After one particular performance, a young boy approached him. "Sir!" the wide-eyed lad excitedly exclaimed. "I would give my life to play like you!" The musician paused and with a knowing smile he looked deep into the boy's eyes, "I have".
Sometimes it's easy to look at famous musicians and pop-celebrities, and think "I wish I had it that easy!" We only see the fame, the money, the glossy image, but never see the chapters of training, discipline and preparation behind that sparkling cover. We see idols and x-factors and instant-success stories, and it's easy to believe that super-stardom is an inevitable destiny for a chosen few. When we're mesmerised by illusions of instant success, that's when we get an unnatural sense of awe, which is the root of the star-struck celebrity culture. But I believe this unnatural sense of awe is simply because we don't understand the stark reality behind the bright lights â hard work.
Discipline is an under-rated thing, particularly in a post-modern arts industry where individuality is valued over expertise. We see artists build fame upon a tone or a style that defies traditional technique and in the pursuit of a new sound it's easy to ignore the fundamental building blocks, which are only there to benefit expression, not limit it. It can be hard to see the benefits of practising scales or rudiments, particularly when your style doesn't involve lots of what you're practising.
But to develop one's skill, even in areas outside of your preferred style or speciality, is to build a quiver that could prove vital in the competitive arts industry. Learning other genres, styles and techniques enhance your musicality holistically and the discipline of learning will only benefit you as a musician and as a person.
If you love something, you'll make time for it, put money towards it, learn about it and grow with it. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. If music is something you love, it shouldn't be a chore to work at it or homework to study it. If you don't want to work at it, you probably don't love it. Or you're just lazy. The key is to first know what you want, to know what you really love. I believe God has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives, and he implants different desires and gifts in us as a part of that plan. Find out what you enjoy most, what moves you the deepest, and set your direction on that.
Out of this a passion and desire will develop, and when you know what you love and you're passionate about it, choices are simplified. We each have the same amount of hours in the day; it's what we choose to do with those hours that distinguish us. Successful people don't have more time or less distractions, they simply know what they want to do, so they do it.
Music is an art and therefore must be learnt, practised and developed. There is no doubt natural talent provides a huge influence on success, but your work ethic should always exceed your talent. It's not easy spending hours alone repeating and perfecting techniques, memorising repertoire, and studying theory, but it all gives you a foundation upon which you can express whatever you want.
It's there to help your performance, so appreciate it â and the freedom with which you have to learn it. Christians I believe, should be at the top of their industry, leading in creativity, expression and skill. Our 'practised' skill is a testament to who we are, and particularly in this age of technology and communication - expertise provides us with a much influence with our peers. We should work hard at succeeding, not only doing it for ourselves but for God.
I want to be a brilliant musician. I want to travel the world, perform at prestigious events and mesmerise audiences of thousands. I would give my life to play like that! Well, I guess I know where to start. Practice may not make you perfect, but it will make you better.
Daniel J. Mathew is studying music at Sydney's Wesley Institute and serves as a volunteer for the senior high youth ministry of Hillsong Church, City Campus.