As you might have guessed, I’m not much of an athlete. But I’m definitely inspired by the men and women who’ve trained most of their lives to represent their nations and showcase their talents at the Olympic Games. I would never compare myself to Olympic superstars such as Michael Phelps or Apolo Ohno, but I do believe that whether you’re a serious athlete or a serious musician or composer, many of the same tenets apply.
In no particular order of importance, I’ve found that:
• Having a cheering squad is highly desirable. Early in life, I knew I wanted a career in music after my godmother took me to a series of Broadway shows and dinner-theater performances. My parents, like many responsible adults, were not necessarily convinced that this was a good idea. I think they feared that I’d end up as the stereotypical “starving artist.” Yet in my mind, I knew that I was destined to entertain people.
There were times that their prediction seemed to be accurate, but I was stubborn or crazy enough to keep doing what I wanted to do. And while they may have been thinking, “I told you so,” I am grateful that they took me to music lessons when I was a kid. And later, as a young adult, I was always welcome at the family home on the rare occasions when I wasn’t on the road with some band or another. Oh, I’m sure they were thinking, “Please get a haircut!” but that was probably the least of their worries.
• Strive for your personal best, first and foremost. Athletic events, especially the Olympics, are extremely competitive. So is being a professional musician or composer on the world stage. You’ll likely be thunderstruck by this realization the first time you venture outside of your own school or community and figure out how many other people are smarter, stronger, faster or hotter than you.
You could use this bolt of realization one of two ways. You could just give up or you could tell yourself that right now, your goal is to strive for your personal best. Before you can deal with the competition, take the time to work on your own skills and presentation. The rest will follow.
• Take yourself seriously, but not too seriously. Learn to laugh at your mistakes as much as learning from them. For some reason, I recently recalled an embarrassing incident where the band Lois Lane was opening for Pablo Cruise at a rodeo stadium in Wyoming. My equipment was being powered by generators and my keyboards kept going out of tune every time a song started. Our guitarist, John Verner, kept coming over to help me tune up between songs and as soon as the lights went up again, my keyboards would go haywire again. Despite an audience of over 10,000 giving us thunderous applause after every song, I felt like hiding in a corner. After the show, my band mates made me feel better by telling me that the show sounded like a surreal punk band with high tech keyboards. Lesson learned? Generators and keyboards don’t mix. Make sure you fix the problem. Then have a laugh.
On another note, my daughter, Desiree, performed at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics with the “2008 Beijing Olympic Orchestra,” which was a 2008-member ensemble made up of university and high school students from around the world. Watching her on TV during this stunning international event really renewed my passion to excel, as well as my belief in the importance of music education.
Strive to be the best in the world and never give up on your dreams. I can’t wait for the spectacle of the opening ceremonies for the London 2012 Summer Olympics!