Learning from your heroes (and then finding your own voice)
This evening I was extraordinarily lucky to see one of the titans of Flamenco guitar, Juan Martin, play a comeback concert in a tiny theatre in my hometown. It was skilful, phenomenal, transporting.
And he told this story.
As a young man he learned to play Flamenco guitar using the records of his idol Nino Ricardo, repeating each refrain until he got there. One day he went, from his home in Malaga, to Madrid, and the guitar shop his idol frequented. Who should he bump into? Ricardo praised his rendition of the pieces, gave him a couple of lessons to perfect them, and set him on his way.
Shortly after that, Juan Martin met another of his heroes, Paco de Lucia, and took six lessons with him. He learned de Lucia’s style, too, and built on the lessons he’d gained from Ricardo. Only now, he said, was I able to move into my own style.
He learned from the best, from the people who inspired him, and then embarked on a career that has seen him perform his extraordinary Flamenco guitar across the world, to universal acclaim. The Times called him “...a giant of the Flamenco guitar tradition” and Guitar Player magazine lists him amongst the top three guitar players in the world.
This apprenticeship to the heroes of your vocation is a vital step for anyone embarking on their career. It’s why as we progress we must all mentor people, be open to questions, supportive of effort - and keep ourselves fresh by still learning from our heroes, too.