From Gags to Pitches

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From day one we are lost, essentially lost, until we find that drive in our lives that helps us pursue more. This is a rather fundamental aspect of growing up. For most of those reading this, and myself, this “drive” came from music. As Cutler states in The Savvy Musician, “music somehow carried an air of excitement like nothing else. […] Somehow, pursuing anything else began to seem like a crime,” and I can certainly relate to that experience:


When I was young, and I am sure most of you had a similar experience, people would ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up? A pharmacist, like your dad, or an artist like your mom?” I am sure there were a few answers over time. Those ideals change constantly when you are a child. Nonetheless, the one response I can remember most was, “I want to be an inventor.” Oddly enough, as I grew up, I never actually pursued my future as an inventor. I just ate bugs and sang songs and climbed trees like most children. And though I may have been “distracted” during my prepubescent years, I eventually found what I see in retrospect as the best way I know to be inventive, music.

Sigur Rós was touring this album when I saw them in Portland, OR

It was that one concert, for me, that changed everything. Not my first concert, but THE concert. I saw Sigur Rós for the first time in Portland, Oregon. I don’t recall what the venue was, but I am sure I could ask my brother, Billy. He was the one that drove me halfway across the state of Oregon to see Sigur Rós. The experience changed my life forever. Even though I had played music throughout my childhood, (piano lessons, trumpet in junior high, etc.) this one concert was what instilled in me a passion for music. Since then my eyes have opened to a new world of possibility. I realize now, only in retrospect, that I actually became and inventor without knowing it. The art of creating music, in particular but not restricted to composition, is the most inventive artform I have ever known. Of coarse, this is not to discredit other arts. All art can be amazingly inventive. Music was just what fate chose for me, so to speak.


The moral of the story is that since I found music, I have been awake to the world and my potential to pursue what it has to offer. The point I am trying to make is that my life went from gags to pitches. I refer to the kinds of gags that silence a person and make them unable to express themselves. We all have gags in our lives, things that pacify us. When I found music, however, my gags were torn open by the pacified ideas that I could otherwise not express. Music allowed me to communicate in a way that words could, and still can not.

An important message that The Savvy Musician successfully communicates is that being proactive in your music career will yield unsurmountable rewards. I absolutely concur. We (the musical community) can all generally agree that our journey through life is accompanied by our music. Rather, we are partnered in a great duet between us (the artist) and the art we yield. As a result of this mutual relationship between music and musician, I have come to realize that the limit of my future success is only determined by how much I limit myself. Ultimately, regardless of the luck we have during our careers, we are still the instigator and should certainly be a proactive one at that. A “savvy musician,” as it were, begets success and the reward reciprocates the amount of effort invested. As we develop our techniques and refine our musical skills, we build a relationship with our art, which for myself I see as an undying love.


I want to thank my peers in Topics of Music Business, particularly Marc Eaton, Ian Walker, and Josh (Boshy) Stevens for fueling conversations and ideas that procreated this article. You guys are the best friends a musician could have.

Thanks for reading Musik Modus Mémoires!


  1. And then, of course , we reminisce about HOW Sigur Ros came into the Mickelson household—through the Cornucopia Brass, no less. As in Jarod Sorum, 2nd trumpet, and , ironically a music degree graduate from Boise State!!. When conversing during a Cornucopia rehearsal about Dean desiring to see Iceland some day,he introduced Sigur Ros to Dean Mickelson, stating that he believed Billy Mickelson would undoubtedly appreciate it, and gave him a CD. Billy HAD heard of Sigur Ros but this sparked interests more . Then Billy introduces such to his younger brother, Eliot, and , the rest is history. Ah! The POWERS of brass quintet involvement in future lives!!!!, Love, Dad

  2. We don’t get to choose who or, more appropriately, what we love. So when passion comes knocking the only thing you can really do is embrace it and follow it to ends of the earth. On April 20, 2005 I saw “Ratdog” at Lupo’s in Providence and had a similar experience as you did with Sigur Ros. I had never played guitar or piano or written any music until the following year, look at me now, 10-12 hrs a day and I wouldnt want it any other way.
    Thanks Eliot!

  3. I wanted to be an inventor when I grew up, too, Eliot. Reading this post encouraged me to realize how completely wrong I was to think I’d strayed from that dream :). Thanks for the thoughts! (By the way, I never ate bugs but I was desparately intrigued by cat food…)

    • Thank you Chelsea. That is really cool to hear from you. It is always intriguing to me how we fulfill our own aspirations without the specific intent to do so. It makes sense and I can tell that you are fellow inventor by your inventive, all-inclusive view of your musical future. I feel honored to be your friend and colleague.
      Thanks for reading!


  4. I was an absolute dog food junkie, although I think I ate (and still do eat) just about anything. Needless to say, Im much happier using my throat for music, although the occasional bug makes me think of the good old days. It’s interesting to me that as we grow up we move from being passionate about everything (I remember spending 48 hours taking apart and “fixing” a lawn mower for my 8th birthday) to being passionate about one thing. Home, it seems, is where the art is.

    • You rock Ian! I ALWAYS appreciate your perspective. You have such a wisdom about how you and how you view the world. Home most certainly is where the heart is. Thank you for your words and thanks for reading.


  5. I definitely agree with the points you brought up. There is a saying that goes around, stating, “I didn’t get into music, music got into me.” It’s cool you stated something along those lines and how music and affect the way one communicates and perceives the world. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for your comments, Briana. I really appreciate that you take the time to do so. It is also good to hear that someone shares the ideals that I present in my blog. Thanks for reading.


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