Is there anyone out there who truly does not like to get compliments? I know people who get all shy and squirmy and don’t know what to say (psst, just say “thank you”), but I am certain that every one of us appreciates praise and admiration. Which, I imagine, is why so many people think they’d like to be famous. I freely admit that I love compliments (and maybe even rely on them too much to shore up my sense of self-worth, but that’s a whole other ball of wax).
I’ve been thinking lately about the “value” of compliments from different kinds of sources. By value, I don’t mean how much the compliment is worth, but rather what properties it has, or what it means depending on the source.
(Hmmm, I’m not sure how I go on to make my point without sounding thoroughly egotistical, but here goes…)
In my years of performing, I’ve had lots of compliments from friends and family, as well as total strangers. I thoroughly appreciate the praise; it makes me feel valued and I am happy that I was able to provide listeners with a few minutes of pleasure. It’s a great feeling to know that you can reach someone’s emotions and have a connection with them.
At the same time, it sometimes happens that the same people who paid me a compliment will also praise another performance that I find flawed, and it kind of takes the shine off a bit. That sounds really rude, so let me dig this hole a little deeper. I know that the compliment was sincere, but I may wonder what flaws there were in my own performance that went undetected. As a corollory, would someone who is musically trained consider my performance second-rate? (Isn’t that what always happens on those Idol shows? “But my friends say I’m a great singer!” Eep.)
Until lately, I’ve never spent much time with serious musicians, so I haven’t really had the chance to find out. The thing is, when you get to know a subject area, you become both more critical and more appreciative. For example, the guys I know who do sound for theatre will comment on the quality of the sound at a play, and they will notice things that completely passed me by. I can listen to someone playing piano and have an idea of how technically challenging the piece is and how well the pianist is interpreting it. I can listen to a symphony orchestra and pick out some of the structure and individual voices of the instruments, but I bet someone who plays the violin or the oboe can hear even more than I can. By the same token, I know virtually nothing about drumming and can’t analyze it the way I can a piano performance.
Since joining The Big Band and YWIM, I’ve met and performed with musicians whose knowledge and talent I really respect. It’s been fantastic as a learning experience; after all, the best way to get better at something is to spend time with people who do it better than you. But it’s also been very validating and encouraging to get positive comments on my musical ability.
When I performed at Rendezvous a few weeks ago, I was onstage with several talented women, including Kate Weekes. I love Kate’s music and she’s very accomplished as a musician. After the gig, I got a lovely e-mail from her in which she said some nice things about my voice and my song-writing. Since song-writing is something I’m still pretty insecure about, it was very encouraging to get this feedback from someone I respect.
Today, I had the fortune to meet with Lynn Miles, who is in Whitehorse working with YWIM for 6 weeks. We got together so that I could get her opinion and suggestions for improvement on some of my music. She had some great ideas for changes I could try and had some useful pointers on song-writing in general, as well as ideas for other resources I could use. She also told me what she liked about my songs and gave me the sense that I’m going in the right direction with my song-writing.
Having had this encouraging feedback from some great musicians, I feel braver about going out to keep learning and performing. I even feel brave enough to write a post that has the potential to sound extremely conceited.
This is a long post, so what’s my point? I guess it’s that I really appreciate the compliments I get regardless of the source, but it’s nice to know that I’m “getting” some of the technical stuff as well as the emotional stuff.
Now to work on the “succinctness” stuff.