Thursday, April 18, 2024

My musician son is not as good as he thinks he is. Hax readers give advice.

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We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best answers are below.

Dear Carolyne: I have a 30-year-old son who has some talent in music, composition, and creative writing, but he seems to harbor the illusion of being much better than he actually is.

He plays the piano very well by ear, but lacks the subtlety and finesse expected of a professional player. He can compose and arrange music but, again, without the depth and variation that would make it truly good. His writing makes me ache to think of how great it would be if he submitted his work to lead a workshop or class with other writers. Instead, he’s using a small inheritance to self-publish and record his work, which so far hasn’t generated much enthusiasm from recipients.

In the past, he underwent treatment for depression. I don’t want to discourage or deflate him – I just want to help him understand that most great artists are open to advice, mentors, peer review, etc., and that his work might be good better if he was too. (He has a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field, so he is not intimidated by the rigors of academia, at least not in subjects that are not central to his personality.)

He seems to be following a trend in his father’s family of men who display more confidence (or even bravado) than their skills might merit. This didn’t go well for any of them. How can I suggest he cultivate a balance between humility and chutzpah and patiently hone his craft with professional guidance? How to support your efforts without feeding your delusions?

Suffering mother: Don’t say anything about the things you just mentioned. Because really, who are you to make that judgment? My daughter wanted to play soccer until college. She was good and she thought she was good enough to play at an advanced level. We thought soccer distracted from all the other things we thought she could or should do. We said nothing except, “Girl, if soccer is your passion, do whatever you can to make it work.” Work hard, then work harder.

She eventually gave up football and became a paramedic. We have such a strong relationship with her and she’s never had to say, “You don’t believe in me.” » Let your son, especially at 30, do what he needs to do and stop judging him. Support, support and support until he asks for your opinion. What time do you could say, “I believe in you, so let’s ask, what else can you do to further your passion?” So stop.

Suffering mother: I am a music teacher. My first suggestion is that it may be better than you think. There are many styles of music that require different skills than those traditionally valued. Think about how many mothers of famous punk guitarists thought their child had no talent. So what you need to check is: what are the musical values ​​of the music community (or genre) he hopes to join? Does it live up to those standards (not yours)?

Another thing to consider: the music industry is a very tough world. Making a living catering to other people’s tastes is difficult, and trying to shape an audience’s taste based on what you value as a musician can seem nearly impossible. Try to view his track record as a success. He worked hard and he achieved something. If he doesn’t make money from it, that doesn’t mean the music isn’t good. I would let him figure that out for himself.

If he discusses his music and career options with you, you might suggest two things. First, is there anyone like him who could serve as a mentor? Second, could he explore the wide range of musical careers available to support his performance aspirations? Musical success does not necessarily mean achieving success through music alone; many musicians combine teaching, producing, working part-time for a music company, etc., while also touring and recording.

Finally, don’t read his faults through a whole family history of failed men. If it happens in 10 years, so be it, but it seems a bit unfair to put all of this on his shoulders.

Suffering mother: You fear that your son will follow the same path as his paternal brothers. If his Shakespearean flaw is bravado, suggesting a humility that you yourself seem to lack, given the harshness of your judgments, is unlikely to change his habits.

And what’s wrong with his manners, anyway? You think his pride in his work is disproportionate to the quality of his product. Maybe in his opinion he is doing exactly what he wants and is very happy with the result. Have you asked him what his creative goals are? “Recipients’ enthusiasm” may not matter to him the way it seems to matter to you.

Unless your opinion on their creative outputs is requested, do not offer them. Creativity is a tender thing, no matter how bold it may be. Unsolicited criticism can cripple the artistic spirit. Praise his impressive efforts (self-publishing is hard work!) and trust that he will grow as an artist precisely as he wants and is capable of doing.

Suffering mother: One thing I’ve learned from my creative friends is that they MUST do their job, whether they succeed in it or not. They have an internal need to paint, write, play music, etc. Not everyone can become the next greatest composer or performer, but if they won’t throw away their practical lives to unsuccessfully pursue their art, why try to stop them?

I admire those who have talent and I know some who have much more than others. But what’s fascinating is that even some people whose art is not, in my opinion, good, somehow manages to sell it. There’s a lid for each pot, I guess.

— Creativity is unstoppable

Suffering mother: As a professional musician with over 40 years of experience, I would say that talent and natural ability have less to do with success in this field than good old tenacity. There are many successful people with little musical skill, but they share two traits that your son may or may not have: a sense of style coupled with a stubborn drive to succeed.

Whether his desire is to be the Next Big Thing or simply a reliable companion, he will benefit less from your self-appointed status as a music critic than from your support to grow, and possibly fail, on his own. He might surprise you by succeeding! And if he fails, he will have done so by pursuing his dream. Lesson learned, anyway.

Each week we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read last week’s article here. New questions are typically posted on Thursdays, with a submission deadline on Monday. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.

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