Self-taught vs formally trained
People who know me personally are frequently asking do I regret for not having a formal musical education. The answer depends on what they’re getting at. Do I think I would be a better musician if I was formally trained? In that case, my answer is definitely no. Do I think my life would be easier if I had gone that way? Probably.
Being a self-taught artist is the most honest and sincere way of developing your own talent, but it also brings a life full of pain and misunderstanding, even by the people who are closest to you. I’ve started out rather young (at the age of six), but unlike the mega-euphoria you often see in parents when their child shows a tiny bit of inclination toward something creative, my family was not so thrilled back then. This doesn’t mean they weren’t supportive and proud in they own way. Far from it. But they’ve also been quite down to earth, and thought that I should have a solid foundation of sorts along with my music, which is the very reason behind my somewhat colorful education history. But deep inside, everyone knew that music would always prevail in the end.
Although the musicians and composers who I personally admire the most are also self-taught, you can’t deny some benefits of having a formal education. First of all, it gives you certain constraints and discipline, which is often lacking in my world. I’m not saying this is a primary concept by which I wanted to live by, but it surely can help you achieve certain goals more quickly and effectively. Also, formal education can surround you by the people acquaintance with whom could be beneficial and useful. After all, music, like all human activities, is sadly overwhelmed by snobbery and elitism. In the end, it is frequently more important who do you know than what do you know and who you are.
There is a saying: “you can’t make it alone”. However, being surrounded by the right people in the right places in the right time, is often a matter of luck and circumstances. I wasn’t born in a family of musicians, wasn’t classically trained in music, and didn’t had many opportunities for mingling with the people from the circles that could potentially help me out. At least, not in my neighborhood. And those I had the chance of working with, were often non-supportive and petty thinking. Of course, there is always the Internet which may seem like a Holy Grail for those doing creative work, but it is also full of its own dangers and pitfalls. The only comforting thought is that you don’t have a much choice there these days...
Nowadays, after ten years of making ends meet only by using my music skills and more than thirty years being engulfed by music, one cannot avoid the question of success. What is success, really? If you’re talking about making a lot of money, being popular and noticed, getting attention and formal awards in professional circles, then I’ve failed big time. So far, at least. But if being successful means struggling to live by your own standards and developing your talent further despite all the odds, I believe I’ve succeeded, even if this brings nothing but a bitter-sweet taste.
After all, freedom has its costs.