At the centre is Voice and around it is humility. At Vocal Associates we have a duty to share our gifts with humility. Let’s hear what Bertrand, our talented resident pianist, has to say about humility and music making!
VA: Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview Bertrand! We know that humility is something we can apply in all areas of our lives. What are your thoughts on humility? Bertrand: It's a virtue that we would like to see in others, but don't quite care about for ourselves.
VA: No matter how far you get in your career, or life in general, an important principle to bear is to always be humble. Some are under the impression that humility is a weakness. What are your thoughts on this? Bertrand: It actually takes quite some strength, forbearance, and mindfulness to cultivate humilityーconsider how it is so much easier to work on appearing humble than being humble! I think the further you get in your career, the harder it becomes to guard against pride, unless you have been conscientiously stocking up your humility store. When you find yourself thinking 'These people obviously don't know who I am and what I can do and what I have achieved and all the other luminous facts about me', I think it's time to eat a bit of humble pie.
As a side note, what I just said means I do think humility is a quality that can be practiced and built up; likewise, I think it will dissipate if one isn't careful.
VA: What impact do you think humility as a character trait has on a musician's ability? Bertrand: I think we should first establish that although an aspect of humility can be found in the yearning to serve others, this does not mean humility has to serve music, as though it were but a tool to some higher end. It's not like if you have X-amount of humility, you will improve by Y-amount musically. It's not an exact science and I don't think it should even be a science. Humility is a virtue in its own right and should be pursued independent of how it might or might not be good for musicians. I say this because musical lore abounds with tales of truly great, wonderful musicians who represent just about every form of narcissism and neurosis imaginable. This is not entirely surprising; on stage the line between putting on a show and showing-off becomes very thin. Of course many artistes are lovely to be around. But we cannot pretend the majority are moral beacons of breathtaking humilityーit's quite the opposite I'm afraid; some are about the most self-absorbed and prideful people I have ever met. And yet even these performers, if they are truly good at what they do, must have the humility to acknowledge their musical mistakes, at least to themselves in private practice. I think that's how we improve as musicians. We spot flaws, eat a razor-slice of humble pie and admit the flaw really is a flaw, and set to work on removing it. Musicians who can't admit or face their problems, who will always find some reason that explains away a fault even during personal practice, aren't usually very good at all.
VA: What additional character traits would you suggest to young musicians that will help them become better musicians? Bertrand: There are several factors associated with musical success that are discussed endlessly amongst pedagogues. I'm not sure if these have been through careful statistical evaluation, so off the cuff I'd say the factors that matter are:1) being focused and hardworking2) being observant and sensitiveHaving an open mind will also open vast realms for exploration and collaboration. The basic physical prerequisites to play a particular instrument also have to be met. I wouldn't say talent is overrated, but the word is overused and thus hard to define, so I'll leave it for another discussion.
Come and catch the talented Bertrand Lee on the piano together with Vocal Associates and friends during VA’s 5th Anniversary Concert on 1st and 2nd June 2019!