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Aly wrote:

Dear whoever receives this message,

I'm 16 and I know there are a lot of other people with more important questions and requests but if you would take the time to read this, I would greatly appreciate it.

I'm a junior and yesterday, a school I had applied to last year, (for which I ended up on the waiting list), called and told me I was accepted. This means a lot of changes and new people and I don't know what I want.

I love music. I sing a lot and I'm trying to get a band together because well, I don't see myself going to college for a couple of years training to do some profession job. I just don't see it.
It's not something I want. I love making music and I want to inspire people but the band I have isn't working out much. We don't agree at all. It's always my friend and I against the other three members. We're trying to work it out, but honestly, I don't want to be in the band with the other three, just my one friend. I don't want to make anyone upset by quitting on them since we're all friends (sort of). I don't want to leave my one friend but I don't feel like I belong much at my school and I'm scared I won't belong much at any other school either.

I just don't know if I should switch schools since I feel a lot of my future will depend on my decision and once I leave the school I'm at, I can't go back without reapplying for senior year.

It's Sunday and I have until Tuesday to make my decision. I'm sorry for such a long message.
You don't have to reply to me. I am just asking that if you get this message in time that you could take a second to pray for me and that God will help me find the best path to take in time.

Thank-you so much,

— Aly

  { Do you have some advice about the squabbling going on in my band and my academic future? }

Bob replied:

Aly,

Thanks so much for sharing.

I too am a musician and have made a good living at it. I play in bands, make recordings and teach, in addition to being the Music Director for a parish by day. I knew I wanted to do music from eighth grade so I went to a conservatory program, then I went to Berklee for four years and it worked.

If music is your dream, your calling, do it 100% and make all decisions based on what is going to serve you best toward your goal. The relationships you have now with your band mates don't sound like they are in your long term interest. There is enormous competition in this business so you can't let other things throw you off. Stay focused and work hard. You can do it if your talent and hard work leads you to a good opportunity. Success is when opportunity meets preparation.

Now about your school choice: take the above principle and measure the two situations against it.

Forget fear, forget inconvenience, and only think of what is best. Now decide and go with it.
If you make your decision on the above criteria you won't have to second guess it later.

Peace and I will pray for you,

Bob Kirby

John replied:

Hi Aly,

  • Like Bob, I'm also a musician and studied music for a while at Berklee College of Music here in Boston. I've had the privilege of playing with Bob many times and can tell you he is truly blessed with talent.
  • Unlike Bob, I really don't play professionally anymore but I would like to add some advice to what Bob has said.

His advice regarding school it perfect but now let's talk about the issue with your band.

Boy, does your story bring back memories!! Welcome to the club. Every High School band has conflicts! You argue about:

  • what songs to play
  • who gets to solo
  • the drummer will never stop banging away
  • the guitarist tries and tune up or in between songs at rehearsal while people are trying to talk

so you're a normal bunch young folks, learning to play together. In some ways playing in band is like developing any relationship and you can learn many life skills from it.

Playing in a band is give and take and for a musician to get better, he or she needs to learn humility. This is not easy because as performers we all have egos but the very best musicians will tell you, the trick to playing in a band is to play in such way as to make the others sound good.

I've been in all kinds of situations as both a guitarist and a bassist, heck in a couple of emergency situations I've had to play drums, not that I'm a very good drummer, but I'm good guitarist and a very proficient bass player (bass being my preferred instrument). As I said, I've often played in different and challenging situations. On many occasions filling in for others and playing with people I'd never played or met before, with no rehearsal before the performance or function.

What works best is to identify the weakest link in group and play to make that person sound best. This takes humility and means listening to what they are playing in order to support them.

For example: If they tend to be off rhythm then I'll play to cover up their poor meter. In that fashion the band sounds better and that's the point. The point is to produce the best total sound as a group and that means forsaking yourself. This attitude becomes contagious. Soon enough the whole band starts listening to each other and playing to make each other sound good. When that happens, the band really clicks.

This is the way friendships and marriages must work too. As I said, much can be learned by playing in band that applies to life.

God Bless and good luck with your studies and music. Please stay in touch and let us know how things workout.

John DiMascio

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