Q: There are easier ways to make a living. Why the life of a professional musician?
Mark: Years ago, at a bar gig in Sioux Falls, a guy came up to me and asked what made me decide to play the drums. I answered, "I want to bring rhythm to the world." He promptly said, "No, what you want is to discover rhythm for yourself." That really turned things around for me, right there. I guess I'm still trying to discover rhythm for myself.
For me, music is just a natural way of living, but it's more than second nature. It's just part of my life and my soul.
Lately, in my health circumstances, I've been thinking about going back to the Midwest, getting into a small house and taking up carpentry. But then, when I'm alone and it's quiet, I slip on my walkman and there's the music. That's when I know that's where I need to be.
There's another thing too - the friendships that you develop while working on the road. Playing with talented musicians, and then sharing breakfast together at five in the morning. Ah, there's nothing like it. For me, making a living through music is just like a paid vacation.
- Mark Craney, date unknown
The Importance of Confidence
My friend Roland MacBeth asked me to write a few words for the Gretsch newsletter. "Something on drums," he said, "whatever you might want to pass on to young drummers."
Well, one key piece of advice is that drumming involves many aspects if you want to make a career out of it. You need to be able to get along with all sorts of people, from sponsors to managers to roadies.
I think of how often I've been asked what it's like to work with Jean-Luc Ponty, Ian Anderson, or Gino Vannelli. Of course, it's a great thrill to work with these creative people. I sometimes wonder if people ever ask them what it's like to work with some fairly obscure self-taught drummer from South Dakota. However unlikely this question is, it brings up the subject of self-worth.
I believe that established performers like Jean-Luc, Ian and Gino get as great a thrill watching young talent come along - sharing in the excitement and pride of playing with competent, expressive musicians, be they world renowned or wet-behind-the-ears.
The players who stand out aren't only talented as musicians - they stand out because they have the confidence and determination to make their mark in the world. Masterful players who don't venture beyond the local scene may lack the self image to step onto a concert stage in front of hundreds or thousands of people.
When you do step out on the world stage to make your contribution, that's when the responsibility deepens. You come out and play your best, hoping to express the fact that this is what you've practiced and worked for, with pride in your ability and humility for the support you've received.
So, if you're a young player dreaming of working with your favorite musical heroes, don't underestimate what you can offer to the relationship. They understand. After all, they all started in the same obscure place and had the same determination.