paying it forward
“Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions.” – Author Unknown
When I first arrived in Nashville in 2002, I realized that to succeed in this massive and confusing music industry I would be faced with great challenges in the months and years ahead. I was fortunate, however, as I had a good friend in the industry – one who had already paid his dues and found some success here, and he helped to illuminate a path that worked for me. He was my Nashville mentor.
“You may be only one person in this world, but to one person at one time, you are the world.” – Anonymous
He didn’t consider himself a Mentor, or teacher, he was simply a good friend helping another friend. But I was clueless about how this music industry worked, so to me he was a lifeline of information and inspiration. He knew I needed this guidance and direction, and for whatever reason, he decided to invest in my future. He went out of his way to help me on many occasions – advice-filled phone calls, one-on-one guitar lessons, trips to the music store to check out new gear, introductions to friends in the business, he even gave me an electric guitar.
“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’ “- Dan Rather
What he offered that probably helped me the most was insight and advice. He had already been working in this town for 10 years at this point in time, so he had a great perspective of a much larger view of the music community than one could see quickly. His accumulated wisdom also allowed him to see my strengths and weaknesses. After one embarrassing moment in a Nashville nightclub, one where I sat in and played a style in which I was in over my head, he was compassionate, but brutally honest.
“You might want to stay away from downtown for a little while; you need some more wood shedding.”
As much as I didn’t want to hear this, I knew it was the truth and I knew that there was more work to be done. Over time, I improved my weaknesses, largely thanks to his advice and suggestions, and returned to the in-town nightclub scene better prepared. I eventually wound up playing as a sideman on tours, recording on songwriter demos, etc. and I have been fortunate to wind up in the category of musicians who find a way to survive Nashville. If it weren’t for the great help I was given early on by this generous human being, who knows how it all would have turned out.
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Brooks Adams
Years before I moved to Nashville I was a guitar teacher in New England. I taught 30 to 40 students privately per week. I did my best to help all of them, but some were more receptive than others, and for many my teaching went beyond the half-hour lesson – helping them pick out instruments, inviting them to sit in with my band, phone conversations – I gave more than I was expected to because it felt like the right thing to do.
Now, 10 years later, I have learned that one of these students is a guitar teacher himself and plays in a successful nightclub band as well. Another one of these students that received some extra “mentoring” went on to graduate from the Berklee College of Music and is earning his living as a touring musician. And still another former student, one who earns his living in the corporate world, continues to enjoy the healing power of music in his private life.
“There are two way to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle, the other as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
I too believe that life is a miracle and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Long before I had my Nashville mentoring, there were several other “mentor-like” figures in my life. These people acted in a selfless way, reserving judgment, and accepting me as I was, while doing many great things to help me become a better person. My wife, Kelly is one of these great people. To this day, she continues to help me shape my life in a way that makes me better, while still accepting me for who I am.
At this point of my life I am glad to be in a position where I can help some others along the way. For many, the Nashville dream is a tough row to hoe, and the book I just wrote is designed to help some of these struggling folks – kind of my way of paying it forward. And when someone asks me for advice I always do my best to offer insight that will really help that person.
So I urge you to take a minute and ask yourself a couple of questions – Who in your life is looking to you for answers? How can you help them on their path? If you put your best foot forward and help a few folks along the way, if nothing else, you’ll sleep better at night knowing that you did your small part to make the world a better place.
“Together we can change the world, one good deed at a time.” – Pay it Forwarders everywhere
As some of you may know, and for those of you who don’t know, I have just released my book “The Nashville Musician’s Survival Guide.” This street-level perspective of the music-related jobs in the Nashville music industry is now available in print and eBook versions. To purchase your own copy, follow this link.