I gotta practice.
I get to practice.
What’s the difference between these two statements? Here’s how I think about it.
The Best Time to Be a Musician . . . Ever?
Sometimes I think about the different times and places I could have been born. Any combination is fair game: What would it have been like to live in South America in the 1600s? Siberia in the 8th century? North Africa in 100 BC?
It’s an interesting thing to think about (especially on long drives), but I always land on the same conclusion:
Here in the 21st century, we have it the best anyone has ever had it.
We’ve won the lottery.
The data is pretty clear: this is the best time to be alive by almost any measure: life expectancy, quality of life, freedom from violence, etc. As much as people complain about what the world is coming to, life has never been better.
We also live in a time when more people can learn a musical instrument than ever before. The internet has made that possible, and I can speak from experience: I learned to play the guitar from YouTube videos put out by this guy, Justin Sandercoe. I’ve never met Justin, but I can play the guitar because of him. Not well, mind you, but I understand the basics of the instrument. This is an incredible time to be alive.
No one can keep perfect perspective in their lives at all times, try as we might. There are many days when I don’t really want to pick up my trumpet, and music-making seems more like a chore than a privilege. On days like this, I try to remember the following:
There have been millions and millions of human beings throughout history who did not have the chance to make music during their lives. I am incredibly lucky.
We don’t gotta practice. We get to practice. It’s a difference worth remembering.