Some of the best advice I’ve heard for young musicians is,
“Always play with people who are better than you. ”
This makes a lot of sense, because as young musicians/artists, we need mentoring, we need guidance, and we need to work with people who’s experience and talent will help pull us up, help challenge us.
When I was younger, around 17-20, I regularly played with older, more experienced musicians. I often subbed for a big band that was comprised of mostly high school band directors from the area. It was a challenge, because they knew the charts inside and out. They played all the old big band arrangements authentically, so there was no room for me to slack. I had to be on my game. I had to go back and listen to the original recordings so I could play the correct style/feel. But it was a great experience because the band was so on all the time.
Another group I regularly played with was a Dixieland Quartet, led by a pianist who was in his late 60s. It was piano, clarinet/sax. double bass, and drums. Again, these guys had it down and I had to do my homework in order to play the right things.
And there where other situations throughout the years, where I had the chance to work with older, more experienced musicians. Each time was like going to school. I looked upon them as opportunities to learn, to grow, to become a better musician.
Now, at this point in my career, I’m at the other end of things. I regularly play with younger musicians who are the same ages as my sons. I play with a lot of musicians in their 20s and early 30s. I like it. I like the energy they bring. I like the openness they bring. And I like the fearlessness they often bring. It keeps me on my toes. It gives me new insights. It makes me a better musician even today.
I hope that I bring the same sort of mentorship to them that I received so many years ago when I was the young kid in the band. I talk to them. I encourage them. And most importantly, I play the best I can and hope that by doing so, they may be inspired and become better musicians. I also try to lead by example, by always being on time and easy to work with.
I thinks it’s important for older musicians not to be divas or jerks to the younger musicians around them. If you’ve made it that far, it’s important to be generous by working with younger musicians and passing on what you know. I’m sure most of us, when we were younger, got some good advice, or a thumbs up, from an older musician that meant something to us and helped us move forward.
Share it. Pass it on. Be encouraging.
Articles Origin: The Continuum of Your Musical Career