We should take music seriously, but not personally.

Of course music matters to us, it’s one of the ways in which we access culture, and therefore our community. All human civilizations, from as early as we can study, have regarded music as a necessary component of culture. So we are continuing that legacy when we play.

But that culture doesn’t need to include our ego. We don’t have to be so wrapped up in our worth as a musician in order to participate fully in culture. In fact that kind of thinking can really get in the way.

As always, we want to get better. But you’re not going to escape self-doubt by becoming a better musician. Your brain is playing a completely separate game there. Why do musicians at the highest level deal with feelings of inadequacy? Do we have to get even better than that to finally feel okay?

So take music seriously. Practice regularly, critique yourself thoughtfully, learn as much as you can, and learn what being a musician means in the context of our culture. If you’re serious about music then you should think about the role it plays in our culture and how you can better serve the people around you.

But don’t take music personally. You’re not a bad person if you didn’t practice today. Saying “I suck” is not self-critique. Learn a lot, but know that you can’t learn it all, at least not today. And if it matters to you that musicians provide value for our culture, then understand that you will not be able to serve others if your musical life is dominated by thoughts about yourself and your playing.

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