3 Ways to Preserve Music for Next Gen Musicians

This post is by Hypebot intern Hisham Dahud. His Twitter: @HishamDahud.

Skyler 2 We're beginning to make positive strides in understanding how music will be consumed in the digital age, but we've spent relatively little time pondering how the music itself will evolve.

How will it be different? Will it change for better or for worse?

To learn more, I sought the counsel of a musician who's not only been around music long enough to witness it evolve, but who's been a part of it his entire life.

Meet humanitarian singer/songwriter Skyler Jett.

Skyler is a Grammy recognized vocalist who has worked with such artists as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Kenny G. He is uneasy about today's emphasis on image, our reliance on digital technology, and the steady decline in music education – all of which may cause music to lose it's meaning for the next generation.

"At the rate we're going, I'm really concerned that kids will grow up not knowing what a guitar even looks like," Skyler told me at his home in Napa, CA. "It's all a spectacle now. Music is just what draws them in." 

With many schools across America losing music programs in response to dire budget concerns, Skyler feels too many kids are growing up not knowing how to play real instruments and as a result, they do not understand music at its core.

"If we don't have music in schools, it's ludicrous." Skyler said. "Music is educational, it's healing, and it brings people together because it's about feeling. It's our job to pass music down to our kids and introduce them to real instruments, and we're not doing a good enough job of that."

Today, many kids are introduced to music through pop star iconography and sensationalism through popular media. A great deal of youth-pandered culture continues to exist in music, but perhaps one would argue that that could be one of the things holding the music industry back – that its product continues to be primarily marketed towards kids and thus seems irrelevant to everyone else.

As a result, music is placed in similar, yet digestible boxes – so that by simply looking at an artist, it's immediately apparent what they should sound like before even listening to them. This creates more room for stereotypes and can even result in musical discrimination.

It was while on this topic that Skyler proposed three solutions that could aid in preserving music for a new generation of musicians:

1. Remove the Focus on Image 

Skyler: "Music isn't something you look at. It's something you listen to and something you feel. I'd rather have you judge me on what I write, and how I make you feel – not the way you perceive me, or the way you could market me. A lot of people have turned music into a spectacle, but it's not really about music itself anymore. Take a look at all these awards shows… you don't even see the musicians anymore!"

"While image is certainly important to a degree, it's never as important as having outstanding and compelling music. Without quality music, you essentially have nothing but your image. By removing the emphasis on image and shining the light on musicianship, we'll aid in filtering out image-based artists and force many would-be musicians to step up their game."

2. End "Age Discrimination"

Skyler: "Close your eyes and ask a 25 year-old to strike a high 'C' on a piano. Then ask someone else whose 55 years old to strike the exact same note… Can you tell me how old the finger was?"

"There are musicians out there who have been playing music their entire lives, but then suddenly become 'too old.' Each and every musician has his or her own signature and your age has nothing to do with your capability to reach your audience. A room full of musicians playing real instruments is a chemical mixture of sound that will sound different each time around. That's a beautiful thing."

3. Bring Back Real Instruments

Skyler: "Some people need to spend time learning an instrument, while others are born to play theirs. They have a special and natural ability to speak fluently through their instrument."  

"What's beautiful about music is that it brings people together. A bass player will seek out drummer, then will come a guitar player, and so on. It then becomes about teamwork. We're getting away from that. We're losing that human element. Computers have diluted the sound of real human beings. Nowadays, digital technology has musicians spending more time behind a computer screen and less time actually playing music with one another."

"When you get some amazing musicians together in one room, that sound will never compare to any computer."

On a scientific level, music may in fact be something unique to the human brain. The ability to ingest sound in the form of harmony and expression and then have it affect an emotional state may be something completely incomprehensible to non-humans. While music continues to evolve over time, my only hope is that it does so while carrying on that uniquely human element which made it so meaningful to us in the first place.

You can learn more about Skyler Jett @ skylerjett.com

Share on:


  1. Skyler’s has a point. If someone can’t play an instrument, earning a living from live performances can be difficult. I know there are plenty of DJ’s and electronic artists that perform successfully, but there’s still a huge audience that wants to see a guitarist shred.
    On a related note, NPR has an encouraging article about music education. A woman lifts up the youth in her community by providing free music lessons. People like her help keep the evolution of music going.

  2. I saw Skyler Jett speak, and was just as miffed as I am now. As far as age discrimination goes, if an older artist manages to maintain competitive “chops” and remains stylistically relevant, there is no reason why a younger musician should be utilized. Generally, I support the age variable being removed altogether (which may still result in disproportionate employment of younger musicians).
    But the instrument thing… I mean, come on… Is a monome not a real instrument? Is a computer program like Ableton not a real instrument? Is a computer itself not an instrument? Where do we draw the line between piano and digital synthesizer? If we adhere to this proposed traditionalist take on what constitutes an instrument, every band will continue to sound like Nickelback. I think there will always be market demand for the “live feel”, but few artists making the most forward-thinking music out there are not being supported enough by the music industry to be able to afford backing bands. They make do with what they have, and, performance-wise, many artists are making the most out of minimal rigs.
    Sure, the cello, guitar, and their derivatives have been around for centuries. But to scoff at a whole new paradigm of instrumentation is almost embarrassing. Furthermore, just as Ravel and Debussy made humanistic classical music out of Bach’s mechanical motifs, so too will future artists learn to make more humanistic electronic music than fucking TIESTO.

  3. I think the argument about music in schools is wrong.
    Here in Australia, there is nothing like the kind of music education in schools that you get in America, 99% of students will sing a bit of choir in primary school (5-12yr old) and then play some recorder for maybe a dozen hours total in the first year of high school and then that’s it if they don’t take music as an elective subject (and only a tiny fraction will).
    It would be fair to say that the vast bulk of music tuition happens entirely outside the government school system and outside of school hours. Mum’s & Dad’s paying for private lessons after school (your house or the teacher’s) is where 99% of music education goes on in Australia.
    The end result? Australia has always punched above it’s weight in producing cutting edge, international music artists.

  4. I’m someone who is in University right now taking courses to be a music educator, and the state of our music programs is despicable. Music is an area in which kids who AREN’T good at math or english or science can excel and gain a sense of self-worth. All art classes do this, and you don’t have to look too far to find someone advocating a painting class.
    Why is music treated differently? Because the media is saturated with it. We often don’t stop to consider that it is an art form anymore, but it is. And it is in danger of being wiped off the map by underfunded schools and a superficial recording industry. And yet music is the highest of all art forms.
    Who isn’t jealous of a musician? Learning to make music, read music, express music manufactures a confidence and creativity that you really cannot duplicate. Remember the first time you improvised a solo in jazz band? Magical feeling.
    And yet, when administration is faced with a short budget, the music program is the first thing on the chopping block. These classes are the reason some kids come to school at all. It “wastes” too much money on instruments, on music, on chairs and stands and books and soundproofing and festival trips and valuable course time that could be spent on “real” subjects. Well that is crap. If music education entirely falls to private hands, we are depriving students of the chance to gain a reverence and an understanding of music. And, as we are seeing, this just leads to image-based industry types dictating what our music is going to be. We get music without musical value. We as a society really need to examine the extent to which we would like to educate ourselves about the single most expressive and beautiful art form that the human race has ever created, and will ever create.

  5. My belief is that we could learn all we need to know from music and art education. So the funding cuts in public education in the arts are a sad situation indeed. I appreciate Skyler’s other points as well. Unfortunately the concept of art has been consumed by the commercial concept of the consumer, but thanks for keeping the discussion alive.

Comments are closed.