RE: Is There a Doctor In the House?

Lydia’s boyfriend (Lydia being my youngest, who graduated HS last year) fancies himself a guitar player.

And he’s not half bad. But I’m afraid he doesn’t have a realistic self-opinion of his level of talent.

Case in point: Last week, he went through his (online, natch) audition for the Berklee College of Music. Apparently it did not go particularly well. 


Talking with him, I have a theory: He’s actually quite insecure about his talent level, but I don’t think he is self-aware enough to put it in those terms. I would say things to him like “Get some guys together, spend a few months in the basement working up some material, don’t be afraid to completely suck, get your act together, then go claw your way around town and find some gigs”.

(Setting aside how most of the live venues are Covid’d down right now…Omaha has a bunch of places looking for bands to book.)

Anyway, he pushed back on that. The more we talked, the more I realized that for him, getting into Berklee doesn’t represent an opportunity to learn and expand his skill set. Nothing like that.

It represents a short cut.

Instead of spending years grinding and refining your skills and building an audience, in one stroke he will have instant validation. “I’m good because Berk-f’ing-lee says so!”

And the sad thing is, there is a market for that. There is a market for taking young, mediocre players, telling them they are wonderful, bestowing credentials on them, then sending them out to be mediocre. And because there is a market for it, there always will be plenty of it.


I can’t help but think of an old friend named Terry right now. Rough guy. Raging alcoholic. Life in a perpetual state of couch surfing chaos. (He got two days out of me before Angie kicked him out.) Laid carpet for a living, when he was sober enough to find work.

But that guy could play.

One of my fondest memories is from about 10 or so years ago. It was Rick’s birthday. Rick was a drummer. He wanted to pull an impromptu band together and play a few sets at a local dive bar he frequented. 

So it was Rick on drums, GK on bass, Terry on lead, and me on vocals. We all knew each other, and had played in various bands over the years, but this was our first time together.

Closed our first set with “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. I’m getting chills right this moment thinking about how Terry absolutely slayed the solo at the end of that song. Just unbelievable. GK and Rick and I kept looking at each other, and we kept signaling to go around again. Terry wasn’t done yet. He was lost in a different place. It was just magic. He had everything. He was fast. He was melodious. He was original. It all came pouring out.

Eventually, he got there, looked over at Rick, and we got out of it. 

Point being, Terry never took a lesson in his life. The only formal knowledge he had was what he picked up along the way, mostly (given the era) from books.

I hope I don’t come across as “anti education”. Not at all. I’m more “anti credentialism”. I’d put Terry on that night up against the best that ever came out of Berklee.


Just as soon as I wrote that, it occurred to me that I was substantially repeating the exact point that Branford Marsalis made over a decade ago. He nailed it:

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