“How come you never made it?”

This protracted period of forced solitude and just my age, in general, have been instrumental in my recent musings about my life and so-called career as a musician.

One thing I have noticed for some time now is how people who are not involved in the music biz have some false notions about the reality of it. A comment I have heard many countless times goes something like this, “Gee, you are really good how come you never made it?”

This question used to annoy me for several reasons. First of all, I don’t like the implication that somehow I didn’t ‘make it.’ Second, who says I didn’t make it? Third, what is meant by the term ‘making it.’

I realize this comment was meant as a sort of compliment, but it proceeds from the false idea that fame equals success. When you look at the great number of musical artists who enjoyed great, and sometimes almost “obscene” fame, yet ended their life in misery, it becomes obvious that fame in and of itself is an inadequate reward.

I am aware of my worth and equally aware of my limitations. I have no illusions of grandeur and yet I know I have used my time well. Luckily I have lived long enough to gain this modicum of wisdom and self-realization.

This whole problem stems from what motivates a musician in the first place. For me, the priority was always (from the start) the music, and the “presentation” or “show biz’ aspect was secondary. I did very little to create an image. Even an “anti-image image” can be a pre-meditated approach.

When I was younger, I was vain and foolish enough to hope I would gain some sort of high notoriety, but when that eventuality didn’t avail itself, I adapted. I am good at adapting. In fact, I am somewhat of a virtuoso in terms of adaptation to reality. It is key to any sort of survival.

As a musical artist, I have re-invented myself several times and it is good and necessary to adapt. After all, in the end, these variations of self-reinvention are all still based on the essential personality that is never changing.

My philosophy these days is based on the concept of ‘karma yoga,’ which roughly means you do your work without expectation of reward. It is nice to be recognized and appreciated but it is not essential. The sooner a musician (or any artist for that matter) realizes this, the better.

Unfortunately, it took me quite some time to learn this. But better late than never.

In my estimation, I have ‘made it’ anyway. First, I have lived my life as a musician and made my own music. Second, I have recorded this music and it is easily available to anyone in the world. Third, I can never be a ‘has-been’ because I am always in the process of ‘becoming.’

Tales From the North Woods

“Tales From the North Woods”
composed and performed by Reynold D. Philipsek /Zino-Rephi Music (BMI) All Rights Reserved

An odd thing occurred a few weeks ago. I entered a friend’s home and heard some music playing in the background. The music sounded vaguely familiar.

My first reaction was that I kind of liked the music and was pretty sure I had heard it before. I tried to place the song and artist. Then it came to me. It was my song and my recording from about ten years ago.

Immediately my enjoyment was tempered and realizing it was me I could only remember its faults. But for a few brief moments, I could hear myself in a very objective way. This is a very rare thing.

The piece was “Tales From The North Woods.”

I had forgotten about this song because it never became a part of my active performing repertoire. I now see there is a certain charm to it and I remember that I chose the title as an homage to the Strauss composition “Tales from the Vienna Woods.”

I can appreciate this piece better now and I am glad I documented its existence. And for a brief moment I could hear my own music as if it were not a part of me and happily I liked what I heard. For a moment.

Link: https://youtu.be/QEB3xkns6xM