Part 6 of my 7-part series (read part 5), about Randy Avers.  Randy is one half of the fabulous duo, Les Frères Méduses, who are writing and performing the original, live film score for us that will be performed on June 22nd to open our summer series.  Info here.

When the Alamo’s Tim League asked me about creating an original film score for one of his favorite silent films (“The Unknown,” 1927, Dir. Tod Browning), I knew that no other duo on the planet was more perfect for the task than Randy (who is based now in Norway) and his amazing French duo partner Benoît Albert.  Randy and I went to college together and I wanted to share a few stories.


I wasn’t doing so hot.  I was at odds with my teacher and, when you’re studying music with lessons every week of your life for years, your (and by “your” I mean “my”) mood can swing, on a weekly basis, based on the quality of your lessons.  If you have a “good lesson”, one in which the praise is heaped high and you leave your professor’s studio feeling like a million bucks, then you ride high for the next 5 or 6 days.  If, however, you play poorly and your professor reads you the riot act, you’re liable to spend the rest of the week feeling terrible about yourself, and wondering if you picked the right course of study!

I was at a low point.  In retrospect, I was practicing for the wrong reasons, and hoping for pats on the back and “good boy” comments rather than constructive criticism.  And my attitude and mood in general was suffering.  It was in this state that Randy delivered to me one of the most important life lessons I’ve ever received – something that has dramatically changed the quality of my work and, indeed, the quality of my life both on and off the guitar ever since.

I was complaining.  Randy took a tough-love approach with me and said that, rather than blame everyone else, perhaps I should take a good look in the mirror.  And then he said something like this (I’m paraphrasing):

“Matt, you are here to become a better musician.  Instead of going into your lessons hoping to be told how great you are, you should go in looking for criticism.  Otherwise you’re wasting your time and money!  Why don’t you try this: get on the same team with your teacher.  Go into your lessons actually looking for problems in your playing, and, if something is identified, jump into the action and try to actively find a solution along with him.  Don’t sit back with arms crossed when he brings up a problem and defend yourself, defend your decision, and hope to be told you were right.  If he doesn’t like a fingering – then try to come up with an alternative before he does.  Get on the same team! You’ll enjoy your lessons more, your teacher will enjoy teaching you more, and you’ll become a better guitar player.”

Wow, was he right.  In every way.  About every thing.

Read part 7: Where we went….