David Hicken ~ Pianist & Composer

Advice For Pianists

I recently received emails from two young men who desperately wanted to become musicians, but whose parents were dead-set against the idea.  The first fellow was nineteen from Los Angeles, and the other was fourteen and from France.

After teaching countless piano students for many years, I know that this story is not uncommon.  Well-meaning parents perish the thought of their child ending up poor and destitute on the streets of Hollywood - guitar in hand and desperately seeking work.  Of course their concern is understandable, but it is often based upon just a handful of stories that they might have heard through the media.

Although a life in the 'arts' can be challenging, the truth is that there has never been a better time for musicians than now.  There are more positions within the industry than there have ever been at any time before, and technology has evolved to the point that many people can make a comfortable living in the music industry.  However, it takes more than creating some music, hooking up with the right person and then boom - you've made it.  The ingredients to success are many, and these ingredients are learned over time through experience.  Most people give up to easily and then spend many years complaining about it and cautioning others against following the same path.

Obviously, musicians must always hone their craft and constantly strive for improvement, but they must also use their heads and explore the many different ways in which income is earned through music.  This income arrives from many different sources and there are a wealth of music-related positions which most musicians have never considered.

In the early stages, too many musicians put all of their eggs in the same basket and wait for their lucky break or magic opportunity that never materializes.  Diversity is key, and the more fingers you have in more pies, the easier it is to make a living.

When I was in my twenties, I was fortunate to have a couple of record contracts, although they certainly didn't make me rich.  However, I worked as a church organist, accompanist, piano and voice teacher, music copyist, proof-reader and recording engineer.  I played for countless weddings and funerals as well as private functions and many other odd jobs.  I was always able to earn a comfortable living by seeking work in different areas until I was able to focus on the specific areas that made me happy. 

Young musicians just starting out should consider doing the same thing.  It's not just a matter of talent, because there are plenty of incredibly talented people who are broke, and of whom we shall probably never hear.  There are tons of totally untalented people who are making a fortune.  What's the difference?  One set of people used their brain to see what works and what doesn't, and the other didn't.

Use your brain and learn all that you can about the music industry.  Diversify and think of how many different things you can do to get started.  Be patient and realize that time will reveal many things to you.  Believe that you can earn a living from music and you will.  Luck is not really a factor in the world of music, although many would have you believe that it is.  So many aspiring musicians are waiting for the proverbial gold brick to fall into their lap, only to discover that it will never arrive.

Most important of all, don't listen to the negativity of other people.  If you have the desire and ambition to make it as a musician, then go for it and never look back.  Study and learn all you can and know that you will succeed.  Yes, it is difficult to go against the wishes of parents, but ultimately it is your life and not theirs.  There is nothing as sad as a life half lived.  Live yours to the fullest and do that which you love.

Happy Music Making!

David Hicken