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RIFFING ON THE TRADITION #12: The Time to Be Resolute Is Now

Looking back at my career thus far, it seems to have evolved mostly by following a path of least resistance, not by being very goal-oriented. When I was young, I pursued music because it came fairly easily at first. Later, I didn’t question the intense practice regimes suggested by my early teachers, but just did what they said, and early work opportunities seemed to just fall into place.

It has been only recently, maybe in the last 10 years, that my musical efforts have involved more goal-directed action, often in reaction to weariness with where I am at a given point in time.

This column is essentially an exploration of that weariness. I'm losing patience with the state of the music industry in New Orleans. The amalgam of historical findings, data from surveys by Sweet Home New Orleans, statistics from tourism forecasts, as well as personal discussions with colleagues has led me to believe that, given our role and contribution to the identity of our community, that the pursuit of certain goals is essential and the time to be resolute is now.

If you’re inclined to wait for economic conditions to improve or for the city’s leadership or tourism industry to start caring about you, then the following resolutions won't interest you. Don’t bother thinking about positive change if you have a fetish for poverty or are in the habit of martyring yourself for your artistic vision. What I propose will also not mean much to you if you are just too beaten down or too busy scuffling to survive to consider an alternative to thinking small and passively accepting the way things are.

Now, to be clear, I don’t expect or even want all musicians to share the same aspirations. There is no problem if you are satisfied with the music of New Orleans existing to serve the hospitality industry, or if you like working for tips, or if you are a music teacher who is content to train future teachers instead of productive creative artists, or if you have the luxury to not take music seriously.

In fact, the ability for some of us to raise the perceived value of the music is, in a way, dependent on others visibly NOT raising the bar.

If, however, you are a musician in New Orleans committed to cultivating a personal following that values your music for the same reasons that you make it; if you want to create gigs that are not predicated on the sale and consumption of alcohol; if you believe that community is strengthened by imagination and creativity; if you want to increase your productivity -- then here are three resolutions that, together, I think we can and must achieve.

Resolution One: Create sustainable careers with the potential for annual income no less than the median income in Louisiana, and access to good, affordable health insurance.

Resolution Two: Organize and build infrastructure to help train us to be effective music educators and/or advocates for communities empowered by musical experience.

Resolution Three: Organize and build infrastructure to enhance performance opportunities, creative output, and resources for legally protecting our intellectual property.

Yes, these are personal goals focused on productive musical work that I'll be working on, hopefully with some of you. Of course, there’s more to life than that, but it’s more about resolving to have a level of commitment that is fundamental to anything one actively pursues for happiness and success.

Whatever your resolutions, all the best in the New Year.

 

 

 

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