Why I Avoid Arrogance

I you know me or you’ve been reading my blog, you have heard this from me before. Being a musician, there’s probably nothing I’m afraid of more than appearing cocky. I guess I have this reputation set up, and I would hate it if it seemed like I was becoming full of myself since I also detest it in other people. It’s actually not difficult to find people like this in all of my classes, but I suppose it is because they see a need to get ahead in the world. It does make sense; after all, we are just starting out college and want to make the best of life in this cold world.

Last night my clarinet professor asked me, “So you are a composer?” This is a relatively common and simple question, isn’t it? I suppose the correct answer would have been just to say “Yes.” But suddenly there was that whisper, that preoccupation of pride that swelled up in me and I answered something like “I guess.” I now see that this answer could also be taken the wrong way, as if I were trying to be manipulative of their way of thinking. But that is exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place.

If I were to give a reply to “Do you play the clarinet?” I would definitely say yes. Why? Because I have the credentials. I have recordings of my performances and the general feedback is that I have a competitive edge. But suppose there is a young lady who is asked if she sings and she answers “Yes.” There’s a ton of subjectivity there, so there’s really not much to go on. As the asker I would still have my doubts about anything she could do until I heard it for myself. Also in effect, the notion that first impressions are usually wrong isn’t much help either. So I’d rather have that if you wanted to know something, you would not trust my judgment of myself , but you be the judge. I’ll gladly take feedback on my music, just not from me.

4 comments on “Why I Avoid Arrogance

  1. Josh, you're probably one of the humblest people I know. I do see what you're saying, though, especially when it comes to people you've never met before declaring their musical skills. It's really something that needs to be heard to be believed — and I definitely believe that you have incredible musical ability! πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks. Yeah this is one of my dumber posts but it's just an issue I don't know how to deal with. Modesty also goes overboard; as I was saying, I don't want people to get the wrong impression of that either!

  3. No, no, no, it's not a dumb post at all. Arrogance in musicians is to be avoided like the plague.

    Look at all the history of excellent music we have. Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Godowsky, … the list goes on, and on, and on. People are not hurting for high-quality music, and present day musicians should always keep in mind that they are NOT indispensable, no matter how talented they are.

    On the other hand, one should not be nihilistic, either — a great deal of stuff has already been done in music. But there is so much yet to be done, as well. If we can add our own unique spin on music, then that effort is worth a good deal.

    So balance is required =)

    On a side note, if people were to ask me if I compose, I would definitely say "Yes." It's in my blood xD It's who I am. But you should never brag about how good you are — let the music do the talking, yeah?

    Great post!

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