I’ve been reading about the history of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and I’ve been struck by their level of commitment in the early years. In many ways their dedication to music bordered on obsession and in light of such commitment it’s not surprising to see their later success. Of course there were other factors that contributed to their insane popularity – their talent, the right mix of skill and personality, the timing, and plain old dumb luck. But I want to focus on their commitment because while the other elements are to some degree self-evident I was impressed by their single-minded dedication to the music. Sure there was sex and drugs, which are often cited as motivating factors, and they are a fringe benefit of being a rock star, but I can’t imagine you would succeed as a rock star if those were your primary goals. The music has to be the focus.
I’ve been analyzing this recently because our son has been learning guitar and has a band with his friends. He has creative vision, which is good. He has the potential to be a good musician – if only he would practice. He has the intellectual curiosity to learn a wide variety of instruments – if only he would practice. He’s interested in music, sort of, although he spends far more time listening to audiobooks. So while I have the rock star fantasy for him he lacks the commitment necessary to see it through. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. Both the Beatles and Rolling Stones were well into their teens before they started their own commitments in earnest.
There’s an eighth grader at my son’s school who is a remarkable musical talent and has been for several years. He plays guitar, violin, piano. He’s so good we wanted to hire his band for a dinner party we were throwing last year. His father is very involved in our music program and I was complimenting his son’s talent. He accepted the complement graciously but when I compared our son’s dedication to music to his he paused. Sure, he said, his son was doing well now, but his experience with kids in music is that kids who start a little later tend to stick with it longer. It’s not to say that his son won’t continue and do well but he implied that it certainly wouldn’t hurt our son to take it easy until he’s ready. Which also lead me around to the idea of the Beatles getting their start several years later than our son’s current age.
I’m putting a great deal of emphasis on my hopes for our son’s musical career but this is just an example. While it would be great fun to have a rock star in the family my own dedication to our son’s musical career does not cross over into creepy stage parent abuse. Ultimately I only want him to be happy in his occupation and realize his potential – which at this point is very creative – whether it’s art, animation, writing, or music.
What I want to explore at this point is his commitment to his pursuits and, in parallel, the commitment I’ve observed in the history of some ridiculously successful bands in the hopes of gaining some measure of his potential happiness.
Coming soon: Part 2 – What do you do when you don’t know what to do?