Being Brave is at the Heart of Being a Musician

by Monica Shriver

Learning to play jazz is about more than technique and theory. It’s about more than musicality and groove. It’s more than music. Charlie Parker said “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn,” and it’s that “living” part that I want to discuss now. Being Brave is at the heart of it.

Regardless of how long you have been a musician, student, or educator (or all of the above) we have all experienced moments where we needed to be Brave. But how do we handle those moments, especially while they are happening? What mental messages and support systems do we need to have in place to make a Brave choice? At what points in our careers does this matter the most?

This is a subject very close to my heart and I’ve discussed it in many different contexts for a long time. The overwhelming responses to those discussions from others in the community has shown me that it’s become an undeniably important conversation that we need to nurture more.

The challenge is that being Brave means different things to different people. Here are some examples:

  • Performing in front of a disengaged audience
  • Creating a website
  • Continuing to practice even when it’s frustrating
  • Asking for help
  • Learning something new

This list can go on forever, with examples big and small. But the core of all these things is realizing it’s a process to get there.


Brave is an Action

One of the best parts of talking about this so much is hearing stories from the jazz community about how this simple word BRAVE is creating a movement of courage and action.

One story happened after my clinic at the 2018 conference on Being Brave and Finding Your Creative Confidence. After my clinic ended, a lady came up to me with a huge smile on her face. She shared with me that she was a local singer from Dallas and that she had purchased a one-day pass to the conference. She had brought with her one only copy of her press kit had been carrying it around with her all day.

During my clinic I had told the story of how I met Harry Schnipper from Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., (which is it’s own Brave story that I’ll share another time). She said that my story gave her the courage to give him her press kit. It was an important moment for her to take a chance on sharing her work with Harry and I was so proud of her for doing so.


Brave is a Mindset

Stories like this are everywhere. I have heard too many to name (and even struggled to select which one to share in this article). But each one of them have shown me that being Brave is really a series of moments.

It’s a mindset.

It’s a movement.

It’s a not a clearly-marked escalator, but more like an odd set of multiple-sized stairs, rope ladders, and trampolines that all work together to lead you towards breakthroughs big and small. Brave moments build on each other and intertwine with each other to make Brave people.


Being Brave is a Skill

Just like any other musical skill, being Brave requires guidance, focus, and practice – so that you can start, keep going, and make Brave choices along the way. The Braver we are, the more we will try (and sometimes fail), the more we will learn, and the more we will be Brave… it’s a beautiful cycle. To me, one of the coolest parts of this cycle is that it also helps me be a better human.


So what’s your Brave story?

What is a Brave thing that you have done recently? Or your favorite Brave moment that led you to where you are? No, really, I want to know so that I can share in your joy or even serve as a source of encouragement. Email me at

Corey Christiansen shared his story of being Brave

by crowdfunding his recent album.

Monica Shriver is an innovative educator who plays multiple instruments. She is a professional musician, band leader, sideman, promoter, gig creator, improvisor, clinician, teaching artist, presenter, composer, and a Brave Musician. Monica is also an abstract artist and a dedicated hockey fan. Find out more at