Don’t Accept Speed Limits On Learning

Derek Sivers is the indie musician who started CD Baby to release his own music and later sold it for $22m. He has a lot of interesting things to say about building a career in music.

In There is no speed limit he tells the story of how he got to know an inspiring teacher Kimo Williams who taught him whole semesters worth of college courses in a few lessons. Here’s a few quotes

Kimo: My doorbell rang at 8:59 one morning and I had no idea why. I run across kids all the time who say they want to be a great musician. I tell them I can help, and tell them to show up at my studio at 9am if they’re serious. Almost nobody ever does. It’s how I weed out the really serious ones from the kids who are just talk…

Kimo’s high expectations set a new pace for me.  He taught me “the standard pace is for chumps” – that the system is designed so anyone can keep up.  If you’re more driven than “just anyone” – you can do so much more than anyone expects.  And this applies to ALL of life – not just school.

 (Derek passed 6 exams on arriving and ended up conpleting the whole course in just 2 1/2 years)

He touched on this story when gaving a speech called 6 things I wish I knew the day I started Berklee. More quotes

The teachers are taking their favorite music and using it to teach you techniques. Learn and appreciate those techniques.  They’re great. But if you only learn the techniques they teach you, you’re only learning their favorite music. Never think their heroes are better than yours. The same way they will break apart a Shania Twain hit song or a classic Charlie Parker solo to teach you the craft inside, you must learn how to break apart your favorite music and analyze it. Learn from your heroes, not only theirs.

While at Berklee, I felt I had to learn Donna Lee, the old bebop jazz standard, to be a good musician. Got a great gig going to Japan for a month with Victor Bailey…He’s one of the best bassists ever, who’s played with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Sonny Rollins, Sting, and more. He heard me playing Donna Lee…and said, “Man – jazz was all about inventing something new. For a musician 50 years later to be stuck in the 1950s would be like a 1950s musician being stuck in the 1900s. There’s nothing cool about that.”
A couple weeks later I was at the piano quietly working on one of my own songs, and for the first time he said, “Hey – wow – what is that? That’s great, man. Can you show me?”

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About mattblick

Songwriter & Musical Educator from Nottingham, UK. New album Fifty Five Stories Down is out now. Blogging through the entire Beatles catalogue at Beatles Songwriting Academy.
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2 Responses to Don’t Accept Speed Limits On Learning

  1. Tozier says:

    Especially relevant to me now as I'm faced with tough decisions while teaching a group. It's hard to know you've got to leave some behind while lifting up others.

  2. Matt Blick says:

    Yep that's always a tough one.

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