I had a guest lecturer speak to my students this week, a guitarist with extensive experience in the industry. His lecture was really engaging but what really struck me was the confidence with which he a) talked about his career highlights and b) dived into detailed discussion of aspects of his world with which quite possibly most of the room weren’t familiar. And it didn’t matter if they didn’t know what a loop pedal was, because that wasn’t the point.
So why do I find myself avoiding similarly ‘niche’ terminology when talking about my own field? And why do I never think to mention all of the amazing concert halls in which I have played? I have noticed this divide before, when I hear composers talk about their music. Is it because new music is ‘cool’ whereas early music is still associated with dusty archives and men with beards?
Or is that simply in my mind? Why should it be any less cool to talk about pitch and temperament than about loop pedals or compositional structures?
I suspect the answer perhaps lies in one’s own image of oneself. With perhaps a bit of input from the industry itself. Look at typical audiences for these three different genres, for example. The average age is probably going to be higher at an early music concert than at a pop gig or new music concert, right? Possibly, but in my experience that actually depends on the venue as much as the genre. And anyway, what does age tell us? Not much. Individuals are individuals regardless of age. And data tells us that the average age of a classical music audience goes down if the venue is non-traditional (and especially if they are allowed to drink alcohol during the concert). But that doesn’t help either as it just swaps one ‘age group’ for another, further stereotyping and fuelling prejudices.
Now what would happen if I adopted the mindset of my speaker this week? Would I attract hordes of people to early music concerts? Possibly not. But you never know who you are inspiring, and so surely I owe it to myself and anyone listening to tell my story, share my experiences and, above all, pass on my knowledge even if it does use niche terminology? After all, what is the point of acquiring knowledge and experience if not to share it with others. This is what I am going to keep in mind from here on in. Be your enthusiastic self, be bold and – above all – don’t be apologetic.