7 Jun 2012


What can we learn from Joshua Bell’s story?

The simplistic view is how often we dwell on trivialities and miss beautiful moments.

What interests me, however, is how Bell described his experience. Before he played the first D minor chord of Chaconne, he suddenly felt nervous. “It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies.”

But Mr Bell, you played at ease before royalties and statesmen, didn’t you?

After a while, he stole a glance at the passersby. “It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah … ignoring me.”

The difference between a street performance and a show at Carnegie Hall is that in the latter case, people who come choose to do so and have already acknowledged his worth. When he disguised as a nobody, he had to gain respect by music alone, and it turned out to be very difficult.

If you are a budding musician struggling to become successful, this can also be a bitter story. So it is not how well you perform, but how good other people believe you are. Most people unfortunately cannot really distinguish good from great. Their appreciation is largely based on what others say, who in turn gain their views from yet other people. Worse still, in the current winners-take-all society, people would rather listen to a CD by a famous musician than a live (perhaps even free) performance of somebody unknown.

What can we do then? Simply, we can only do our best and accept that success may be a matter of luck. Do not let others define your worth, though this is often easier said than done. Above all, we do not need to be loved by everybody. When there is someone who loves you despite your imperfection, is it not good enough?

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