The World of the Aspiring Musician

by Jon Thomas about a year ago in humanity

A Memoir

The World of the Aspiring Musician

We've all dreamt of being a rock star at some point or another in our lives. Maybe it was just a random dream you had, or perhaps it was a force that drove you towards picking up an instrument yourself. Whatever genre piques your interest, you're at least somewhat familiar with the glorious field of the music industry.

I'm no different. Music has been a large part of my life from the very beginning. In my infancy, I sat in my father's backseat absorbing the melodies and lyrics of the regular rotations of Sirius XM's Ozzy's Boneyard and Lithium. When I was a little boy, my most asked-for gifts from relatives were CD's so I could add them to my MP3 player's library. I could probably sing almost every word to Iron Maiden's album Powerslave before I could sing "The Wheels On the Bus."

However, I never felt like I was a prodigy or anything of the sort. Despite being influenced greatly by the music around me, I didn't actually pick up an instrument (for real, at least) until I was around 11-years-old. My introduction to the music world was based largely around listening, admiring it all from afar. It wasn't until I was 12, going on 13, that I decided I wanted to "join the circus."

I started my musical journey by learning the guitar at my local music store. My teacher was a young man in his late 20s at the time that had created a life around playing music. He was respected as one of the large players in his local music scene, playing shows every week and finding ways to make it pay the bills. He was the gateway drug that brought me into a world much larger than that of the average middle schooler. I was hooked.

When I was in 7th grade, I had started to truly fall in love with playing my guitar. The only real musical experience I held at the time was my 5th grade select choir, which hardly counted to me. I wanted more. I began playing at open mics that my guitar teacher hosted. There, I got to play music publicly and learn from fantastic musicians that were twice, and many times three times my age. I was an outcast kid with a history of being bullied for much of my early childhood, and I felt as though I finally found somewhere I belonged. I started singing along with playing guitar and began writing my own songs as well. Later that year, I managed to make two friends that also played instruments and I started my first real band.

The kids in my school had mixed feelings about us, and me personally, still. Many of my bullies were not so accepting to me preaching my experiences in the local bar I spent my Thursday nights at. I was ridiculed still and shunned for the rest of my middle school career from many of my peers.

The rejection that I felt turned me jaded, but only until I picked up my guitar and a notebook. I found friendship in the words I was able to write and the tunes I was able to put behind them. And even though the kids at school didn't want to hear them, there were men and women of legal drinking age that did. That felt amazing. For the first time in my life, I felt acceptance somewhere.

Once I entered high school, things began to change. Unbeknownst to me, there was already a happening music scene in the grades above me. The seniors of my freshman year had created a community of teenagers that were able to find common ground in their mutual love for live music. They quickly added me and my band to their lineup of bands for what they called "Local Shows." Now, I was not only accepted by people that were my parents' age but the kids I went to school with, too.

At the end of my freshman year, I was approached by the guy who organized the shows. He had asked me to take over the shows once he and his friends had left. I was honored.

With the loss of the senior class, however, I found that the crowds were significantly smaller. What's more was that I frequently struggled to find a venue to host our shows. The majority of places nearby wanted nothing to do with a bunch of teenagers and their loud music. With our average draw falling to an estimated 30 to 40 people, I became unsatisfied. Once again, I wanted more.

I was always obsessed with the Seattle Grunge scene and how it united an entire city. I wanted to recreate it on the local level. I had the grand vision to unite all the burrows of my county and incorporate them into our music scene. For the most part, I was successful! I was able to bring in my friends from other schools, and we just kept on growing. Our local music shows started to feel more like concerts, and my support team grew as well. I found myself in a cabinet of close friends that I made along this musical path, and I to this day am grateful for every single moment. It's a blessing to get to be a show organizer with likeminded individuals surrounding me and making the process run so much smoother.

The shows almost never run perfectly though. One of the amazing life skills that becoming a concert organizer has given me is the ability to think quickly on my feet, like knowing how to stall a crowd from getting irritated because the closing act canceled an hour before the show.

In addition to quick thinking, it's also given me perseverance. I have a perfect track record as of now for never canceling one of my shows for any reason. I have gone on to stages while dying from what I can consider various plagues. Bronchitis, the flu, pneumonia, you name it. It has never kept me from walking out with a guitar strapped on my back.

I hear the term "aspiring musician" and it gives me mixed feelings. I've heard it used to undermine individuals' successes and careers, and I've also heard it as a proud way of describing one's self. All in all, I personally believe that a true artist should never cease to be "aspiring." To me, an aspiring artist is someone who is hungry for more, that crucial drive that leaves one unsatisfied when others say "this is good enough." Satisfaction is a dangerous gratification and should never be an endgame. You should always want to improve. Always strive to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. And just when you think what you've done is perfect, find a flaw and make the next project even better.

I am a proud aspiring musician, and the world that I have inherited from this lifestyle is one I wouldn't trade for the world. I look forward to the direction it will take me in, and I'm even more excited by the soundtrack I'm going to gain along the way.

How does it work?
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Jon Thomas

Musician, teacher, writer

See all posts by Jon Thomas