New Year, New You
You say you want a "resolution"...it's not that hard!
by Dendy Jarrett
It’s a new year already, and hopefully you’re recovering well from a night of much music.
I’ve played my fair share of New Year’s gigs over the years, but one in Columbia, S.C. sometime around 1984 sticks out in my mind. We'd been booked through our agency and assumed everything was well vetted. What could go wrong?
The gig was on the fifth floor and there was...no elevator! At the time, I played drums on a really heavy, well-built, 6' by 8' riser that folded in half. Of course it could have been considered a non-crucial part of the show, but when folded, the underside contained much of our sound gear - and this venue had no stage, so the riser was indeed crucial.
And did I mention it was real heavy?
Getting it up five flights of stairs was as much fun as getting our rack with six Yamaha 1000 watt power amps up there too. But we succeeded...so now it's smooth sailing ahead, right? Right?!?
Once we were headed to the stage, the party planner started listing songs she wanted played. Ooops. We were a top 40 band and booked as such, but none of the songs she wanted were top 40 - the crowd (which was starting to look more like a mob) wanted 50s beach music, and what we knew how to play was not what they wanted to hear. We were ridiculed, cat-called, and constantly stopped. We started to have visions of the Blues Brothers movie, and expected the bottles to start flying at any minute...
But, we were determined to deliver a great show. After the first set, we found the party planner, and explained that someone didn’t hire the right group but that we were who they had. They could make the best of it, or we’d gladly bow out and start the arduous task of taking gear (did I mention it was real heavy?) back down the five flights of stairs.
The host made her way to the mic, and explained what happened. We were encouraged to come back on and play a second set. Sometimes a little explaining can calm rough waters, and while we still had to schlep that gear down five flights of stairs, it was after our fifth set - with a lot of help, great spirits, and even some kudos.
That new year's gig could have been a disaster, but it taught me a very, very valuable lesson: sometimes just a little bit of a course correction can go a long way. All it took was a few setnences from the party planner, and the evening changed completely.
And a little bit of course correction can change your musical life as well. People often make overly ambitious resolutions that they'll never attain, but a simple resolution can make a big difference. Don't resolve to practice 2 hours a day - resolve to practice 5 minutes a day. Not only will you be able to do it, but the odds are better that those 5 minutes will turn into something longer. "Practice makes perfect" is not an arbitrary saying, and even a few minutes a day devoted to your instrument can make a tremendous difference in your playing, muscle memory, and proficiency.
Finally, don’t just make a resolution in your head. Write it (or them!) down where you can see it daily. Set reminders on your smart phone, and hold true to your commitment. A note on the fridge saying "Don't forget to practice for five minutes today" will keep you focused.
Music has been proven to make people smarter, take away stress, develop your human relations skills, and help your right and left brains communicate with each other. A new year awaits you, and it's a blank slate: make this the year to take your music to the next level. You won't regret it.
(Oh, and you might want to learn a few 50s beach music songs...you never know when that knowledge could come in handy.)
Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.