Some of you might find this story’s headline (Give Yourself Permission to Be a Musician) a little confusing. Most of you play an instrument, and many of you are serious about following your passion — making guitar playing your profession. So what’s this about permission?
Let me explain.
Since I was 16, I’ve been on an interesting, but not very unique musical journey. Starting in my early days, I strongly believed playing metal was my ultimate passion in life and that I wanted to pursue it as a profession. On the other side of the coin, although my parents were supportive, I remember them asking me to consider some other, “safer,” professional choices, be it computer programming, obtaining some sort of an executive job, etc. I always believed that if you give something your all, there’s a chance you’ll be successful. I never had fear that I wouldn’t be what I considered successful at playing guitar. But something was still nagging at me. Subconsciously, I still had layers of guilt about not making my parents feel secure about I was doing. This is partly because when we left Poland in 1984, my parents sold everything they had in order to move to the US for a better life for me and my sister. And then their son decides to be a metal guitar player. Writing it down makes it sound kind of insane.
There was a stretch for about five years after I graduated from Berklee that I started teaching full time. I did not play out, I just taught, a lot! Many of my private guitar students were business professionals, lawyers and dentists … and so my interviewing began. I would drill them on why they became who they are professionally and if they would trade it for becoming an artist, guitar player, etc., if they could make a living at it. You would not believe how many thought being a musician was the ultimate way to lead a life.
Now, I’m all for anyone becoming whatever they want, but at the time, it made me feel great that even the people with what we call “respected” and “admired” professions thought playing guitar was the coolest thing in the world. About that time, a shift happened in my life. In my mind and probably out loud, I said to myself, “I give you permission to be a musician!” That’s it. That’s all it took. I stopped eyeing local publications for jobs that might give me relief from teaching, and I said to myself, “If you are a musician, concentrate on using your talents as a musician from this point on. And, while you’re at it, refuse to be broke because of it.”
Even though I made an album and taught music, when asked what I did for a living, there was some hesitation. After the shift, I simply told people I’m a musician. This translated to the clothes I bought, and well, the list goes on. When you allow yourself to do something, sometimes another world of possibilities opens up. Things appear in front of you that were always there, but your eyes weren’t open enough to see them. Think about this.
After that moment, I put a metal instrumental band together and started opening shows for Yngwie, Steve Morse and Ronnie Montrose on the East Coast. After three years of being caught captive via digital 0’s and 1’s, the music from my self-financed CD, Isolation Chamber: Grind Textural Abstractions, eventually ended up living again. Eventually, a tape of one of those shows landed in the hands of The Metal God, Rob Halford, and my dreams started to be become reality.
Of course, once you are showing serious results for your work, it becomes easier convincing relatives and friends about your life path. But here’s the deal: It doesn’t matter. Give yourself permission to do what you believe in, and silence the limiting beliefs. Things seem to align themselves when you are ready, including relatives. Thanks for listening, everyone. Horns up!