About a month ago, I got an email from a lady in the town I live in asking if I would teach her son trumpet lessons.
I said I would, and we've had a lesson every week since. He's preparing for an all-district audition and wanted some private tutoring to get ready.
He's a good kid, works hard, listens to what I say. All in all a pleasure to work with.
Except for one small problem.
The kid can't play.
His tone is horrific, and he struggles in the parts of the range that a kid his age shouldn't be struggling with.
So we've got some work to do.
He works hard and does everything I ask, and has made some real progress in just a month. So it's not like I'm going to give up on him.
Yesterday, I told him point blank that he might not fare very well in his audition.
I didn't say that he wouldn't get into the band. I said that the issues he has might be deal breakers for the people judging the audition.
This turned into a teachable moment.
I told him that even though he struggles with his tone and his range, he does a lot of things really well.
"Don't let these things define you as a musician, grasshoppah," I said.
I remember the 9th grade. You get judged by superficial standards, even by the teachers.
If your tone sucks and you can't play high, you're a bad trumpet player, end of story. It doesn't really matter what you can do well.
So we spent yesterday's lesson focusing on the things he does well, like phrasing. I told him that if he works hard, eventually his tone and range will come.
But as long as he focuses solely on those two things, they'll continue to be a struggle.
We ended up making a little strategy for the audition. He plays the little ditty, then at the end when it goes to the G and he can't hit it, he acts as though he's got dry mouth or something.
That happens a lot at auditions with 9th graders. No surprises for the judges.
"Just don't struggle with the high note. You miss it, try to hit it once, and quit."
There's a real chance he'll be evaluated on his strengths doing it that way.
Now, whether or not he makes it into the band, he's gone about it the right way.
He sought help from a pro and now has a plan of action to show off his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses.
He's worrying about the things that he can control.
That's what we need to do as MusicPreneurs. There are so many things that can distract us, make us feel like we can't put our work and our name out there, but in reality we have no control over them.
One thing is certain: You need community. People of like mind and goals who realize that helping you succeed helps them succeed.
It's why I created the MusicPreneur.Community.
And you can join up today.
Fair warning: It's a brand new project, so there might be a few crickets from the outset, but I'll be posting in it like a mad man, and I'd love for you to be part of it!