Maintaining artistic integrity in the face of panderers

It is a hard thing to be faithful to your calling. I had a classmate in high school that sometimes gets national media attention for his musical accomplishments. Now, he is somewhat of a chameleon. He was for a time a member of the Back Street Boys. He made a solo pop album. He has reemerged this time as a country singer. Interestingly, every time I read about him, his bio changes a little and always seems to include some new fact that I know isn’t true. His latest "song" is the sort of thing that I hate most in this world. It’s essentially a pastiche of musical clichés in which the lack of musical substance is hidden by an equally pandering attempt to assemble trite patriotic phrases into some semblance of coherence. He has also managed to develop a country accent that he never had before.

It is quite easy to despair over the fact that in all likelihood, he will continue to be more well known and well regarded as a musician than I will ever be in my life. He will probably make more money than I ever will even though I have dedicated my life to becoming the best musician that I can be. However, there is one place of comfort. My friend Tom Trenney puts it like this. “It is the ones who love being a musician more than they love making music who struggle to embrace the wholeness of what we do.” Ultimately, I’m responsible for developing my own craft. I always come to the place where I realize that my calling is to faithfully nurture the gifts that I have been given instead of comparing those gifts to someone else. That's a good place to be, and it always allows me much more freedom to celebrate the gifts of others more fully.