“When you’re a hustler,
there is one thing you should know:
you gotta hustle everyday.
When you’re a hustler,
there’s no time to take it slow.
Gather ye suckers while ye may.
Monday you’re hot,
Tuesday you’re not,
and that’s the reason why they say…
‘You gotta use what you got
to get whatcha want
before whatcha got is gone.
You gotta reach for that ring
when you’re on that ride.
How long does that ride go on?
You gotta learn every dance,
return every glance
while you have the chance to score.
You gotta use whatcha got
to get whatcha want
before you ain’t got no more.”
One of my friends sang this song from The Life for his college prescreens a couple years ago. The words really stuck with me, not just because they were the work of Cy Coleman, and they’ve recently resurfaced in my mind…
In my opinion, music is one of the most pure forms of self expression. The way you play, the way you sing, the tones, the textures, the resonance is never the same. It’s always a little different. What I find to be the most beautiful thing about it is that your mood can completely change the way you sing a song. It can have an entirely different meaning; you can experience it in an entirely new way just because of how you feel. I like to think that, because singing engages your entire body, the sound that you release can be the sound of your very soul. Maybe that’s a little cheesy and overly dramatic, but I’m a little cheesy and overly dramatic. When I’m upset, and I sing, I feel an incredible release. It is because of this soulful connection that I believe people turn to their art as a crutch in times of hardship, and those are the times from which some of the most profound works of one’s career might arise.
It’s so easy, so seemingly poetic to say something like, “It’s times like this when music is all I have.” It’s such a powerful, telling statement, but I have so often seen it thrown away. I have heard these statements made, but then have witnessed no subsequent change in the person’s focus on his or her music. The amount of practice time doesn’t change. The amount of work doesn’t change. The amount of focus doesn’t change. Art is society’s crutch. That is what it was intended for. As soon as humanity’s way of life became more secure, humans began to explore the arts. Music is provocative. Music makes you feel. It is supposed to be there in good times to enjoy and in bad times to act as a support. Some of the hardest work of my life in regards to my art has been done in the most trying times of my life. It wasn’t until my grandfather died that I became really serious about working on my mixed resonance, something I had been keen on avoiding, although necessary, since I had started learning the technique. Since then, my mixed resonance has progressed steadily, but not without a lot of hard work. In fact, I mixed almost every single note in Cinderella, and, frankly, I sounded pretty darn good. I would not have been able to do that without all of the work I did after losing one of my best friends. A couple weeks ago, I experienced another kind of loss, and, rather than hide at home in a pit of depression, I decided to work on a song that I had put aside for months because I had thought “I wasn’t ready for it.” In a period of three days, I had the entire song showcase ready, challenging ending and all. It felt like “the music was all I had,” so I used it. I turned to music in my time of need, and I worked my butt off, and, you know what, music was there for me. Music repaid me for that hard work.
That takes us back to the quote from The Life. Honestly, you’ve gotta use what you got to get what you want before what you got is gone. If music is all you’ve got, turn to the music. Use the music. Music will always be there for you. Don’t come to that conclusion and just turn away from it. Don’t say that it’s all you got and just put down the guitar or the sheet music or the drum sticks or cover the piano keys. Work on it. Turn something negative into something positive. Use that energy to motivate you to do things you have never done before. Perhaps this isn’t the best way to do it, but, sometimes, when someone upsets me, I use that to motivate me. I say, “I am going to conquer this song, and I am going to make it sound amazing because I can’t wait to see the look on his/her face when he/she sees me do this.” Okay, like I said, maybe not the best way to motivate yourself, but, almost always, along the way, my motivation turns into something along the lines of, “Wow, that was really good. I am so close to getting this down. I am going to get it down.” So, it doesn’t stay negative. It usually turns into something positive, but if you can channel your anger or frustration or sadness into a reason to work, I think you’re using that energy very well. I’m sure Thomas Edison was motivated to do at least one of the many things he did by his competition with Tesla. We’re humans. We’re not perfect, but we don’t have to let those terrible situations consume us. Alright, my point is: use that crutch! Use your music! It’s called a gift for a reason. If you feel like music’s all you got, well, reward it for staying.
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