Instructor Stories: Rob Lowman

Many of our instructors at Vibe go through significant twists and turns in life to get where they are today. Sometimes this means through intense personal challenges, or sometimes this means clarification in themselves as an artist and creative human. This week, one of our great instructors, Rob Lowman, wrote this piece on what some of his search in his musical identity looked like. Please enjoy, and hopefully this might be of encouragement to someone!

Searching for Identity in Genre

At a young age, I was brought into classical music by my parent’s decision. I started taking cello lessons and was thrown into the musical world without knowing exactly what I was taking part in. It became a normal thing for me to practice and perform classical music. So normal, in fact, that I never had taken the time to form my own opinion on the genre itself. Fast forward to middle school, I had taken personal interests in many other genres. Whether it was folk, rock, metal, hip hop…I really started to take ownership of my own tastes, what I liked, and what I chose to perform. Come high school, I started writing my own songs on acoustic guitar and performing at school events and coffee shops, which was quite a different experience than the nerve-racking recital halls I was used to. I began to genuinely enjoy the performance as well as the music I was playing. It allowed for a level of creativity and personality that was otherwise unknown to me as a classical cellist. While the nerves did not dissipate (years later, I still get nervous for performances), they became a teacher rather than an obstacle.

By mid-high school, I became more interested in writing and performing heavier music on electric guitar. I have always loved the emotion, energy, and musical and rhythmic technicality in these genres. It was a musical outlet away from the stress of high school drama, teenage angst, and my frustrations (or lack of interest) in cello and classical music as a whole. I began performing heavily when I reached college, and have kept that passion going ever since. Guitar was the first instrument I learned that I had claimed as my own personal journey, especially having been self-taught. When I reached my junior year of college, I decided to make the switch from cello to classical guitar lessons. This was the first time in my life I genuinely had joy in learning to play and perform classical music.

Coincidentally, this focus on guitar allowed me to learn to enjoy playing cello again, using it as a personal outlet rather than only trying to please the expectations of my teacher, parents, professors, etc. I found myself writing compositions for cello more often, and performing more modern genres of music. Learning to appreciate all the training I had received allowed me to enjoy all the classical music I was assigned as a young student years ago. This experience is what informed my decision to become a teacher.

After learning, practicing, writing, and performing music in a wide array of genres, searching for my “musical identity” in one style, I have come to the conclusion that it is okay to love multiple facets of music. Why not be creative in the way we apply the learned skills of our instruments? And challenge the assumption of what it means to be a cellist, guitarist, pianist, or what have you. While it is still very important to learn classical skill sets for the sake of proper technique, what we decide to do with those skills is open for creativity. Personally, I have found performing in different genres to be a great motivator for creativity and overall enjoyment of music. In addition to learning different genres of music with my students, I encourage any musician who may feel stagnant in their endeavors to be unafraid to try new things. Try something new, and you may find a deeper appreciation not only for a style of music, but for your own personal craft as well.

- Rob Lowman, Music Instructor at Vibe Music Academy.