Saturday, January 31, 2009

Your dreams vs. the lives of others

Your musical career will go a lot smoother if you get something ingrained in your head right now. You ready for this? Your goals and dreams are not the dreams of anyone else. Not your bandmates, not your girlfriend's, no one. What I mean to say is that as you assemble a band, perform with them and write songs with them, there's no guarantee of permanence. In fact, it's all pretty fluid.
A band is a microcosm whose chemistry is quite delicate. Its members must gel and have the capacity to respect each others' work and lifestyle. If this concept is impossible, I hate to be so blunt, but your band may be destined to fail. Or, the contrary might occur and you may be tormented with a cross-country tour with members you despise.
One night many years ago, Robert and I sat across from a theater group couple who, due to insanity, have been dropped from our lives since then. This couple had recently decided to turn themselves into a not-for-profit, we'll call them...Purple Raincloud Theater Group. In doing so, Purple Raincloud set out to obtain permanent members of their newly established organization. The woman of the couple stated her disappointment in the fact that her actors weren't interested in doing more for their organization. Her actors weren't willing to go out on a limb for Purple Raincloud or spend free time working on behalf of the organization.
I knew what she was saying. Back in the day when I was a perky, arrogant, ambitious 21 year old, I expected the same thing. Well, I'm still ambitious, I'm just more mellow now. I pointed out to this couple that their theater group was just that: their theater group. In other words, it is near impossible to expect other people to work for your visions if they are not being paid or are not reaping some immediate benefit.
People have their own lives to live. Every single person has their own dreams. And every single person's dreams vary. Maybe it was the potent margaritas, but I didn't really feel like what I told Purple Raincloud sunk in. Two years later they commended me for that comment so long ago. It was after another actor left a rehearsal, never to return, that they finally realized that no one is bound to their project in blood.
When I became pregnant in 2007 and announced it to our lineup, I experienced an unexpected surprise. Robert and I had to completely revise our lineup, because we were left with only half of the band's members. Perhaps they were upset about the possibility of losing momentum. Regardless, these things happen and you must prepare for them, mentally and also professionally. This may mean that you have to cancel shows or know other musicians who can sub for missing band members.
Life happens: job loss, the threat to behave like an adult and get into grad school, substance abuse problems can take over. Perhaps you may be confronted by a bandmate who wishes to move to another state. These are just a few examples of possible outcomes. All things are possible. What I’m trying to say is that bands are not really pragmatic. They are an organism whose members may oftentimes be temporary.
Blaming band members for their wishes to grow and/or change (if those plans don't include your band), I believe, is foolish. In a Buddhist sort of way, it only causes suffering for you. Think about it like this: while you're lamenting the absence of a bandmate, you may not be out searching for a replacement. Believe me, I've done my fair share of mourning the loss of bandmates. But, in most instances, a loss turned out to be hidden blessing. Sometimes I found even more dedicated, more talented and more professional replacements. Oh, and bandmates with better personalities and less baggage.
If your band members bail, there is no need for harassment or temper tantrums. Unless of course, they won't give back your gear. Sure, you are absolutely entitled to be frustrated and disappointed when band members move on. It happens. But I implore you to come back to the concept that your priorities are not the priorities of anyone else. Your musical experience will go a lot smoother when you realize that you alone hold the passion for your dreams. Likewise, I urge you to be grateful for the performers that have graced your path for the time that they have. You must realize that finding people to play your music or your ideas, even if for a small stretch of time, is a gift in itself.

Kristen Strezo