The lights dimmed; the crowd began to hush. As I walked onto the stage, I saw that the club was packed with people. The butterflies in my stomach awoke and began fluttering about, and I felt the urge to turn and runoff. In a dreamlike trance, I picked up my bass guitar and strapped it around my neck. A spotlight cut through the darkness and focused upon the stage, blinding me momentarily. I heard the drummer begin a four-count. Suddenly the club came alive, and resounding music filled the Whisky-A-Go-Go, where twenty-five years earlier, The Doors had begun their musical career. An exhilarating sense of humility and wonder came over me as I thought, “How did I get here?”
My career as a bass guitarist in a rock and roll band has had the greatest impact on my life. Playing in a band was important to me because it represented a challenge: transcending the familiar confines of my life and entering completely unknown territory. I wanted to meet people from different backgrounds and go to places that I might never have gone otherwise. The dark, mysterious atmosphere of a Hollywood night club was a far cry from the neat and tidy math and engineering classrooms I had been accustomed to.
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A year and a half before our appearance at the Whisky-A-Go-Go, bass guitar were about as familiar to me as Swahili. When I started playing, it was hard for me to believe that I would ever play for anyone outside of a garage, much less at a world-famous Hollywood club. I began playing bass at the age of twenty, with only a rudimentary knowledge of music theory. My only experience playing any kind of musical instrument was limited to two years of piano and one year of violin during elementary school. When some of my friends formed their band, they convinced me that I would make a fine bass player. (I believe their assessment was based more on our friendship than on any real evaluation of my musical ability.) I consented, and we started our first band.
We rehearsed in a friend’s garage. Learning to play an instrument was difficult; learning to play an instrument while learning how to play with a band was a test of sheer endurance and willpower. However, through persistence, patience, and constant, never-ending practice, my playing ability developed rapidly. We would practice three to four nights a week as a band, and I would practice at least six nights a week individually for several hours. We played mostly original music — a creative challenge that required a great deal of teamwork and interaction.
My participation in “Hipbone” is an example of my determination to be well-rounded and to improve myself continually in different areas: academics, the arts, and athletics. During college, I took classes in math, economics and computers alongside classes in theatre arts and English. Prior to playing in a band, I had had only modest academic success. I initially entered college as an electrical engineering major, but soon discovered I did not enjoy the heavy emphasis on science. As a result, I was unmotivated, disillusioned, and found it hard to concentrate on any of my studies.
I was reluctant to change majors for a long time because, being an extremely persistent person, I did not want to feel as though I had given up. At the beginning of my junior year, I finally changed majors and coincidentally began playing bass. The end result of these two changes re-emphasized the importance of having a well-balanced life and pursuing activities that I enjoy. My grades developed a steady upward rhythm, averaging 3.5 for my last two years.
The band progressed and began to play for live audiences. My first experience on stage was nothing short of terrifying. Afterwards, people told me that our performance might have been better had we not looked so much like frightened little children. Fortunately, we began to play for others more frequently and with greater success, and actually began to entertain our audiences as we became more confident in ourselves. As our successes grew, we began to regard our music more seriously and played at literally all the major Hollywood clubs (The Roxy, the Whisky-A-Go-Go, Gazarri’s, The Troubadour) and received airplay on several local radio stations. The pinnacle of our career was headlining at Gazarri’s for a crowd of over 300 people.
Unfortunately, we did not have a long-term plan in mind and the excitement of performing began to wear off. We had succeeded in drawing and entertaining fans, but not in attracting offers from any major record labels. Problems and arguments began to surface, and one of our players left the band. Eventually, lingering conflicts broke us apart. We went our separate ways, yet still remained friends.
My experiences in “Hipbone” stressed to me the importance of doing things I enjoy and having a balanced life. I hope to realize these lessons at Top 10 B-School while acquiring a well-rounded business education balanced by extracurricular activities and personal development. Playing bass taught me to believe in myself and my ability at a time when my academic record was suffering.
Going from complete ignorance of bass guitar to successfully performing for paying audiences in well-known clubs in the span of a year and a half has given me the confidence and knowledge that I can succeed in anything to which I choose to dedicate myself, including obtaining a business education and ultimately running my own business. My GMAT of 700 indicates I have the raw ability to succeed at business school. I look forward to using the creativity and tenacity I demonstrated in my rock and roll career to meet new challenges at the graduate level and later in my career in marketing, consulting, and entrepreneurship.