In this week’s post I wanted to talk about the myth that I find young musicians (and some older) falling prey. That is the myth of arrival. That myth says that you can reach a point in your development (regardless of what skill, gift or talent) where you have “arrived” and there is nothing left to improve or that it is pointless to try and improve. Unfortunately, this place of arrival is subjective. Who really determines if you have “made it?” Do you determine that? Your teacher/mentor? Your family? Critics? I truly believe if you were to poll a room of musicians they would probably come up with different answers. Hopefully, at least one, would answer what I believe to be true: There is no place of arrival.
We will always have areas in our playing and improvisational abilities that can be better. That is why we practice. I have heard stories of jazz greats in their 90’s still practicing. When asked why in the world they were still practicing at their age there response was something like this: “I am always learning.”
A problem we face as musicians is we let the rewards of reaching our goals numb our development. We get accolade, a good review, a promotion, a better gig, a high-five/pat on the back, etc. then become complacent and give less effort to try and grow. The myth of “I have arrived” sinks in. Granted, not everyone falls prey to that myth. But, that does not mean the temptation to fall into it is not there. I have seen some give in to that myth after playing and practicing for a month to those that have been playing for 30+ years.
How do we avoid falling into this trap? I wish I could say it is simple, but it is not. We have to constantly push ourselves towards improvement. Don’t get me wrong, we need to enjoy those moments when we reach our goals. Celebrate them! But, don’t live there! Find a good teacher, mentor or friend that will help keep you in check and encourage you to reach farther.
From one musician to another-I am in this with you. I know there is much more to learn and much to improve in my playing. If you have falling prey to this myth you CAN get out. Take inventory of your playing and be honest. Find things to work on and improve. Then take action and watch for the trap of the arrival myth when you bust through your next goals!
Jason Klobnak is a versatile trumpet player that has been performing as an active musician, author, clinician, composer and educator. His band, J's Ruckus, is Denver's blend of Post-Bop, Soul, Gospel, and Hip-Hop. They perform infectious and up-lifting originals for audiences hungry for a memorable live experience. J's Ruckus released their latest album, Suck Less, in March of 2020 and their first EP, Sermons, in July of 2019. Both were recorded live in front of an audience. Suck Less was recorded to a packed auditorium at Arapahoe Community College's Waring Theater in Littleton, CO. Sermons was recorded in front of a sold out crowd at the Soiled Dove Underground. The JKQ (the Jason Klobnak Quintet/Quartet) is Mr. Klobnak's Hammond B-3 centered groups. The JKQ released their third full-length album in March of 2018 called Friends & Family. It has been very well reviewed, on numerous Top 10 lists for Jazz radio stations across the country (including Denver's KUVO 89.3FM which named it May 2018's CD of the month), and in Jazzweek's Top 100. Each composition was written for specific family and close friends (that might as well be family). Their second album, New Chapter, was recorded in part thanks to the Pathways to Jazz Grant from the Boulder County Arts Alliance. In 2015 and 2016, New Chapter was in the Top 75 on the Jazzweek charts and on the Top 10 playlists for over a dozen radio stations worldwide. Their first album, Mountain, Move made the Best Recordings of 2013 list from AllAboutJazz.com by C. Michael Bailey. His very well reviewed Christmas single, Hark the Herald, in 2016 as part of a creative project with musicians James Roberson and Nathaniel Kearney Jr. Besides the JKQ, Mr. Klobnak is a B.A.C. (Best American Craftsman-custom trumpet), Denis Wick (mouthpiece and mutes) and Westone Audio endorsed artist (ES20 and Tru Customs). Mr. Klobnak has played and recorded for numerous groups ranging from jazz, soul/R&B, indie-rock/pop and gospel. In addition to performing, he has also written two improvisation-based books called Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony and is currently an adjunct professor and brass instructor at Arapahoe Community College. Mr. Klobnak holds a bachelor degree from Drake University (Des Moines, IA) and a Master’s degree from the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music (Denver, CO).
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