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What Is The Value Of Musical Talent?

After playing another fantastic jazz trio gig with Seth Lee and Rob Whitsitt last weekend, I’ve spent a lot of time this week contemplating the value of musical talent.

Rob played with a fire that I don’t think I’ve ever heard before.  He’s always been a great player and I’ve played many gigs with him. He has a very impressive resume, ranging from Ida McBeth, to tours with Nancy Sinatra and George Shearing. So he’s been a talented jazz guitarist for a long time.

But I felt last weekend was different. I told him he sounds like he has been practicing a lot, and I was right. He told me that when he’s not performing these days, he’s practicing constantly. He’ll sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, and start practicing immediately.  Playing the guitar is really is what his life is about.

I once had an instrument repairman, who was listening to me practice the drums at a music store where I used to work tell me that he would give almost anything to play any instrument as well as I play the drums. That’s a huge compliment. It’s also rare compliment, because most people have absolutely no idea the amount of sacrifice and dedication it takes to play jazz on a world class level.

I decided when I was very young that I was going to be a full-time, professional drummer. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I really felt that if I did it part-time, I’d never develop the level of skill I was really after. I decided that I was going to go that direction no matter what, because I didn’t want to look back over my life with regrets. It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had my ups and downs, like most musicians.

But as I thought back to last weekend, and the absolute joy and euphoria that creating music with such master jazz musicians like Seth and Rob can create, I realized that every sacrifice I’ve made has been well worth it. It’s really an indescribable experience, that compares with nothing else in life.

I used to work in an environment where I met some really wealthy people. Most of them were really down to earth. But every once in awhile, one would make some snide comment about my status in life compared to his. At the time, this kind of bothered me.

However, since that time I’ve come to realize that there is absolutely no price that you can put on musical talent. Almost everything else in life has a monetary value. You can basically buy anything with the right amount of money, even a young pretty wife, if that’s really what you want. But no matter how much you have, you can’t give it to a guy like Rob Whitsitt and say, “Here’s a million dollars, now make me play the guitar as well as you do.” You can buy lessons and other instruction methods, but you can’t buy the ability to play and the talent. That’s something that only comes from a lifetime of dedication to your craft.

Therefore I’ve concluded that jazz musicians are some of the richest people on the planet, even though it might not always show in the car they drive, or their bank account.

Feel free to share your thoughts.

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