Dear 1999 Edition Ivan,

I just wanted to drop you a line and provide you with a few jewels of wisdom with the aide of my impeccable 20/20.

Well, you just finished one of your most productive and creative musical years ever: Thousands of hours tutoring young aspiring musicians in the craft of writing, performing and producing on your day gig, countless hours working on your own projects with various collaborators, and a steady schedule of live performances (with even a few big name opening slots) yet… you seem somewhat distracted or maybe even obsessed with the promise of what the “industry” can offer you.

As you invest time memorizing every songwriter, producer, engineer, executive etc. credit, networking with and wasting money on the “movers and shakers” as a means of plotting your entry, you have neglected the most important variable in the equation: yourself. Sure, it is somewhat difficult to see the importance of self, especially when all the signs point to the contrary. Yes everything is still glamorous and glitzy and million dollar videos and huge recording budgets still mean something because MTV still sorta plays music (I guess). But, what I can tell you from here is that you have sold yourself incredibly short because you have not taken the time to learn to respect the music.

The time for you to stick a pin in everything and go to music school (or at least be in the mindset) would be approximately 11:59 pm December 31st, 1999. Unfortunately, it would take another three years for you to find that pin (never too late for the important things in life). College is not for everyone but it certainly is for you because you will come to learn how to connect dots that you did not have the discipline to connect on your own. Innate ability without discipline will only take you so far. Talent without development is often useless.

The lessons that you will learn in a few short years will ensure that you put the music before anything else but… the challenges that you face in 1999 will continue to plague you in one way or the other throughout the decade. These are deeply ingrained challenges of perception, that ultimately cripple creativity and productivity. A list of standards and practices that you govern yourself by as if you are a subject of the mythical kingdom of the “industry”.

In 1999, you were one of the most loyal subjects, seeking approval through your adherence to the decree that: “Thou must do all things the music industry way.” You kept company with an entire cadre of loyal subjects who, just like you, talked of the them and the then and never of the you and the now. From this side, I must inform that you and now will be far more important. You and now connote progress. Them and then connote proxy.

It will take almost a decade of reprogramming to remove the “Can’t/Because” equation from your vocabulary because of this mode of thinking. It’s not the myth of success that is important, it is the pragmatism of sustainability that you should seek.

Above all else seek to maintain your integrity, because you will come to know better, thus, you must always do better. The avid acolyte of the “industry” must be replaced by an advocate of self-determination. The “industry” cannot stop you from writing, performing or producing wherever persons connect with your creativity, only you can, and you have for many years before and after 1999.

The reason is simple: you are waiting for permission from mythical “parents” who don’t know you exist. The irony is that there are a few people standing outside your window waiting for you to come out and “play” but you feel like you must remain on punishment until you can please mom and dad.

You must learn on this journey to continually “break the rules”. As you will soon learn a few musical rules (and then the beauty of breaking said “rules”)I implore you to break established”industry” rules and make your own rules. Convention does not work well for you.

Convention will cause you to analyze and not produce. Convention will cause you to pass up the reality of $100 to support yourself, for the promise of thousands or perhaps millions (you know, in publishing). Convention will cause you to define all your creations as demos, because “You know it’s going to be different and better when we do the album.” Convention will cause you to invest countless amounts of money into the right recording equipment because those aforementioned demos have to at least be done at the “industry standard”. I’m here to tell you that you will come to find that all you need to be creative is something that makes sound, something that records sound and your imagination.

1999 Ivan you have not paid enough attention to the man behind the curtain. You like many others have been awe struck with the glorious facade known as Oz. Yes Oz has many wonderful residents whom I’m sure enjoy their station in life there and their wonderful wizard leader. You are cut from a different cloth and you must take the time to return home to your assigned station… I’m sure you know how to get there… now.

Signed your favorite future you,

2009 Ivan

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.