Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.7- Arrogant- or Confident?

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Arrogance requires advertising.
Confidence speaks for itself.
-The Good Vibe Company

I know I have talked before about the very unfair reputation trumpet players have. We are often portrayed as arrogant and self-absorbed. We are told that in spite of what we seem to think it is not all about us. Here’s a good example of the stereotype from the website The Band Advocate’s Resource: (
Trumpets-They are the leaders of the band, the melody, to quote "Drumline", "The trumpets are the voice of the band!" This constant focus and attention has made them egocentric and fairly arrogant, but mainly to those within the section. They are in love with themselves, and they hate associating with the bottom or the top of the section, depending upon where they are. They're loud and their proud. Typical trumpet conversation with the band director; "I could have played that solo better than that." "Do you want it then." "No thanks." This laid back attitude carries throughout the section. Trumpets tend to be odd and offbeat with perverted senses of humor. They are the comic masterminds of the band. Trumpet sections are about half girls, half guys. You won't see many waltzing off to choir, and if you do, chances are they sit bottom of the section. Straight from a trumpet player to you, though, we're not really as bad as we sound (Ha ha, note our section is longer than yours. Yeah, thought so!).
It’s hard living up to that stereotype, but we’ll keep on trying!

Seriously I have met very few trumpet players that fit that image. In reality most of us are far shyer than we appear. When one plays one of the loudest and most aurally notable of instruments, it’s hard to hide, so we just go for it. If we stand out by virtue of the instrument, we better live up to that instrument’s place in the band.

Which often does look like arrogance. That and the fact that we find it hard to be serious for too long. If there is a disruption somewhere in the band, it is more often than not in the trumpet section. Then we yell at each other, put each other down, ignore the director and then have to ask “Where are we starting?” [Sidenote: This is why I admire Bob Baca’s patience with a room FULL of trumpet players at Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop! Scary, but he keeps doing it!]

Having finished with some “true confessions” let’s go back to reality and what this post is all about- the difference between arrogance and confidence. Any one of us can have either without the other. Or we can even have both. Those are the truly obnoxious one’s among us.

What then IS the difference between the two? Well, for one, if you were offended by that paragraph above, you may need to work on your sense of humor; if you believed it to be true… read on…

First, I found the following on the Womanitely website:
• Arrogance is usually the result of a defense mechanism used by subconscious mind in order to prevent further criticism. Confidence comes from positivity, optimism and mental steadiness.

• Superiority is the main quality of an arrogant person. Arrogant people are single-minded; … On the contrary, confident people are high-minded, because they can feel good without having a desire to offend others. They usually see people’s potential and can help them succeed in something.

• An arrogant person thinks they are better than others, while a confident person knows they are just as good as others. Confident people will rarely be found lecturing or preaching to others or how they are wrong. Furthermore, they usually show respect while listening to somebody. Arrogant people have difficulty listening to others.

• An arrogant person will always try to one-up everything you say. They mind only their own position and make others accept their ideas. Confident people don’t try to impose their vision of the situation on others. Their accomplishments do it for them.
Lots of good thoughts in those quotes. We can know confident people because they tend to be open to other people’s ideas and abilities without needing to put them down. They listen to others and don’t impose their vision on others, rather seeking to learn new things and new perspectives from others. You don’t get that type of vibe from arrogant people

Cody Brown at adds the following two differences:
• Arrogance makes your world smaller and
• The difference between the two has a lot to do with empathy.
It is a small world if what you think is right is the only thing that is right. It is just as small if you think you are either so superior to others or so afraid of failing that you can’t enjoy what you are doing. And the difference really boils down to that wonderful word, empathy. Empathy simply means that in some ways you can understand or feel another person’s emotions and reactions from their perspective. It means caring about them and seeking what’s good for them and for you. It is not sympathy- feeling sorry- but being open to them and what they experience.

In spite of all those things we trumpet players may have been accused of, I have met far more empathetic musicians than arrogant ones. Sure, some may come across as arrogant. They have such great confidence in their skills that they don’t seem to need or want comments or advice. That is often more a product of the gap between their skill and mine. If Trumpet John Smith picks up the horn and just blows away- that can seem arrogant because I want so badly to be able to do that. But when he leans over to the me and gives me a helpful hint, we can begin to see the empathy.

So how can we combat the image of being arrogant musicians? Here are some suggestions I found helpful.

Seek humility. That does not mean striving for it so we can boast of how humble we are, but learning to live it. One way to describe humility is to be teachable. Always look to learn from whoever you are with. There is wisdom abounding in our world. We often miss it because we think we already know it.

Listen with an open mind. That goes along with the being teachable. None of us knows it all. None of us can ever know it all. Someone else’s experiences may give a whole new perspective to how we see ourselves and our world. Keep that inquisitiveness fresh and open.

Be rigorously honest with yourself. One way of describing this is to not thing either to highly OR too lowly of yourself. Know you strengths and your weaknesses and be willing to admit the weaknesses to yourself. That’s how we know where we are still needing to work and learn. Confidence comes from doing what you do well and working to improve what isn’t there yet. All os who have attended the Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop have heard story after story of the way some of the great trumpet players keep working on the early pages of Arban’s. They know they have to keep working on the basics and practice every day just to maintain where they are. That’s rigorous honesty with oneself.

Pay attention to Self Two. This comes from the Inner Game ideas which we will delve into again more deeply later this fall. But for now, just remember that Self One is logical and wants perfection. When Self One wants to criticize you let Self Two pick up the slack and give Self One what it wants, a plan to get better. Then do it.

Believe in yourself! That’s part of that honesty. Believe you can do what you can do and are willing and able to learn how to do what you are not yet able to do. This also means don’t put yourself down in negative language or negative attitudes. Admit where you need to grow, but don’t make it seem like it is a personal flaw. You just haven’t gotten there yet.

Look like you believe in yourself. How you dress, how you stand, how you smile (or don’t smile), goes a long way in how others perceive you.

Find a group of musicians to play with who are better than you. If you are the best player in your band, get yourself a group to be with where you aren’t a star and listen to them. Get into a group that is more advanced than you are and work with them. Find a teacher who will push you. Take new ideas as ways to grow and not as criticism.

Keep a Beginner's Mind! Don't lose your inquisitiveness or joy at discovering new things about your world or your instrument. That is a surefire way to keep from becoming arrogant. The more you learn while keeping a beginner's mind, the more you will realize how little you truly know.

In the end your music will tell your story. You don’t have to do it. If you are confident, it will show. If you aren’t, no amount of arrogant behavior will make a difference.

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