The first requirement for being successful in anything is to define what success means to you. That is one of the biggest challenges musicians face today. There is no standard to follow.
It’s not like going to college, where there is a defined set of measurable parameters. You attend classes, you pass exams, you write papers, and after completing all of the requisite steps you succeed in earning your degree. That’s an ideal scenario where you can demonstrate that you are making progress and, therefore retain the ever so important support of your friends and family. Unfortunately, the pathway to a career in music isn’t so cut and dry.
Let’s first examine some characteristics that are pretty much universal in successful people:
Authentic Interest: A genuine state of curiosity, concern, or attention.
Consistency: Steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc.
Persistence: Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or oppression.
Goals: The objects of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.
Those are the basics. Those are the characteristics that will enable a student to take the SAT, go to college, pass the exams and write the papers, take the MCAT, attend medical school, complete a residency and come out the other end as a doctor.
A career in music however is far less arbitrary. There is no curriculum, no checklist, no predetermined pathway to become a professional musician. Even earning a degree from the Berklee Colloge of Music won’t necessarily give you a leg up. And because of that lack of definitive stepping-stones you find that the people that are supposed to be your cheerleaders (friends and family) start to celebrate your failures more than your successes. They really do want what’s best for you. And since a career in music is not a sure thing, they think that it’s better to get you on track for something with more defined goals and measurements.