What's Good Enough?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by john7401, Jul 18, 2010.

  1. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    This entire thread is about waaay more than music. There are many careers/pursuits where the issue is how much one needs to pay in "dues" along with what expectation of success. All of the "arts" fall into this category - painting, sculpture, dance (just watch "So You Think You Can Dance" or "American Idol"), writing, etc., but there are others. I have personally been involved in several of these myself, for example:

    Aviation: I have been flying for 40 years and have 10,000 hours of flight time. But, I have never been a professional pilot. As much as I enjoy flying, the "dues" are just too high and there are many others out there who are much hungrier than I am. I am married with 5 kids and 10 grandkids. During those crucial "dues-paying" (time-building) years, it is almost impossible to have a normal family life. I was not willing to pay that price.

    Basketball: I have always loved to play and still play regularly. I would love to be in the NBA - but I am a white guy and only 6'4". Enough said.

    Scientist: I have a master's degree (some PhD work) in Physics and except for the time that I was a scientist in the Air Force, I have not worked as a professional Physicist. It takes mathematics that are astronomical (pun intended) and they are constantly evolving. I did not pay the price to keep up those skills.

    Firefighting: (This is my son's passion) - He has an EMT and Paramedic certificate and has graduated from a highly-regarded fire academy. But, when he applies for a position, he is one of 200 similar candidates. Is he "good enough"? So far - No. Like being a musician, it takes being in the right place at the right time with the right skills. So far, that combination has eluded him.

    So, what to do? I still have a job that I love and I can have a family life and fly as much as I want (I own a plane), and play basketball as much as my old knees will allow, and play the trumpet in a community band and occasional church gigs, weddings and holiday events. I work for a manufacturing consultancy which is a lot of fun, and I earn a decent salary to pay the bills and do the other things on the side.

    Perhaps something like this may be the answer to this entire question.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2010
  2. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    Great post above...lots and lots of reality there.

    This post definitely contains the answer for the vast majority of people.
  3. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    Wow what a thread.

    I'd go the military route too, the military's the last square deal for the non-wealthy in the US, make use of it.

    Get a degree in music or a minor in music if you can, if college is taken care of so you don't have to go into debt to do it. A college degree doesn't mean what it once did, but it still means something.

    What the old pros here say about being able to jump into any gig and leave the ego at home.

    After the military, your life may consist of giving lessons, playing in bands playing the music you like, playing stuff you may not like, doing church, weddings, even busking.

    I'd also say listen to your parents BUT ..... they will be familiar with how things were when they were your age. Things are different now. The soundest advice I got as a young adult came from my Great-Aunt who'd lived through the last Depression, she thought college was a waste of time for me and that I should stay working for this veterinarian I was working for, indefinitely. That's if I didn't go for the best thing, a career in the military, any job in the military, even if it was just peeling potatoes. Looking back, her advice was golden. I'd likely have had some trumpet skill and maybe tried busking at that time, except that in HS, we could not afford the mouthpiece for a trumpet and I got kinda disgusted with the whole situation and dropped out of band. That's my big regret. The band building at that school is the only building I wouldn't want to see taken out by a small tactical nuke lol.

    Frankly from where I sit, military band sounds like the best way to go.
  4. tpetplyr

    tpetplyr Pianissimo User

    Dec 15, 2003
    I'm going to toss in my two cents, and leave out my life story. If anyone really wants to hear the gritty details about how I came to this realization, let me know and I'll walk you through it.

    I believe that if your goal is to become a high level musician - 1st call commercial, win an orchestra job, soloist, chamber, etc - then a backup career/education is shooting yourself in the foot.

    If your goal is to be a musician that plays with other musicians and has fun then a backup career isn't a backup, it's a primary.

    It is not possible to study Engineering, Science, etc... and music with a high enough level of success to become an artist at the highest level. I tried, and I'm paying for it now, making up for years of time I lost studying Chemistry.

    There are plenty of players, even here, who do a substantial amount of gigging and also have a second (or first) career. But these players are not the ones playing in major orchestras, movie soundtracks etc.

    Become a musician because you have to, because you're passionate about it, and because nothing else can satisfy you. Otherwise do something else you enjoy and find fulfilling and keep the trumpet fun. Music is always wonderful, and nobody will judge you for being a doctor who plays the trumpet.

  5. john7401

    john7401 Pianissimo User

    Jul 3, 2009
    Great information.

    Another thing that has been bugging me is that what happens once someone does land the orchestral jobs and get by with that and gigging to pay for life's expenseses, but then gets older? It sounds to me like retirement wouldn't be much of a possibility from an income standpoint and I know once you get older that the lips for playing the trumpet tend to deteriorate. What do you do then? I know teaching is a possibility but I'm assuming for most people teaching wouldn't bring in enough income on its own?
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2010
  6. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    Some more thoughts ....

    I think I wasted too much time in college, and the actual electronics I use I either learned getting my ham radio license, building stuff on my own and looking it up in library books, or just my plain old research. Until the economy went "flunch" I had my own biz, and no one asked what degree I have, they just assumed .... .I had a Master's or PhD! I had to put a stop to THOSE rumors.

    If there's something you just HAVE to do, I agree, just go and do it. And don't water it down with a lot of other stuff just do it. Busking = paid practice. Weddings or church gigs even when you're not good yet and you're just getting paid dinner, hey Dinnerpractice! Just make sure to chew some gum before picking your horn up again lol.

    I've known people who "just did it". They got along OK. Did they get rich? Some did, most didn't, NONE cared. Back in the 90s, I "just did it" myself. I found I was good at a sport, and it was so un-connected with anything else I knew about or had done that I was able to do it without a lot of "baggage". It was something impossible to make money at, except theoretically. I made a living at it, I found I had to be as much a politician as an athlete (not like being a football player or musician where if your band treats you bad, you just skip to another band or team, in this there's only ONE team, hence there's horrible politics) it was an OK living, travel, not bad really. And people think you're great or something, too. I could still be doing it now if I wanted to badly enough, and would have bought a house by now, had savings, etc all on that "theoretical" money. Somehow the world opened up for me, because I wanted to do it, it became possible.

    At that time, I had someone in one of the Navy bands tell me they wished they could do as well as I do, and I said I'd trade it in a minute for being able to play an instrument well. Now I'm making that trade, essentially. I lived on almost nothing when I was starting out, and I'm living on almost nothing now. And if I do it, it will happen.

    I don't think the "lips deteriorate" at least not as much as anyone fears. The best player I've heard in person was an OLD guy, like 85 or something, who used to play in that Croatian-owned coffee shop on University Avenue in Palo Alto. He was GOOD. He has a guitar and a cornet, he'd alternate between them to rest but I don't think his lips were the limit, I didn't hear him flub a single note. And there are some old players on here who say, with more practice, their lips are getting better than ever now that they're retired and have time etc.

    Lastly, I want to say that with the weird things the economy is doing, it's hard to forecast 30-40-50 years in the future. Yeah I can get SS at age 70, but in 25 years will be have the same government? What will the economy be like? If present trends continue .... ai yi yi. A musician can always make a few dollars or dinner .....

    If I were you I'd get talking with a recruiter for a military band soon. It was good enough for Chet Baker.
  7. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    duplicate post blah ....

    An instrument that doesn't depend on amps and all kinds of "processing" is a good idea too. Trumpets predate the electrical grid :-)
  8. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    I very much agree with those comments above which suggest that, once a decision is made that nothing else but being a full time professional musician will do, it will probably take a single minded, all-consuming commitment of time, energy, resources, and determination to the exclusion of all other things. So, time and energy spent in the pursuit of other activities would be, at that point, a distraction and may operate to reduce one's chances of succeeding at achieving the primary goal.

    Kind of reminds me of what kind of determination and dedication go into to becoming an Olympic athlete.

    In my mind, the question that would still remain is...even with that kind of commitment - will I be able to get good enough???
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2010
  9. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    Same but different. Much much MUCH more politics in most Olympic sports, there's ONE national governing body for the sport and if you don't have politics 'n' power (money) behind you, your ability can be more or less irrelevant. In music, if you're good you're good you WILL bubble up to the top. Top as in the same top as the latest trashy pop star? No, but you'll make a living and you will have people who DO understand what you do an APPRECIATE it.

    Most Olympians can't make a living doing their sport. (An Olympian is anyone who's gone, even as an alternate.) A very few win medals then can do the lecture circuit, write books, etc. Or go into coaching etc. For most, the connections they make socially are what carries them after their competitive years are done. For many, there's always the family business anyway.

    I have heard NO ONE say they regret the time they spent training. Even with the politics and BS I ran into, I don't.

    You have to be single-minded while doing this,I think music is the same. Best to do that single-minded stuff while still young, single, and poor. You can still pull it off if old, single, and poor like I'm trying to do, but it's not as pretty. A new player is just not "cute" in their 40s! It's most elegant to do this while the opportunity cost (a very important concept) is low. for most people that's kid-time and in college. Maybe a bit after the normal college years.

    The way I feel about these interesting times (economically and otherwise) is, better do what's in your heart because you'll likely end up equally poor at something "good" that you hate, and play, play, toot away, for tomorrow we may die. :-P
  10. Glennx

    Glennx Pianissimo User

    Aug 16, 2009
    My contribution in response to the original post:

    My teacher played for a major orchestra for years and I recall him once saying that all he ever wanted to do was play. He loved it, he was very good at it...and he was still a little amazed that people wanted to pay him to do it! All the stuff mentioned in previous posts is important and necessary, but you've got to want to do it (whatever "it" happens to be) more than anything else and be willing to put everything else second.

    And you have to put in the time, years and years of it...preferrably when you're younger, before life gets complicated.

    The colleagues I went to music school with who were, at a young age, supremely focused and single-minded enough to persevere at becoming the best are all now successful working professional musicians. If this describes you or you can quickly become this, then all things considered you have as good a shot as most. Some of those colleagues are freelance, others play with major orchestras, but all presumably love their careers in music and would not choose anything else.

    A final thought. As a parent myself, I agree: do listen to what your parents tell you, they want only the best for you. But remember that the final decision is yours and it's for you to decide. Whatever you choose, you've got to really, really want it.

    Good luck!

Share This Page