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--- Mar 24 1999 Go to category
Subject: Advice to young musicians.
Category: General Questions
From: berklee commencement address 97 (usa)

Some advice to young musicians?

Pat’s Answer:

in this era, in this culture, there are lots of reasons why people become musicians. the role of music in any society is fascinating, this period maybe more than usual. but the role of musicians in this society is really changing, due to technology, due to mass communications, and mainly just because things naturally change, and we happen to be in a period where they are massively changing right now. many times i run into young guys who want to know how to get a record contract or a manager or how to get their music on the radio or something like that. my answer is always the same, and i think that regardless of how much things keep changing or mutating through the years it will always be the same; i say "don't worry about those kinds of things too much, just go home, try to understand as much as you can about why you wanted to be a musician in the first place and exactly what it is about music that really knocks you out, and practice like crazy on that". "and if you can do it about 14 hours a day that'll really help too".

i try not to say this in a glib or snotty way, it's just that i've found that even as things change, as record companies come and go, as styles change, as trends and audiences change, the work of being a musician and being involved with the fabric of music itself is essentially the same, and essentially real, while most of these external things, in addition to being largely out of ones control, are also largely an illusion, especially when compared to what you really have to know in order to become a good musician in the first place, and especially compared to what you really get out of the process of becoming a good musician.

for me, after everything, the only thing that finally remains really true is the feeling that at the end of the day, i know that i played really good, or i didn't ; or that i made some progress and understand something that i didn't understand at the beginning of the day; or i didn't. this, to me, is the real currency of what it is to have a life as a musician, this accumulated wisdom and insight into the reality of music and, as much of a stretch as it might seem to be sometimes, therefore into life and living...

.. and even in response to the guy that's looking for a manager or record company or something, whether he knows it or not, it's that currency of musical wisdom and understanding that will eventually lead him or her to all the things that he or she needs to fulfill the journey that they started the day they made that important decision to dedicate their lives to music in the first place, not the quick fix kind of goal of making a record or two or getting a couple of nice gigs.

of course, it's kind of easy for me to stand here and say all this. i have been really lucky as i said, i've gotten the gigs and the record contracts and all that stuff. but there's one other large truth that i've seen in evidence over this time and it goes like this, and my wish would be that i might even be an example of this one.

really good, seriously good musical work has a way of finding it's way out to the people. i can say that i have rarely, if ever after all these years, run across someone who has something that they've developed that's truly valuable to offer as a musician who doesn't finally end up with opportunities to turn those ideas into some kind of a career. it make take awhile, certainly some stylistic paths offer really different kinds of resistance than others, but usually the chances show up if what the musician has to offer is really strong, really sincere and is honestly representive of who they are as musicians, and as people , regardless of the stylistic zone.

but finally and ultimately, music remains an intensely personal issue. maybe the most important commitment you can make is to the music fan that lives inside of you, to find out just what it is about music that really, really knocks you out. in that discovery, you'll find most of what you need to know to take you wherever you need to go. all of you here have roads ahead of you that will be filled with good musical days, the ones where you feel like you can play or hear anything, and bad musical days, the ones where everything you do sounds like a bad madonna tune. but that variety, that sense of unknowing, that feeling of having to make it up yourself, that sense of adventure- that is what music is at it's best, and that's a big part of why having a life as a musician is so much fun.