As a composer (including my 34 years as a band director), I know what it is like to juggle schedules, teach music, music theory, critical listening, plan yearly budgets, adjust the spending, plan various types of trips, attend regional and national conventions, plan recording sessions, plan programs for concerts, and the list goes on and on and on. Frustration and sometimes the necessary 180 degree change of plans or change in the music composition/arrangement in order to deal with the unexpected can make life seem like its overwhelming.

All this also requires juggling with personal and social commitments, as well as family commitments and priorities. As my dad would remind me from time-to-time, it’s all about doing your best. He would say, “Have you done your best? Did you make your best effort? If the answer is yes, then no one can fault you. If you didn’t do your best, figure out what you need to do to get better and do it.”

One of my college band directors taught all of his students by his words and deeds using the most calm mannerisms I’ve ever been around. His mantra was, “Be kind to each other. It’s important.” Sometimes that may be difficult for you, but try to avoid negative reactions that can wreak havoc on your health and your personal and professional relationships. You may be surprised by the unexpected results that give you more positive feelings than you could ever realize.

Music people live in a world of continual learning, risk-taking, and riding on a roller coaster of highs and lows that are amplified by their self-expectation of perfection or attainment. Always do your best and try to enjoy the smiles from friends, colleagues, and associates when the effort or a plan produces positive results. Balance that with family as a priority and you will be a success. If you did your best, no one can fault you for any outcome. Ever.

by Richard McLendon     March 1, 2016

Music is as old as the human species itself.  It has held people together surrounded by darkness with only the light of a fire to any number of venues where music is performed today.  It has taken people to war.  It has helped people through war and conflict. It continues to bring people together for different types of celebration and for remembrance. It has an intrinsic or fundamental value after many thousands of years.

Composers and musicians put in lengthy hours and years of studying, practicing, and perfecting their art, their skills, and their understanding of the complexities of music.  It never stops since true learning lasts a lifetime.  So many people enjoy music in the moment while at a concert or while driving or while shopping or while exercising, that most do not realize or fully appreciate the investment of time, money, and life into a music person’s gift.  Many people just take for granted that the music is like air – its there and free.  I am always taken aback when I hear someone make a comment like, “Well, you should’ve gotten a real job.”  Yes, there are still people that think that way.

It is the goal of true artists to make a living doing what they love – music.  Those people that give away their art in large quantities and the streaming industries that display artists that they use and pay very poorly, contribute to the mentality that many people have come to expect – free music or overly cheap music.

As in all things in life, there are disconnects in thinking. In the case of music, people think that artists are rich because the concert tickets were so expensive, or the band playing at the club must be rich because of the expensive tab last night and the place was packed again, yet people forget or don’t realize an important fact. Instruments, equipment, and education are expensive and in some instances very expensive.  I’ve always believed quality in will most always produce quality out.  You start with what you can afford with the goal to trade up in instrument quality.  As an example, really good artists know that the better quality of instrument that they own, the better the music will sound when they make it. That then makes for a better response from those that support musicians by buying their music. In turn, that results in a greater satisfaction for the artists in knowing that the job (performance) was well done.

Remember the old saying: “You get what you pay for.” I would say to the general public, stop expecting music for free.  Stop looking for ways to cheat artists. Stop hurting artists livelihoods by depriving them of being paid a fair wage for their hard work and investment of time and money.

When the public needs music, we don’t just jump out of caves with our clay pot drums and sing and grunt, or speed write a song or symphony or film score on demand.  Support the arts and support the artists that make the arts possible in today’s world. The artists in music deserve nothing less.  Don’t forget, we have to pay our bills and support our loved ones, too.

Let me know what you think.

RM Music Logo #5 (larger)