Did you ever go to a concert and wish you knew the musicians who were onstage?
Have you ever gone to a local club and get a little jealous that some other listeners were friends with the band and hung out with them during their breaks?
Are you sometimes envious of musicians who seem to be part of the “in crowd,” meaning that they are known and accepted by each other, and you’re not?
Now let me ask you a different set of questions:
Have you ever performed onstage with other performers?
Have you ever jammed with your musical friends?
Have you ever taken a lesson with a teacher you liked and respected?
Have you ever taught someone else to play?
Well then, I have news for you: You are part of the “in crowd.” In fact, you’re an important member.
Im not kidding about this. The “in crowd” that you see “over there” is a myth. Yes, those musicians may be having fun together, but you can do this too. And it doesn’t have to be with them. They have their friends and you have yours. You’re equally important.
This is a very important point: We become part of the “in crowd” when we decide to be. And it doesn’t need to involve becoming part of an already group. What appears to be a big “in crowd” is in fact a loosely-related network of self-selected “in crowds,” some large and some smaller.
You select yourself.
By practicing your instrument. By going to concerts. By reading books and blogs. By hanging out with your fellow musicians. By rehearsing together. By composing music. By improvising. By learning written music. (Charlie Parker would love to know that you’re learning his music after all these years!)
I learned about this from a comment that my brother-in-law Tim made about basketball. He has played the game all his life and is a good observer of human behavior.
If you watch a game of children playing basketball, you’ll notice that many of the kids are hesitant to shoot the ball. Either they don’t think they’ll get it in the basket or they don’t try hard enough to get the ball, but for whatever reason they don’t shoot it. Tim told me he’s convinced that some kids, when they’re very young, simply decide that someone has to shoot the ball and it might as well be them. “Someone has to do it so why not me?” And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They become great players because they decided to. (And here’s another aspect of this: the best shooters also miss the most shots. But they don’t give up. They shrug it off and get their hands on the ball again as quickly as possible!)
The basketball players who are in the “in crowd” have selected themselves to be there. It’s the same with musicians.
Give yourself permission to be in the “in crowd” with whomever you’re actually with. Even if it’s just by yourself. You don’t think Thelonious Monk ever questioned if he was in the “in crowd,” do you? Even when he was an “unknown” and playing piano in his living room. He simply played music because he had something to express. You have that too.
A final thought: The next time you’re onstage, even if it’s at the smallest, most obscure venue imaginable, remember that there’s someone out there who may be jealous of you. For being in the “in crowd.”
Self-select yourself. That’s what all your musical heros did. Why not you too?
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