Aging is something we all have to deal with every day--or every second if you really want to get neurotic about it. Comparable to biological aging, there are actually different facets of aging that we move through when we play music.
Four (4) musical ages:
- Chronological musical age
- Developmental musical age
- Artistic musical age
Chronological musical age: This is simply how long we've been playing. If we've been playing for 20 years, then our musical age is 20.
Developmental age: This is a measurement of our overall skill sets. I want to add that these are the skills comparable to others who've been playing equally as long. When I was a Berklee, one of my classmates was British saxophonist Tommy Smith. At the time, Tommy was only 16-years old and had only been playing the tenor saxophone and jazz for four years. So even though his chronological musical age was only four years, his developmental age was at least 15 years. He was pretty scary.
Artistic musical age: Simply put, this is our personal voice, artistic vision, and our unique sense of style. Some are fortunate have this from the start. Some never develop it. And some develop it much later in life. Drawing from my own story, I began to embark on this when I switched to the soprano. This was a paradoxical stage in that my chronological soprano saxophone age was relatively young, yet my artistic age was much more advanced.
Mastery: This is when music if life and life is music. Mastery is never an easily attainable one. You have to put in the time chronologically, developmentally, artistically, and spiritually. Even when you arrive, you may not even realize it. I imagine you increase your chances when arriving at this age when you live a life devoted to high-level performance and illuminating teaching.
Summary: It’s important to remember that one doesn’t guarantee the other. You might have a chronological musical age of 30 years, yet, your artistic age might be that of someone who’s been playing for 10 years or fewer. I call these types, professional students. They never really grow conceptually, they just continue getting faster, cleaner, and playing more stuff. There was a time when these types were not revered as one of the cats. One typically had to dig deeper to be held in such esteem. Today is a new paradigm. We’ve embraced a culture of what I call green masters.
Dissimilarly, some, even if they lack the technical prowess and vocabulary vastness, will arrive at an advanced artistic age much earlier in life, due to talent and vision.
Musical aging can be a process with many layers. The important thing is knowing where you’re at, where you’re going, and where you need to be.