Why Every Musician Should Watch Pokemon
If you’ve ever watched Pokémon, then I’m sure that you are familiar with Ash Ketchum. He’s an overzealous “hero” who travels the Pokémon world with his trusty Pikachu (as well as a few other friends), defeating the dimwitted Team Rocket again and again, and battling gym leaders as he works towards his ultimate goal of becoming a Pokémon master.
As a young freelance musician, I often see my own life as a journey: I’ve traveled with friends, entered competitions, and I try my best to take every opportunity I can to reach my true potential. I’ve also learned that having an “Ash Ketchum” mentality can be extremely helpful.
Whether you have only seen a few episodes or all of them, you will notice a few blatant characteristics about Ash’s personality. First, he most certainly does NOT have it all together. But that’s OK! If he hadn’t accidentally overslept in the very first episode, he would have never met Pikachu at all. Like all human beings, he can be unobservant, prideful, and insensitive. For example, in the first season, after gaining two gym badges (that were basically given to him), he becomes very highfalutin but then loses epically to a trainer who hasn’t accumulated any badges. This seems to happen to every musician at some point or another. For example, when I was in high school, I was the best oboist in my band program and felt very confident about my abilities at the collegiate level. Unfortunately, I actually placed dead last in ensemble placements my first semester at the JMU School of Music. Ouch. Only then, though, was I able to see how far I could really go (It’s a long way, and I’m not even close!). In the show, this loss was when Ash really began to realize how much effort would be needed to become a Pokémon master.
Another major characteristic is that Ash never gives up. When you watch the TV show, you will see that Ash loses. A lot. Every time he loses, though, he learns from his mistakes and keeps trying. A musician, like Ash, can’t be afraid to try due to fear of losing. How many time have you’ve heard a friend say: “I’m not applying to blahblahblah summer festival/music program because I know I don’t have a chance of getting in...”? Some of the biggest stepping stones in my music career have been losing auditions for professional orchestras and prestigious summer programs. Ash Ketchum was certainly not waiting around for one of his friends, or his mom, or Professor Oak to offer him opportunities to help him succeed. He was the one who took the initiative to train his Pokémon, challenge gym leaders and accumulate badges, and finally compete at the Indigo League (which he miserably lost). And with every region he traveled to, he slowly became more successful.
Ash also made friends with others who didn’t share his exact goals. Some of his friends specialized in certain types of Pokémon, such as Misty (water types) and Iris (dragon types). Others sought other means to display their love for Pokémon, such as Brock (a Pokemon breeder) or Cilan (a “Pokémon connoisseur),” or May and Dawn (successful Pokémon coordinators). I find it fascinating that Ash surrounded himself with people who try to achieve related, yet very different goals. It has helped me a lot to meet and spend time with other musicians who do not necessarily share the exact same passions as myself. A year or so ago, for example, I had the opportunity to watch one of my friends compete in a “Battle of the Bands.” I have to admit, I didn’t love it, but at the same time I was completely in awe by the energy and passion that these musicians performed with, and how well they connected with the audience. This is an idea I would love to see more in the music world.
In addition to making friends with many types of personalities, he does his best to show kindness and compassion towards these individuals. This doesn’t however, mean that he is just nice all of the time. Ash and Misty constantly fought, but you could still tell that he cared a lot for this friend. Over the past summer, I had the opportunity to attend a summer festival that indirectly embodied a very similar idea. The performers and composers at this 2-week event were incredibly encouraging. It was truly amazing to see how much people cared about each other’s success. In many instances in the music world, though, I have seen/heard a lot of coldness, jealousy, disrespect, and overall rudeness behind people’s backs as well as right to their faces. Even just a little negativity can create an incredibly toxic environment. It’s important that, through this often stressful career track, we are supportive of each other, celebrating when friends and colleagues are successful, and finding positivism in failure.
To be completely honest, there is nothing that is incredibly special about the plot of the Pokémon series. For the last seventeen or eighteen years, people have been watching Ash Ketchum’s adventures as he travels the Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, and Kalos regions, battling gym leaders, entering the different Pokémon Leagues, making friends, and inevitably foiling Team Rocket’s half-baked schemes to capture Pikachu. There is, however, so much we can learn through Ash’s positive personality. So whatever we “want to be the very best” at, let’s attain those goals with humility, zeal, and kindness. And let’s never give up.