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Advice to a Young Musician
by Matt Bynum

Strive for excellence, serve the needs of the audience, and live a balanced life

You asked for some advice regarding your involvement with music. It sounds like you are on the right track as far as your studies are going. It is said that a great way to get a feel for music and an understanding of harmony is to be in a choir - and this you are already doing.

Regarding the voice - it is so important. This musical instrument is highly valued by an audience, because of the way that the sound of the human voice resonates within the being of each audience member. If you hear someone weeping with sorrow, those sounds resonate within you, and you feel the same sensations of sorrow. So the vocal performer should be someone who is able to feel deep emotions, and to communicate those feelings through the voice. You have to be a skilled communicator who is able to convey a wide range of emotions, with a multitude of subtleties in between. There is a story about a foreign actor who brought an English speaking audience to tears by reciting, with much emotion, the alphabet of her native tongue!

You should find your own voice. Your instrument is unique, different from all others. That unique quality will form the foundation of your voice, and on that foundation, you will build technique, learning how your unique instrument operates.

There are so many singers, and other musicians, who reach a certain level, and then never move forward, never grow beyond that level. This is not right - vocal technique, or any other instrumental technique, should improve as the years go by, so that there is a noticeable change as the musician becomes even more skilled, even more able to effectively communicate to the audience.

It is best that a performer strive not for fame, but to serve the needs of the audience. And the needs these days are great! There is so much loneliness and isolation in today's society, and it doesn't help that the major form of entertainment today is television. This is not to say that television is to blame for societies ills, but today's performer has to keep in mind that television-viewing is so pervasive. Of course, a live performance that is is truly good, that is inspiring and uplifting, will beat any television program everytime! But most live performances these days take place in huge stadiums or auditoriums, and the audience members do not feel "connected"; instead, they feel distant from the performers.

It is important to be a good sight reader for several reasons. There is so much good music that has been written, but has seldom been heard. Some university libraries have large music collections, containing music that spans several centuries. Musicians need to become familiar with this music, in the same way that a writer should be familiar with the classics. Sight reading assists the understanding of the "language" of music, aiding analysis of the structure and flow of a piece. The musician should desire to write intelligent music, music that challenges, but not overwhelms, the listener. God created the "universe" of music, just as He created the "universe" of mathematics, biology, etc., and these universes need to be explored, and their discoveries need to be brought to light, and to life.

You should consider how your work in music will affect the rest of your life. Many of those that work in the Arts lived unbalanced lives, with Music or Art being their entire life. But this is not right. In order to live a life that is whole, you have to consider (and continually reconsider) how the different aspects of your life should fit together. What about family, friends, marriage, children, vocation, recreation, recuperation? How will all of these things properly fit together? It is a challenge to be sure, one that requires much thought and prayer.

Last updated: 12 April 2006
Updated by: Matt Bynum