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What are the practical applications? How will you use this in your future? Is this a pragmatic use of your time? According to some people, no.
Pragmatism is one of the most ambiguous concepts in the English language. What is to determine the usefulness of a skill? It may not make you make you wealthy, and it may not even invoke enough income to live on, but does that opportunity cost outweigh your happiness? When I began my professional journey, I had to analyze the possible outcomes in order to succeed at my desired level. I would have to take extra AP classes online, sacrifice my weekends of jovial activity and friendship for work, and maintain my grades within the International Baccalaureate program. Nine-to-five desk jobs are practical; however, I prefer a challenge. I prefer a risk.
Musicians are portrayed by an inaccurate stereotype: lazy, relaxed, and often substance abusers; in the modern and malleable music industry this is no longer the case. At the young age of fourteen, I voluntarily decided to undergo a long term and vigorous change in my lifestyle. As a naïve teenager, I learned through experience that the key to music in its current form is to demand attention. It is imperative that the modern musician consistently learns and composes new music, without fail. New technologies such as looper pedals and vocal processors have been incorporated into my show so that my performance remains entertaining and new. The instability of the music scene forces the strong and adaptable players to the front and the weak ones to the rear, a consistent yet overlooked example of natural selection. While attending a summer program at Berklee College of Music, Professor Livingston Taylor told me, “you must never be sick, tired, or busy.” I thought to myself: That is the most accurate summation of musical professionalism I have ever heard. Musicians are under the critical eye of the uneducated public, who watches imperfections under a magnifying glass while simultaneously ignoring admirable talent due to selective attention or sheer memory loss. In this respect, I have learned the essence of responsibility. The initial responsibilities of music are simple (copyrighting regulations, artistic integrity, performance contracts), as are those of adolescent entrepreneurship (income taxes, child labor laws, marketing and public relations). I have undertaken these responsibilities and acted accordingly in addition to my academic, family, and social life. Musical professionalism is more than all of that. A performance encompasses not only music, but also body language, eye contact, and enticing interludes. Musicians are singing salespeople. Our attitudes can be more important than our actual abilities, and our character must remain “humble and kind” even when we are offstage. This is what makes musical professionalism a true lifestyle change. The responsibilities from my professional life have influenced my everyday actions and have made me an overall more responsible and more mature young adult.
It is not easy to be a teenager, and it is not easy to be an entrepreneur, and it is not easy to be a musician. Easy is boring. My passion for music has empowered me to create a career and a future for myself. Music may not appear practical to everyone, but I can assure you that I have learned numerous skills from entertaining that many of my peers may never learn. Anyone can create a usefulness of skill if it is crafted and practiced with constant vigilance. If you don’t think that your passion is pragmatic, then you don’t want it enough.
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