No matter what anyone says, there is one thing that great artists all have in common. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Vincent van Gogh, Michelangelo, or Dave Grohl.
To reach the highest levels of artistic expression requires a truly deep passion about your art form. Very often, the story of true masters of artistic expression involves a passion that drives them to the brink of insanity, sometimes over the brink into an abyss from which they never fully return.
One of my favorite YouTube artists, for a few years now, has been the Piano Guys. I think my favorite video of theirs was filmed about an hour and a half from where I lived in high school, when I finally learned how to play guitar after years of trying. At the beginning of the video there is a quote from Ludwig van Beethoven that goes like this:
Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.
For anyone who aspires to master any art form, these words ring with such insistence that they cannot be ignored. You can watch this video here:
When you watch these two videos (really, take the time to watch them – now!), notice the faces of Dave Grohl and Steven Sharp Nelson (the cello player for the PIano Guys). Their faces reflect a state of transcendence. Music exists as energy that is independent of human involvement. Musicians and composers are conduits by which that energy is translated into a form that our conscious minds can perceive.
I have never yet watched a live performance by Dave Grohl where this passion doesn’t come out. Even watching old videos of Nirvana performances you can see it.
And I don’t even know where to start with Mr. Nelson. The sheer joy reflected on his face when he plays is nothing short of inspiring to me. They even have a video that addresses this specifically:
This kind of passion is infectious. It’s contagious. It not only fills the artist, but it spills out of them in great floods that envelope everyone around them, simultaneously immersing you and lifting you up. Performers share it with their audience, teachers share it with their students, and it makes the world a better place for all of us.
It is imperative that I not only use this passion for my own music, but that I pass it on to my students. I don’t think I always manage to do that with my students, but I’m pretty sure I’m getting better at it. 😀