Today's guest blog is from composer and beloved Stage 32 member Brandi Thomas. Brandi currently attends Florida State University and is pursuing a degree in Commercial Music. In the past four months, Brandi has been hired onto eight film scoring jobs through Stage 32 and is a shining example of the power of putting yourself out there and networking within the Stage 32 community. One of the many things I love about Brandi is her selfless approach to networking, namely her willingness to put others first, contribute wherever and whenever possible and always spreading positivity.
In this entry, Brandi discusses the obstacles she faced growing up with a disability and how that affected her pursuing a career in composing. With beautiful honesty, Brandi discusses how the only thing holding her back was herself and how once she let go of her fear of rejection she was unstoppable. This is an inspiring read for any creative no matter your discipline or background and the perfect way to kick start the week.
I thank Brandi for her contribution to the Stage 32 Blog, as well as all she does for this community.
I have to be honest with you. When I first sat down to write this, I thought it would be easy. But as I try to lead into the story I have for you today, I find myself at a loss for words. I’ve hit backspace, retyped, and hit backspace over and over again. See the problem is, I like to keep things lighthearted and positive, but... my story just doesn’t start out very happy. Stay with me, though - it has a happy ending
I have a physical impairment, for which I was bullied throughout my entire Pre-K to 12th grade years, with a couple of isolated incidents in my earlier years of college. That’s twenty years of being excluded, having people get in my face and yell vulgar names, and having things thrown at me. And you know what? I believed them.
I only put half of my heart into everything I did, because what good would it do? I wasn’t good enough anyway. Sometimes it felt like I wasn’t even there - until people started yelling and throwing things at me again. Music was my one place where I felt safe to be who I was.
I’ve always wanted to be a film composer, although I never believed I could actually be successful at it. I auditioned three times for the FSU College of Music because, what the heck else was I going to do? I wasn’t good at much of anything else. I was finally accepted to the FSU College of Music during Spring semester in 2013 and started music classes the following Fall semester.
During this time I was in the midst of a two year “dry spell” as far as film scoring was concerned. I wasn’t putting myself out there, because I figured I would just mess something up and lose the job anyway. I was probably also partially guilty of having an “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Things started to change in January 2014. One day I said, “what the heck,” and put up flyers at the Film School with my contact info - and I got a job!
This was right around the time I was introduced to Stage 32. I didn’t do much with it at first because “I was in school and working on a film.” Ahem. While these things were true, the reality was that I was downright intimidated to be around all of these creatives who I perceived as being more successful than me, more talented than me, and certainly more knowledgeable than me.
On Stage with RB was my first real interaction with the site. After I listened to a couple episodes, I realized RB knew what he was talking about. So I messaged him explaining how I was not only a female in a male dominated field, but physically disabled as well. I told him how I thought these things would make people take me way less seriously, because that had been my experience in life so far. After I explained all of this, I remember closing with something to the effect of, “Am I wasting my time here?”
First off, I remember being shocked that RB responded to little old me at all. There was something in his response though, that has really stuck with me.
“Your disability has nothing to do with your musical abilities.”
He was right (shocker...). It was at this point I realized that I was letting all of those lies seep into things that were totally separate from my disability. Just because I can’t walk on my own doesn’t mean I can’t write music. From this point on, I decided I was all in. I was going to pursue my passion, and I wasn’t going to let anyone get in my way. So that is what I did.
At the time RB and I had that conversation, I had only scored four student short films. Three of those jobs were in 2011 and one of them was the job I got in early 2014 after putting up those flyers at the FSU Film School. After adopting this new “take no prisoners” mindset, I was hired onto three jobs from October to December 2014 through Stage 32. In total, I’ve been hired onto thirteen jobs through Stage 32 since becoming active on the site in the summer of 2014.
So why the heck did I just tell you all of that? Well, I want you to see how powerful the mind can be. Your mindset can ultimately determine how successful you will be (ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?). If you don’t believe you can do it, why would you put the time in? And if you do put the time in, it’s probably because there is some part of you, however big or small, that knows you have it in you to succeed.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect. You can’t heal twenty years of battle wounds in just one year. I am still a work in progress. But now I know I have it in me to build a career in music, and that is exactly what I intend to do.
If you are out there telling yourself you can’t do it, ask yourself, “Why can’t I do it?” Can the “why’s” be surpassed? If so, there’s your “Step One.” Take it one “why” at a time, and you will soon find that a lot of those “why’s” are actually lies. For me, finding success came down to hard work, overhauling my mindset, and showing people who I really am on the inside.
Depending on where you’re at in your journey, it may even feel like you’re lying to yourself at first. It is definitely a process, and you need to be patient with yourself as you navigate through it.
The important thing to remember is that by allowing yourself to believe the lies you have been told, either by yourself or external circumstances, you are holding yourself back from achieving your goals. What kind of life do you want for yourself?
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As always, Brandi is available for remarks in the Comments section below...