WISDOM: A PORTRAIT SERIES
N I C H O L A S S A N S A N O
TISCH SCHOOL OF THE ARTS
CLIVE DAVIS INSTITUTE OF RECORDED MUSIC
NEW YORK CITY
Photograph by Robert Nethery
I. Wisdom is confident, yet unassuming, learned form of holistic intuition that is best developed through repeated experiences of collapse and recovery.
II. One day, one of my most talented students, who was ill prepared for series of performances and recording sessions, responded to my displeasure by saying, “whatever that gene is that makes you worry about things, sweat every detail, and be afraid to fail, sorry, I don’t have it”. The person was being somewhat apologetic for being a fearlessly creative individual. These sentiments were echoed almost verbatim, unsolicited, by a well-established and prolific recording artist, in a casual conversation. The lack of fear, specifically fear of failure, enabled these talented people to dig deeper into their creative potential than others. By presenting failure as something to embrace rather than something to hide or escape, I have seen real change in the quality of student work, and felt a sense of relief from the group. In presenting talks about the successful artists and entrepreneurs ranging from Thomas Edison to Raphael, from Aretha Franklin to Nikola Tesla – I was able to show them that failure made all these people who they came to be. I also began to see a fear of self-discovery. I found that many of my most artistic and creative students are in fact afraid of discovering who they are or who they might be. They were fighting the process that would allow them to realize who they are artistically, and the potential of their talents. The message of, “it is OK to fail, in fact it is essential that you fail,” allowed the access to creativity and self-discovery I was searching for. Allowing them to feel uncomfortable with what they may discover about themselves, allowing them to feel uneasy about the potential success that may lie ahead, allowing them to fail miserably - in fact encouraging it – enabled them to get past themselves, and get out of their own way.
III. We need to talk more about the value of original content in real and precise monetary terms. Thank God for publishing and the value of the copyright, but in many cases even that is not enough to sustain an artist, much less the development of a young artist. Many people touting this new paradigm – make money on the road, and with merchandizing, licensing, etc... as being a valid shift, have in fact not had to live the shift. Clearly, as evidenced by the dwindling quality of the recorded product, these often-compromised ancillary flows of income are not making it back to the professionals who help develop and create the work. Like a city crumbling, or never reaching its full potential because of lack of infrastructure support, artists, regardless of how educated and entrepreneurial they may be, do in fact need a support network to avoid mirroring this scenario, and thrive. At the very least artists, writers, vocalists, instrumentalists, arrangers, programmers, recording engineers, artistic managers, music directors, producers, etc., need to be valued in principle. From my point of view, it seems a large segment of pop music professionals are expected to toil and train for years and years, and then give away the best of what this sacrifice may yield, free of charge.
IV. I am for developing the gifts of creativity.