Music Is About Life
In my college years, I had a friend who wanted to start up a barbershop quartet. I was game. He was a solid singer, and the quartet shot up. After a rehearsal one afternoon, he asked me what I thought it would take to become a successful professional singer. The question nagged at me for quite a while until I realized that the answer to his question was simple. But it was his question that bugged me.
The X Factor
There are more than enough very good singers out there in the world. Singers who are close to flawless are a dime a dozen. I realized the answer to my friend’s question was that being able to actually convey sincere human emotion viscerally and powerfully is what separates a technically good singer and a great singer. It’s what a lot of people call the X factor, and I’ve noticed that singers who have the X factor tend to have a lot of rich life experiences. They tend to take risks and drive after their goals. Some have faced adversity. Some have developed a strong sense of empathy. But they all know how to LIVE. Living comes first for a musician serious about connecting with an audience. Music is simply the outlet to express all that LIVING. Music is about life – not life about music.
A Better Question
It was my friend’s question that needed more attention. Musicians can get preoccupied with rising to the top – with winning. There’s nothing wrong with winning, but the drive to compete isn’t very compatible with the X factor. I have watched my students tie their emotions in knots preparing for competitions. The voice responds instantaneously to a singer’s emotional state, so the fear of losing a competition can spell disaster for a singer. I can’t help but think that there must be a better approach to performing.
- What if the goal of every musician was to make someone smile or cry or dance?
- What if that were the driving force behind learning, perfecting, and performing a song?
- Wouldn’t it be refreshing to sing from passion rather than preservation?
Music only comes alive for a musician who is more focused on the passion of the idea in a song rather than an expected win or loss in a meaningless comparison to other singers. Life isn’t about music. Music is about life.
How Can You Find Your Passion?
So if you’re a singer or a musician of any sort, learn how to live life first. Forget promoting yourself through competition. Applaud other musicians’ successes. Learn the riches of life – travel to new places, learn a new culture, dance, develop a new skill or volunteer your time to a worthy cause. Take risks. Get outside your comfort zone, and do something unusual. Let life inspire you. LIVE RICHLY– then make music.