The key point raised in part-one of this article for musicians wanting to make it in the music worlds is to never give up. Many other salient points can be added to your list of requirements to maintain a lifelong love of music and holding onto your career and passion.
Australian guitarist Matt Withers is a rising star in the music world. There are several reasons why Matt has got to where he is today, here are a few of his words about making it in the music world.
Matt Withers is an ambassador for Australian music. He is a well-established classical guitar pedagogue, performer and role model for musicians. With solo and chamber studio albums released on ABC Classics (Australia) and Soundset Recordings (USA), he thrives on taking music to a wider audience and expanding their musical horizons.
I have found that the way to stay positive in today’s musical world is through creativity and persistence. Through collaborations with musical colleagues, commissioning great new music as well as recording my own interpretations of classic favourites have kept me excited about the future of music. Being able to look back at even the smallest of achievements helps me stay positive in my musical life and gives me the energy to create larger projects, particularly my recent recordings with Guitar Trek, Acacia Quartet and my solo album Songs of Yesterday.
What motivates Matt to keep going?
Seeing audiences enjoying music is a major factor that inspires me and sometimes it can be the smallest of interactions or performances that stay with us. Years ago, I was approached by a couple with a young child who had just had a cochlear implant fitted and my music was the first live music he heard. I still remember the sparks of joy in the child’s eyes which motivated me to continue to take my music to wider audiences.
How Matt gets over setbacks?
I don’t think I would be out-of-place by saying that there is more than one career path for musicians today. With the loss of the superstar generations and saturation of top-quality performers in every field, finding a niche and attempting to stay at the top of your game while frequently receiving setbacks and rejections. Often, I have found that if I enjoy the music that I play, eventually I can find other people who enjoy listening to it too. Sometimes it just takes a little longer. Knowing that not everyone shares the same passion can become a creative source of influence and education to broaden one’s own direction. I urge myself to learn from my mistakes, rewrite the grant applications or find other sources of funding, reach out to different audiences and pick myself back up to do it better next time.
What music means to Matt
Music to me is an international language of strong and varied emotions that performers can use to speak to their audience and transport them to another time or place, giving a moment of reprise from today’s busy day-to-day life. Music is a part of everyone’s daily life, through simply just radio or TV and movies to attending a powerful, moving live performances. Quite simply, music is life and life needs music.
To give back to the music scene that supports him, in 2014, Matt established the Matt Withers Australian Music Composition Competition. He offers cash prizes, a performance and a recording of the chosen winners of the prize. This type of idea is another avenue for musicians to expand their careers.
After these uplifting words from Matt on what to do to help your music career, here a few words on what not to do.
There are many paths to making it in the classical music world, but alcohol and drugs are not paths that will do anything to improve your career. Stage fright is a constant issue for many performers. I’ve known performers to take prescription drugs to lower their anxiety. As someone who was on a prescription drug (Beta-blocker) for a heart related issue, which is the same drug that some performers take to decrease panic attacks, the side effects of these drugs are much worse than the fear you feel on a performance night. Meditation and yoga works much better.
Alcohol is a performance killer. Self-medicating through alcohol does not work to reduce anything but the money in your pocket. Plus, it is highly addictive, bad for your health and will ruin your concentration, I know. I let alcohol rule my life once, never again. It only increased the problems I had. As a performer, you should stay away from alcohol as much as you can, because it slows down your reaction time and decreases your concentration powers. Besides, you don’t actually need it.
Like any smart business, writing yourself a personal mission statement will help guide you through your life as a musician. If you have a clear statement that is realistic and achievable and you constantly work towards your goals, it will keep you focused and moving forward. It works for many companies; it can work for you too.