Friday, April 23, 2010

The Four S's of Musical Success: An Introduction

The Songs.

The Singer.

The Sound.

The Shtick.

If you get these four things right, you are likely to find some success in music.

I’ve been playing with this theory for over a year and I hope to outline some of its tenets on this blog over the next few months. They come from my experiences as a semi-professional musician, as an amateur music critic and historian, and a casual-but-interested observer of the North American and European pop music industries.

The theory is aimed at people in music; artists, in particular, but also those who work with artists, such as musicians, producers, managers, label runners, bar owners, bookers, etc. I will try to be as practical as possible in my analysis and with my advice. I’ll try not to let my own tastes and biases interfere with my conclusions, though they will greatly inform the discussion.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

On my most important teacher

Nonno Joe, my grandfather, was probably the most important teacher in my life. Nonno Joe didn’t speak English very well, but that didn’t stop him from delivering long lectures to me after our Sunday family lunches and a few glasses of wine. (We’ll have to forgive Nonno Joe, a working class Italian immigrant who didn’t have the benefit of an OISE education, for not using a wider variety of teaching models.) Nonno Joe’s sermons typically focused on three subjects: 1) The difficulties and challenges he’d endured in his life; 2) The dangers of drugs; and 3) The importance of education.

Nonno Joe had very little schooling himself; he broke his back as a construction worker and was forced into retirement before he turned 40. For Nonno Joe, education represented the only path to success. He’d often say things like, “The school is important,” “No forget the school,” “If you want to be a man, you need the school,” and “People who don’t go to the school are the bums.” I believed him and I took school seriously because of it.

Two months into my first year as a journalism student at Ryerson University, Nonno Joe died of an aneurysm. At Nonno Joe’s funeral, my godfather, Peter, told me that the last time he’d spoken to Nonno Joe, my grandfather had said, “Marco is now a man.” I never felt so proud.


On learning

Adults like to ask children what they want to be when they grow up. When, during my second practicum, I posed this question to a bright and mature grade 5 student who also happened to be the slowest runner in a class of 34, he replied: “Either a fireman, or a professional athlete.” When you’re teaching elementary school, it’s really important to remember that children have a lot to learn.

My grandfather, Nonno Joe, never asked me what I wanted to be when I got older. Instead, he gave me options: “You ‘ave tree choice. Un dotore, una lawyer or a priest.” Then he narrowed those options down. “Lawyers is da crook and you are no a crook. A priest no can get married and can no have kids. You maybe want to find a wife. Ma un dotore...aaahhh...un dotore make a the lots of money. Un dotore helps the sick people. Un dotore has the respect.”

The choice was clear. My 10-year-old brain, with a little help from Nonno, had made a firm decision. I was going to be a doctor.

Children have a lot to learn.