This I Believe

William - Shelbyville, Tennessee
Entered on November 1, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: creativity

I’ve been in the music business for over 25 years. I graduated from a teacher’s college with a degree in music education, but found out that I’m not cut out for teaching. Besides working various day jobs, I also perform on weekends, and compose and arrange music. So, I feel like I’ve seen both sides of the fence; while I was raised and trained in classical (re: “serious”) music, I’ve embraced popular music (rock, country, blues, etc).

I believe this has given me a unique perspective. I enjoy listening to most kinds of music.

But if there’s one thing that irks me more than anything else, it’s music snobs; those who are convinced that any music recorded and sold to the “masses” (i.e. popular music) is junk, worthless and completely devoid of thought or talent. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know this because I’ve studied in both realms.

While classical music involves a great deal of practice and work in note reading, popular music involves work and practice in another way: generally stated, it is the art of improvisation.

That may not seem like an art to some people, but believe me, it is. It involves learning music (by ear) of a particular genre (rock, blues, country, etc), and as you do, you learn styles of different performers, learn to improvise as they do; you “pick up licks.”

Yes, classical music involves a great deal of dedication and training. I’ve seen piano students in college who spent endless days and nights rehearsing the same piece of music for a recital.

But I’ve also seen many dedicated rock and country musicians who have devoted their lives to their art, rehearsing endlessly to learn the style, the licks that would put them a notch ahead of the rest.

I haven’t abandoned classical music. Nor do I feel like I’ve stepped “down” by embracing popular music. I’ve simply stepped to another classroom, one in which I don’t feel constrained by the rigors of absolute note-reading, but where I can express myself freely as a musician and a sensitive individual.

And if that makes the snobs turn their noses up, all the better.