As summer draws to a close and the return to school begins this week for many students, I asked several musicians different questions about their school-time experiences. For the second part of our Back-to-School Q&A series, eight artists answer the question, “What advice has any teacher ever given you that still sticks with you today in your career as a musician?” Here’s what they had to say.

Darius Lux / rock/pop / Los Angeles, CA / @dariuslux

“My 1st grade English teacher chastised me for using the word “Ginormous”, saying that it wasnt a real word (at the time) and advised me to stick with words that are in the dictionary. Fast forward a couple of decades and it’s in Websters now! I guess that’s more about not listening to her advice, especially since lyric writing often needs original or made-up words.”

Anna Dagmar / pop singer-songwriter / New York, NY / @annadagmar

“You gotta crack the eggs to make the omelet.” Robert Levin said this to me about practicing classical improvisation (cadenzas). He said the only way to learn was to make a lot of mistakes in the practice room.”

David Bronson / singer-songwriter / New York, NY / @bronsondavid

“My first year M.F.A. critique professor at Pratt would always say “compare and despair.” I thought it was brilliant then,
have quoted it to countless people in all sorts of situations since, and do my very best to not fall into those kinds of mental traps.”

Peter Link of Watchfire Music / trans-denominational, inspirational music company / Los Angeles & New York / @watchfiremusic

“Don’t stop. If you love making music then work it out in your life so that you do it all the time. If you do, you’ll just keep getting better and better at it and maximize your talent. This is true. I keep learning new things on every project I’ve ever done and continue to grow. Music is not like athletics. In athletics, you only have so many years at peak performance and then as you get older, the body begins to give out. However in music you never have to grow old. Stravinsky was writing great music when he was 95. I plan to do my best work at 100.”

Jensen Reed / alternative hip-hop / Los Angeles, CA / @jensenreed

“One of the best pieces of advice that has resonated with me throughout my career came from my father. He gave me the image of deep well that I have no idea of where the water level is. I am at the top pumping and pumping (working on my career) and if I stop pumping, I’ll never know if the water level was just about to overflow from the top of the well (success). Obviously the moral of the story to continue to work hard and push forward at all costs, even when quitting seems easier.”

Lady B Smoove / urban contemporary pop & spoken word / Dallas, TX / @ladybsmoove

“One of my teachers is my Granny and she taught me to never sing with a dry throat.”

Kathy Muir / singer-songwriter / Edinburgh, Britian (UK) / @theleens

“Get your feet off the table! No, I’m kidding. My French teacher in secondary school, Miss Ward, told me I had a good accent and could do well in French if I kept applying myself. I never forgot that. French was one of the subjects I did well. I eventually lived in France for two years without ever really speaking English and that’s never left me. I had French TV when I was living in London for years. I listen most mornings to French radio using TuneIn Radio, stations such ‘Le mouv’’ or RFI Monde. Aye, a Scottish lass who apparently has a Toulouse accent.”

Eric Erdman / singer-songwriter / Mobile, AL / @ericerdmanmusic

“When I was getting my B.S. in Statistics, I took an elective called “Crowds, Riots, and Social Movements”. It was a very interesting class. The professor, Dr. William Sakamoto White, explained the history and sociology of uprisings. But through that he gave me a piece of wisdom that applies to music. He said (paraphrased), “Don’t accept convention at face value. Observe it and examine it. If it works, reinforce it. If you find a better way, make the better way a reality even if you have to tear apart tradition.” That is exactly how I think of music creation. A vast vast majority of the time I use the classical structure and “laws” of music to express myself. But in the times when the emotion or idea I want to convey clashes with convention, well……convention loses.”

So, what special advice did a teacher did one of your teacher leave with you? Doesn’t matter if it was grade school, high school or college. What was that special teacher’s advice?

9 thoughts on “Back to School Q&A: That special teacher’s advice!

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