This is a guest post from Mark Feldman
Once, several years ago, during a lesson with a wise drum teacher, I asked, “am I too old to be doing this?” Meaning, was I too old to be pursuing this professional drumming thing so aggressively?
The sage answered with a question: “Mark, if I said you were too old, would you stop?” That was easy for me to answer. “No,” I replied, “I am never going to stop because this is my passion. This is what I love.”
“Well, then it’s an irrelevant question. It truly doesn’t matter.”
Wow. That kind of blew my mind. If you think about it, the only reason one asks a question like that is fear. “Can I really do this? Am I good enough?”
We all have moments of self-doubt. The key is to persevere. My asking that question was just a way of expressing my fear. So, my teacher’s answer to the question got right to the heart of the matter. Essentially he was saying, “Well, OK, you’re scared, but, are you going to let that stop you, or do you really want this?”
So, for those of you asking the same question about age, here are three stories that show that age doesn’t really matter.
1) Thornton Dial (1928-2016) was born in Alabama and lived in the south for his entire life. He was born to an unwed teenage mother who was unable to care for him. He and his brother moved in with his second cousin when he was three years old. He began making art from everyday objects and did so for many years, while working a variety of heavy labor jobs to pay his bills. Dial spent many years working at the Pullman factory, which made railroad cars. All the while, Thornton kept making his art. Year after year, Dial created.
It was not until he was in his 50’s that he met William Arnett, an art collector, writer and curator, who was focusing on African American artists. Arnett decided to help Dial and was very successful in raising him to prominence. Dial’s work has been acquired by many important museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Museum of Fine Art in Houston and many others. Dial made his artwork because he enjoyed it, and his success really didn’t come to him until his sixties.
2) Frank McCourt (1930 – 2009) was writer whose 1996 memoir, “Angela’s Ashes” was wildly successful. The book was a New York Times bestseller and made him a millionaire. McCourt grew up in poverty in Ireland. His father was an alcoholic who abandoned the McCourt family; leaving Frank’s mother and siblings to fend for themselves. McCourt had many difficult jobs and eventually found himself at the post office. He saved enough money and escaped to the US at the age of 19. Eventually, McCourt established himself as a high school teacher in NYC. Coincidentally, he actually taught at my high school, Stuyvesant. Although I was attending school there while he was teaching, I never took his English class.
At the age of 66 years old, at the urging of his third wife, McCourt wrote his masterpiece about his upbringing and family struggles, “Angela’s Ashes.” Fame and fortune followed.
3) Susan Boyle (Born 1961.) She found fame in her late forties when she appeared on the television show “Britain’s got Talent” on April 11th 2009. Although she came in second place on the show, her performance of “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables instantly wowed audiences around the world and led to her astonishing success as a recording artist. Her debut album, “I Dreamed A Dream,” sold over ten million albums around the world. As a woman who did not fit the physical image of a pop artist, the rotund and plain Boyle, (who has Asperger’s) caught the attention of the world as a “Cinderella” story. She proved that anyone can do it.
There are many, many more stories just like this.
The moral of the story is:
You only have one life. If you aren’t doing what you love, my question is “why not?”
Mark Feldman is a NYC based drummer perhaps best known as one of the winners of Modern Drummer magazine’s very first drum solo contest judged by drumming legend Neil Peart. Mark has made music with Alison Krauss, Marshall Crenshaw, Curtis Stigers, GE Smith, and many others. You can read more of his “Thinking Drummer” articles at www.bangthedrumschool.com
“The Sybil EP,” from Mark’s new band, LEVEL5, is coming soon, and features Oz Noy on guitar and Will Lee on bass. www.level5music.com