Music education and the fight against mediocrity

I received my copy of the Musicians’ Union‘s quarterly magazine yesterday and found a, in many ways, remarkable interview with Jazz singer Cleveland Watkiss. A few of the things he said really made me think, and I can fully identify. This is why I decided to finally (!) start blogging and give you a couple of quotes to get you thinking. Feel free to comment …

“If you can get (the idea of what music is really about) into them at a young age – this is primary school kids – it’s great. (…) It’s also about being inspired by the pursuit of greatness (…) rather than mediocrity.Today there’s too much emphasis on the mediocre. You have to hone your skills and, sadly, today it’s not about that. Over the last 20 years we’ve got so much into celebrity and image. Never mind if you can’t play – just get an angle, get a story. It’s terrible.(…) ‘What? I’ve got to study, I’ve got to learn? I’ve got to practise, develop my technique? How long for? 10, 15, 20 years? No, no, no – I need it now’. That’s where we are. It’s really bad.” (taken from: ‘Golden Voice’ – Interview with Cleveland Watkiss, issue Autumn 2009 of “Musician”)

I am always saddened by the fact that especially many young singers these days have exactly this attitude. Singing is very often not about the beauty of the instrument anymore, but rather about fame, being in the spotlight and winning dubious competitions. I have been singing and working on my voice for probably 20 years, I got my voice professionally trained for 8 years. I am still working on it, and I still want to improve – it is a lifelong process, there’s never a “good enough”. You cannot expect to be an amazing singer with a handful of lessons or a bit of karaoke. Talent alone is nothing but a good base – the rest is work. This work can also be fun by the way! It is legitimate to want to achieve something and show what you have learned and what you can do – many people these days however want to run before they can walk. Being a good musician is never easy – it is the most fulfilling thing though if you are not lazy and think you can earn all the laurels without putting in the work …

© Petra Raspel 2011

 

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