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  • by Judy Coder

What's Stopping You?

What’s stopping you?

You’ve probably heard this question thousands of times. You hear it in conversations with friends and family, those tireless supporters who believe in you and in what you’re doing. You hear it in your own head, that joyful, hopeful, confident voice that calls you to the dance. What’s stopping you?

Artists, musicians, writers, composers, and all creative souls know a lot about doubt. You know you are put on this earth to create, that something deep inside you beckons, calling you to pursue your art. With time and practice, you discover your own creative voice. The real kicker is that no one will know about it, until you’re able to recognize and articulate that ingredient that makes you unique. All you need is branding. So, what’s stopping you?

Branding for a musician can be harder than one might think. It’s challenging to carve your own path. No one has a blueprint for you to follow. Self-evaluation requires you to step outside yourself, take personal inventory, and seek out that special something that sets you apart. Still, what’s stopping you?

I’ve discovered something amazing: my quirks are my strengths.

As a musician, I love genre-hopping: jazz, bluegrass, classical, rock-and-roll, country, western (yes, both country AND western), folk, new-age, big band, marching band, swing band. Sometimes the best vocal warmup for Mozart is a big, hearty, cowgirl-style yodel; sometimes the best warmup for a big yodel is a bit of Mozart.

This musical schizophrenia has sometimes led me to second-guess my audience. All I ever wanted to do was stand on a stage and sing. My bio for classical music would avoid any mention of my yodeling titles; who would hire the yodeler to sing the Fauré Requiem? Western music audiences liked to know I was classically trained, but I doubted they’d actually want to hear me sing “O, Mio Babbino Caro”. Why not? I played a lot of guitar when I went solo, but I was surprised when I was hired on to be the new “guitar player”. Why? For a long time, I called myself a composer, but not a songwriter. Why? I called myself a composer, but told myself I shouldn’t plan to make any money or have my work published, or performed beyond the premiere. Why? What was stopping me?

Today, I realize that all my previous experiences are the components that make up my brand. I yodel and I sing arias. I write folky songs about old cats and I write operas. I write songs for guitar with pennywhistle, and I write for symphonic orchestras. It’s okay to be quirky. Quirky is good. It takes a creative mind to put all that into a tidy little package called a “brand”, but that’s me. That’s who I am.

Let’s travel this quirky, creative, dynamic, musical road together. What’s stopping you?

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