the short and long term.
Andrew Smith currently serves as the Director of Athletic Bands at and Assistant Professor of Low Brass at Campbell University and is Principal Tuba of the Fayetteville Symphony. Andrew also maintains a low brass teaching studio in the Triangle region of North Carolina.