Do you owe it to your bandmates to stay in town?
Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
Dear Fan Landers,
I'm a musician living in Mexico City. I have a band, and we have been playing together for almost three years. We have spent a year and a half making an album and we are finally finishing. We spent all of our money, energy and soul on that album. I think the result is pretty awesome, and I'm sure something good is going to happen when the album is out. But...recently I've been admitted to one of the best conservatories in the U.S., which would mean I would have to leave behind all we've worked for and go to live in Boston.
Obviously this was a big shock for my bandmates, who have even said it's useless to try to move on with the band if I go to another country. On the other hand, I don't see a big future for the kind of music we do in Mexico. I'd like to think we can continue to play together during the summer and winter vacations, but my bandmates don't think that would work. I go to music school here in Mexico City, so I would still have a degree if I stayed. And if I go to Boston, my parents could only pay for the first year, and then we would have to see what we would do for me to be able to stay. We have big dreams for that band, but I just don't want to look back to this moment when I'm older and regret the decision I made.
I hope you can help me, Ana
Dear Ana, It's obvious from your letter that music is your life. Spending all your time, energy, and money to make an album shows a ton of commitment. Reading your letter, it is obvious what you want to do -- so go to Boston. It's a really good school and an incredible opportunity -- even if it winds up only being for a year. You do not know what is ahead, what could change in your year there, who you may have a chance to make music or connect with. Your worst-case scenario is coming back to the life you have, maybe to the band -- which doesn't sound like a bad deal.
You don't have to sell your band's prospects short in order to justify going, though maybe that's a way to detach from the heartache of having to leave a project you have given so much to. Plenty of bands get put on hold while the members pursue other things. Don't make any promises to anyone to return or to do tours on break or anything -- see what time and space you have for the band once you are in school. Maybe you can continue making songs over e-mail. Plenty of bands do that. But leave yourself open to whatever possibilities arise out of coming to school, or what you are able to pursue (and maybe even bring back to your band in Mexico City). It does not have to be an either/or choice. It's all going to change, and you do not know how until you go for it. Don't let your band hold you back from your dreams and bigger challenges. To paraphrase the Hold Steady, there's always other bands.
Yours Truly, Fan
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