At the Berklee college of music program I went to this summer in Boston, MA, an introductory conversation would usually go like this:
Me: What instrument do you play?
Jeff: Guitar. How about you? A singer?
Me: No, I’m a bassist.
Jeff: Really…that’s interesting. Are you any good?
There are two things wrong with this conversation: one, he assumed I was a singer and two, he questioned my musical ability. If this fellow musician and I were attending the same music program, we’re both talented. So why would he doubt the fact that I play the bass?
I’m a girl. It’s a simple fact, but it stops people like Jeff from realizing that I have a talent besides singing. Sure, a female bassist is not so common, but is it really a stretch? Throughout my musical career I’ve faced others’ doubts simply because I’m a girl. I want to be a great musician, but facing rejection isn’t easy and it has affected me to hinder my progress.
In my high school, kids make up bands, trading around band members casually. They compete to get all the best technical musicians together in one band just so they can show off their talent. If the “best band” found a more talented drummer, they simply form a new “best band” and have the same guitarist, bassist, and singer, but replace their old drummer, with the more talented one. I’m usually excluded from this emotionless process because I am a girl. Because of my gender, I’m automatically stereotyped. “A girl can’t be good enough to be in our band,” they would say.
However, a more experienced musician, who was also my bass teacher at Berklee, would say, “An okay bass player who is friendly is favored much more than an amazing bass player who is arrogant.” He later explained that the best players are encouraging and have open minds. They’re the best not only because they are at the top of their game, but also because they help others get to their level of talent. I admire my bass teacher because he taught me much more than music theory, jazz standards, and arpeggios; he taught me to be comfortable with who I am as long as I continue to play and get better with my instrument. With that, I formed the mind of a content musician.
I’ve befriended so many amazing female guitarists, bassists, and drummers this summer and I never met anybody else who is as inspired as these girls were. Females are discriminated in their musical talents, but I speak for all budding female musicians when I say that we can rise above stereotypes and just pursue our dreams. After the incredible experience of Berklee, I am no longer self-conscious around male musicians and exhibiting my talent. Empowering myself in this way drives me to encourage other musicians to not be tied down by sexism and to just play.
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