We have a confession: We may look like happy smiley people, but we are actually highly critical and cynical. And it’s not just us. You don’t have to look far in the classical music world to see the cynicism and pessimism.

So, is cynicism just part of becoming an advanced musician? Or is it detrimental to becoming a top-notch musician. We discuss these issues, and arrive at 5 simple things we can do to avoid becoming a cynical musician.

Listen to the Podcast Below:

Highlights from the episode:

Anna gets us started by citing the definitions of these terms:

Critical: Disapproval based on perceived faults

Cynicism: Distrustful, Pessimistic

One of the problems is that it’s often the “cool” thing to do. To point out all the mistakes that you hear, in order to impress those around you. But maybe that’s just being critical.

“You’re not giving someone the benefit of the doubt. You’re going to chalk it up to some selfish, stupid, or unjustified reason. You don’t want to give something the worth it even claims to deserve, because you think you know better. That’s what Cynicism is.”


There is an important role for criticism, constructive criticism, that is. Especially in the teacher/student relationship.

“‘Hurt people hurt people’ No matter what field you are in, if you’re comfortable with yourself, the less of a need you have to lash out at people.” -Christian

Cynicism has a direct correlation to low self esteem. Tearing others down, doesn’t make you any better.

“It is easier to follow up criticism with action- to correct a situation or improve a situation. But there is no action that comes from cynicism, except maybe an attitude adjustment.” -Jessica

Cynicism is often an attack on someone’s character.

Criticism can be very factual-the nuts and bolts of things. What went well, and what didn’t.

“There’s a healthy dose of criticism in everybody’s life, because that spurs on productivity and improvement. But there’s a fine line where that turns into something negative. There’s a time and a place to be critical, or to put forth an opinion based on criticism, but is hopefully constructive. You can’t control how someone is going to receive it, but you have to say it in love and respect, because that situation can totally move to a cynical, bad place.” -Anna

So to recap the 5 things you can do to reduce cynicism in your life:

1) Worry about yourself: Be above reproach by playing everything as best you can. Good luck with that.

2) Try to play at least one gig a year or semester that is truly fulfilling, even if it doesn’t pay well.

3) Find something to be thankful for and grateful for every day.

4) Imagine that turning your phone’s ringer off is flipping your mindset, from being cynical to being thankful, or appreciative.

5) Put an inspiring quote somewhere you can see it regularly (maybe a mirror, or your case) to remind you of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Links we Mentioned:

Music by Gungor

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The book Anna read a quote from towards the end was “The Crowd, The Critic, and the Muse” by Michael Gungor.

If you prefer a physical copy, you can click the link below.
The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse

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What are some of the things you do to guard against being cynical?