Hanging out and talking to friends is a really great way to open up the mind. I have learnt so much through the interactions with my wife, family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. And I'm not just talking about music-related issues, I'm talking about bigger worldly issues like being a better human, friend, etc (yep, I mentioned this before haha).
When we work, we all face difficult people - bosses who are difficult, colleagues who won't compromise, and the list goes on. Of course, we also meet the group of people who have become our friends - you guys hang out and share stories like there's no tomorrow, and when things get rough, you got their backs and you know they've got yours too. Of course, I've had my fair share of interacting with clients that are both nice and difficult to work with.
It is a constant struggle of finding the balance between one's artistic direction and delivering music that audiences want to hear, especially when it comes to popular mainstream, jazz, and even classical music. Many times, clients would want something "jazzy" or "classical" and then proceed to suggest "Fly Me To The Moon" and "Pachalbel's Canon". Don't get me wrong, I love both tunes and in fact, Fly Me To The Moon was most likely one of the first standards I learnt on the guitar - and I still play it! Those are audience favourites and I understand that familiarity for the audience because there's no mistaking their distinctive melodies - everyone will instinctively know it's now "jazz" or it's now "classical". But still, there are so many other pieces and tunes in the canon that are equally accessible that most (ignorant) audiences do not know, which could be why they stereotype a genre of music to 1 or 2 tunes.
Now ignorant is a strong word, but I don't mean for it to come across in a negative way. Remember I said I was ignorant before? These clients probably are in the same boat I was drifting on - just clueless about other types of music because they have not been exposed to it. And also because those 1 or 2 tunes are their safety net. I'll admit, I've lost my cool a couple of times because of this issue - which isn't great at all because then, the rapport is broken and most of the time, the damage is too great that it becomes irreparable. By being too rigid and stubborn, I unintentionally burned the bridges that I set out to build - something we definitely do not want. This is when the frustration builds. But, this frustration may not be all bad because it can (and should) help us learn the mechanisms and techniques to deal with difficult situations and therefore, find solutions in a civil and respectful manner.
Turning to family and friends then, is a great way to release that pented up frustration and annoyance. Of course, it's nice getting them to rally behind your back to make you feel good but really, what does feeling good achieve? In fact, a couple of times, my wife and friends actually questioned and told me off! Of course it hurt to not have their support, but they did that because they were trying to help me become the better person. They did that because they valued our relationship more than anything - and really, it takes more guts to speak up to someone you care for. I was too blinded by my emotions to take notice of all that. But while speaking to one of my good buddies, he told me this,
"Every opportunity to be a better person..."
and it just spoke to me and resonated so well with me - which is the main reason why I decided to pen this post and share it with you.
Another instance was when I was playing in an orchestra recently. A colleague came up to me and offered a suggestion of adjusting the height of my music stand so that the conductor can see me better and clearer.
"It's not about you - it's about him."
What he told me was so enlightening! I never wondered about these things because I thought, "as long as I can see the conductor, he can see me" - it's like playing hide-and-seek where if you can see the seeker, he definitely can see you as well. Of course, don't be like my son who just buries his head and leaves his body exposed lol! He'll learn in due time..
But returning to the music stand issue, I always placed them in a manner that was comfortable for me and never took into consideration what the conductor felt or saw! Having this new perspective changed everything for me - from playing in orchestras to communicating effectively with clients and people.
So my takeaway is this - next time we find ourselves in an uncomfortable and heated situation, take a step back to view it from various perspectives. It's hard, but it's important to do so. After that, go back in with a fresh (and open) mind to find compromises and to solve the problems. Writing this now actually reminds me of my Dad - he was always getting us to think from other people's point of views.
I hope this post has been helpful to you! Thanks so much for reading and please feel free to write comments or share your stories as well. Till next week, stay safe and be well!