Motivation comes in many forms, but there’s a special kind of drive you feel when you get a response from an artist you admire. When I was 16 years old, I was ecstatic to have received a response from a guitarist for whom I had (and still have) great respect and admiration. Hopefully he won’t mind me sharing that correspondence.
When I was around 15 or 16, I stumbled upon Symphony X, a progressive metal band from New Jersey, and became hooked. Their music is intense, melodic, well composed, poetic, beautifully complex, and just all around killer metal. Their guitarist Michael Romeo was a big reason behind my nerdy obsession over the band. Each new album had a least a few instances where I’d ask “how the hell did he do that?!” and I’d spend plenty of time seeking the answers. Wanting to express my fanboy-level admiration, I sent the band an email, hoping Michael would respond back. Low and behold, he did! Here is the email I sent over a decade ago now, along with his response. It’s short and simple but hits on things that we all need reminding of from time to time… And what a great guy for messaging back. Thanks, Michael!
16 Year-Old Sean to Michael Romeo:
This question is mainly for Michael. I must begin by saying that you are one of my idols. I look up to you in a big way. My name is Sean Thrower, I’m 16 years old and play guitar (with experience in a few other instruments) in middle Georgia. I hope to some day be where you are now and will do whatever it takes to succeed. I want to go to a music school to learn more on composition, theory, performance, etc. I was self taught with my influences being you (of course), John Petrucci, Eddie, Yngwie, Vai, and some classical composers. I was wondering if you had any suggestions that could help achieve my goals in the future. You can reach me at ********@hotmail.com. Thank you for your time. Symphony X rules!
Michael Romeo’s Response:
The only advice I can offer is what worked for me. Dedicate time to your instrument and your craft – playing, song writing, etc – whatever it is that you REALLY want to do. If it is a band – find guys at your level and that are as dedicated as you are – and, ( although it sounds typical ) stick with it . I know alot of guys that were great musicians, but just didn’t stick with it – and gave up without really giving it their all. It is a hard business to be in – and you gotta make sacrifices and bust your ass – but usually, it will pay off in some way – you just gotta give it 100%, take chances and see where it takes you. If you get some great tunes together with a solid band, and hustle to get it out there ( mailing CDs, finding a manager, etc. ) – chance are the right person will hear it and move your career along – it just takes time and persistence. I hope this helps you out.
all the best,
Michael Romeo solo in 2015 with Symphony X
Here’s a studio track from their album, Underworld, called “Without You”.