From Europe with (Tough) Love
This post is a spontaneous response by Vocal Blog founder Florian Städtler to an outstanding article written by CASA founder Deke Sharon at www.casa.org yesterday. You can read the original post here and will find my reply. Comments would be very much appreciated.
it’s been a while since a vocal music blog post made me think so hard. Let me add a few thoughts from an outside perspective. Outside because a) I’ve been to the US only once (4 days of SoJam 2011), b) I’ve started my “a cappella career” rather late, i.e. when I was about 35 years old and c) as of today I’m making more than half of my money with events that have nothing to do with a cappella at all.
1) I fully agree to the theory of “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”. Almost all outliers have spent the magic 10.000 hours of work on their very own domain.
2) This means neither becoming a complete nerd (in a negative sense) nor a burnout victim. I haven’t met Deke Sharon in person yet, but as far as I have heard he has a family, owns more than one book and is an exquisite chef.
3) Every community needs different types of members: There are the visionaries, that write “tough” blog posts. There are the dreamers, that inspire people around them with charisma and works of art. There are the busy buddies who can get away with an average of 5 hours sleep. And there are hidden champions who contribute to the growth of “the thing” by an endless number of little steps. You can choose, who you are and find your place.
4) Every art form and genre also needs a foundation of people who just do IT because they love it and others who form a professional elite (and hopefully love it, too). The pros wouldn’t be able to survive without the amateurs: They are the activistis who spread the news, buy tickets and download music. The amateurs are happy to have inspiring role models, efficient organizers and reliable managers that get things done.
5) At the center of this discussion lies the Big Q (as mentioned in my blog post only two days ago: http://vocalblog.acappellazone.com/2012/01/6-lessons-from-lacf-2012) Do you want to stay in this “a cappella bubble” with all these “nice people” who create “harmony for harmony” all the time? Or do you feel the urge to step outside, into the real world and connect with it, even if it may disappoint you more than one time?
6) Leaders become leaders mostly because they are able to step out of their comfort zones. Which means to work as hard as Deke described it. And also to look for discomforting evidence all the time, i.e. to not follow the natural impulse to see what’s already ingrained in your thinking. It also means to say the things that no one wants to hear. That’s why I particularly love Deke’s “Tough Love – Tough Market” post: It is provocative without being cynic. (The cynic is a disappointed person, who doesn’t want to be disappointed again).
7) We Europeans would wish their iron being nearly as hot as the US one is. We don’t have collegiate a cappella, Glee is just one of many tv shows and we don’t have The Sing-Off. We don’t have a single mass market and as if this wasn’t enough, most people are still not able to clap on 2 and 4… So making a professional a cappella career over here seems like a suicide mission. But wasn’t that even more futile in the early nineties, when a guy from the West Coast just started it all?
I’m pretty sure that the late 80s Deke Sharon was much too smart and realistic to PLAN his “a cappella career”. Nevertheless, he acted stubbornly and worked perpetually on what meant so much to him. If you read the biographies of Gates, Jobs, The Beatles, Einstein as well as those of every top sportsman, scientiest or musician, they have some things in common: They followed the 10.000 hour rule, they were at the right place at the right time (maybe just by keeping to work on their thing for so long?) and they had the necessary talent.
Can we plan these kind of careers? Certainly not. But it’s good to have a tough benchmark. And a very nice role model. Thanks, Deke for giving us both.
// FSt – Florian Städtler // www.vocal-blog.net, founder // www.europeanvoices.net , co-founder, Chairman of the Board // www.acappellazone.com, co-founder //
// phone: +49 761 38 94 74 // e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org //
Deke’s “Tough Love” post has led to some interesting replies by peer bloggers, find the links to related articles here:
Jan 15 Vocal Blog – Florian Städtler „6 Lessons from LACF 2012“
Jan 16 CASA – Deke Sharon „Tough Love – Tough Market“ including comments by Peter Hollens, Willy Eteson, Florian Städtler et.al.
Jan 17 Vocal Blog – Florian Städtler “From Europe with (Tough) Love” including comments by Mark Gregory, RJ Eckhart, Deke Sharon, Willy Etson et.al.
Jan 17 Acatribe – David Bernstein „Calling Out ‚Professional‘ Groups“
Jan 17 RJ A Cappella – Robert-Jon Eckhart „The Big Q“
Jan 19 CASA – Deke Sharon „So What Can I Do?“
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