Does popularity define an artist?

A comment was recently written in one of the Pocket Jazz lessons. It was a lengthy comment but it ended with these questions:

When is someone considered an artist? How many followers needed? Or is your mother enough? (Smiley face emoji)

I replied…

I don’t think popularity is an indication of artistry. In fact, popularity is often a sign of the opposite. I also don’t think artistry is reserved exclusively for only the most technically accomplished players. If we talk about artistic excellence, I think it’s found in the emotional impact an artist has on their audience.

I’ll define art as the expression of the musician’s (painter’s, sculptor’s, architect’s, etc.) perspective on reality. It’s an expression of how they see the world. Are they sharing a perspective we can feel and resonate with?

My belief is that players have more art in them than they know they possess, and more than they allow to flow from their instrument. They may be chasing unattainable technical fluency or the sound of another player or blocked by self-doubt. Those are friction points that prevent their artistic potential from being fully expressed.

It’s such a complicated and important topic, and one that warrants a conversation and introspection. Thanks for asking.

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