Thursday, June 4, 2015

On being "unique".

You ever walk to your car and grit your teeth when someone nearby with a powerful engine guns it?  It's not like they're doing that to go fast; they're in the parking lot like you are!  It's just to be noticed.  To be special.  But here's the thing: anyone can get a car with a powerful engine and step on the pedal.  It's not unique, it's just a cry for attention.

As performers, many of us want to stand out, to be unique.  Sometimes it's not a good thing (like when you're in a group and you don't move/act like everyone else.  Sometimes it's a great thing, like having that little extra in the ensemble or moves during solos that no one else is doing.

How important is it for you to be "unique" when you play taiko?

I'd rather watch someone deliver a solid, energetic, and melodic solo rather than someone who is focused on getting my attention.  The former shows confidence and skill.  The latter often shows a lack of confidence and gimmickry.  In fact, I would say I've learned a lot more from those who were simply good at what they did rather than those that tried to stand out.

It's not that you can't be unique AND have skill plus confidence.  Those who have this combination are the ones that have been practicing for many many years and have taken the time to really work on their art form.

I realize that I say this from a position of possible uniqueness.  I'm rather tall, rather pale, and have been practicing martial arts almost as long as I have been taiko.  Are there others like me?  I haven't met one yet.  It's a sort of passive uniqueness, because I don't really have to do anything to make it so.  But does it mean anything?  Nope!  Do I get to do things other people don't?  Not really.  Basically, I reflect a lot of light on stage and double as security for when all those fans try to get on stage (no, not really).

If being "unique" is really important to you, spending time on getting better is a step to getting there.  Being a good teacher helps you get recognized.  Volunteering and being indispensable to the taiko community is a great was to stand out.  Maybe get a fun hairstyle!  But when it comes to soloing, I truly believe being a better artist will get you SO much more than simply trying to be unique.

Ask yourself if you want to be the guy in the parking lot annoying people by making a lot of noise, or the person that makes someone's day by letting them have the parking spot you could have taken.  Which has more impact?  Which will be remembered at the end of the day?  Who do you want to be?

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