WBU-AP (Junior group) Fine Work
"What must a blind person do to become a successful musician?"
Ng Soon Beng (24, male, Malaysia)
"Successful Musician" in the title of my essay is a general term. It does not indicate the level of achievement before one can be considered to be "successful". Owing to such, I assume that any blind or vision impaired person who is able to master any musical instrument and to make an impression on an audience with his performance is a "successful musician".
A person who constantly shows good musicianship skills and who has a passion for this art is working towards success in this field. I live in Malaysia where music learning is not easily available to blind people, especially at the standards set by international assessment bodies such as the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) or the Trinity School of Music. There are no specially trained teachers to teach music to blind and vision impaired students. However, I was able to obtain a degree in music due to sheer hard work on my part.
My ears are equivalent to the eyes of others. Music requires alert ears that are appreciative of sounds. I enjoyed listening to birds chirping and singing and identifying them in the process. I was fascinated with sounds made by car engines, modified exhaust pipes and the churning-rattling of pickup trucks. I loved the sound of the rushing wind, the patter of rain, and the terrible striking of thunder. The ability to interpret sounds and to use them as sound effects helped me a great deal in the writing of music and in the animation of jingles.
When I started college education, I could not use Braille whether academically or for music. However, I had enrolled in a school of music where the students followed lectures given by lecturers who wrote on the whiteboard and provided handouts in print. So I had to train myself to listen very carefully as my means of learning. I tried to memorise as much as I could. Initially, I found it very daunting because my past experience in education had not required me to use much of this skill. Nevertheless, as I got used to this method of learning, I gradually gained confidence.
I began to realise that listening to a variety of music styles would help to broaden my scope of knowledge in music. So I listened to a wide selection of music, especially after having attended a semester of studies on World Music. While World Music did not have any direct connection with the music I played, it enabled me to reach out for further horizons so that I could appreciate songs by artistes who sang in the styles closer to their own language and homeland.
I also learned that it was important to keep in touch with up-to-date developments in the music industry. I discovered that there was constant upgrading with regards to electronic instruments and it was a very fast-changing business. Unless I kept myself informed, I would not be able to keep pace with new trends in the market.
To be a successful musician, it was necessary for me to have a wide repertoire of songs and music so that I would be able to respond to all sorts of requests from my audience. This happened quite often in my line of work. Requests ranged from the seventies to the nineties and even included classical choices.
I knew that if I did not fulfill requests as far as possible, it would cause disappointments and people would be upset. I want to keep my "fans" happy and I would know they are enjoying my music if they take part in my performance by singing or hand-clapping. Indeed, I love interacting with my audience. It gives me so much pleasure playing the piano for them as they join in the fun and create such a joyful atmosphere. I feel so good when I arrive at the lounge and find that so many piano lovers are waiting for me. So I get the show going and it truly makes my day. Sometimes I feel such a warm feeling inside when I overhear people say that my piano playing has touched their lives in different ways, especially when they see that I am blind and I have managed to make it this far.
It is not all fun, however; working life also has its problems. For example, due to the lack of technical support in making certain speech and music software accessible, I have difficulty in keeping track with developments in the music world. Moreover, I do always have to keep in mind the advice of my employer when I was first given the job as resident pianist in an upscale shopping mall -- I must always remember to dress appropriately. Now I have no problems with dressing, of course -- I appear in well-pressed shirts tucked into trousers fastened with a belt and complete with neat socks and shining shoes.
I know that the good image of a musician helps to create positive first impressions among the public. One of the reasons why people approach me to make a request or shoppers stop for a while to listen to me is because I look presentable. People are easily turned off by shoddy-looking performers. Furthermore, the music I play is subtle and non-aggressive, thereby indicating a warm and friendly pianist. I like people to feel comfortable when they hear me play.
I am keenly aware that punctuality is crucial to the success of a performer. Being on time shows that I am a responsible person and it will have a definite influence on my job appraisal. Moreover, one should not disappoint one's audience by keeping them waiting. Word spreads quickly in the entertainment world and once people lose faith in you, it would be difficult to rise up again. I must always keep this in mind because it would help me should I decide to go into business later on. My potential clients would have second thoughts of providing me with business opportunities if I let them down now.
Indeed, there are many factors to be considered in order to be a successful musician. As I work and gain experience, I am exposed to many different situations in which I must learn to adapt myself. Whether one is blind or not, the pathway to success for a musician is the same for everyone. You must love the art even in testing times and you will eventually gain respect for what you are good at.
As for me, I have yet to be considered as a successful musician -- I am still growing; I am a budding musician!