Being that I am a bassist, I'm a big fan of Jaco Pastorius. It has little to do with his undeniable chops and facility, and has everything to do with his musicality. I've been playing bass longer than Jaco was alive, and while I can play a majority of what he played, I don't have his heart. I lack the personal experiences that drove him to do what he did the way he did it, so all I can really hope for is to try and interpret what he did through the filter of my own experiences. With that, I can lend my voice to the instrument, and maybe come up with some cool things along the way.
The way that this happens is for me to constantly strive for excellence. Again- excellence is not being able to play a million miles an hour and have all these unending riffs that I just cobble together for the sake of being able to play "well". Excellence is being able to hear things and have the facility to pull them off, no matter what the style of music is. Sometimes I hit the mark, and sometimes I don't- I think I hit somewhere in the neighborhood of about 55%, depending on the day. Also, being that everything I play, I play for God, it's doubly important that I put my best foot forward, all the time, every time. As I get older and wiser, I find that I have less and less time to put up with people who don't see it that way.
I don't expect that everyone who picks up a guitar to be Pat Metheny, or every keyboard player to be McCoy Tyner. I don't expect that everyone will have my overarching, somewhat obsessive need to push themselves- but I do expect that everyone will at least try. Nothing makes me more angry than the statement of "Well, they aren't a great player, but they have a great heart" with respect to giving them a pass on learning their instrument and being able to perform well.
A slight tangent- I've been party to the old "playing worship has nothing to do with performance" conversations. In a word, that sentiment is CRAP. You simply cannot have a musical experience without performance, period. And, that extends to playing worship music, as well as anything secular or any point in between. Everytime I hear someone make this hair-brained statement, I'm struck by the mediocrity that goes with it. It's like demanding excellence is an insult, and those of us who make the attempt at trying to excel are doing so with pride- I suppose that for some, that could be true- but I'd ask those that who really think that to see if they really know what goes on with those things that seem like worship vs. performance at all levels. Do you really think that bands like Mercy Me don't have the very best people running sound and lights, let alone play the instruments? Come on, folks- it's all the same thing.
It's the above statement and the lack of drive by some Christian musicians and church staff members I know that have put the state of "spritual music" where it is today. They're afraid. They're lazy. They don't have a clue. For centuries, the church has led the way in the arts- from Michelangelo to Degas and Bach to Handel, art began as a means to worship. J.S. Bach wrote in the footer of every page of every Brandenburg Concerto that the piece was to the glory of God Almighty. Michelangelo and Vermeer were hired as artists in residence for various large churches in Europe, and created pieces of art that are transcendant to this very day.
Somewhere, we've lost our way. I wish I knew why that was- I think a little of it comes from some folks penchant for overstating and misusing the "causing their brother to stumble" verse in Romans 14. "Stumble" isn't "offend" or "challenge"- it's an obstacle that one places in the way that causes another to fall into sin. God holds us accountable for our brother, and I submit that if all we do is place obstacles in our brother's way that forces him/her into a state of unwarranted and inescapable mediocrity, THAT is more of a stumbling block than if I can play well. Ever think of it that way?
So, what's the point of being able to play well? What's the point of having facility that allows you to twist and turn on a dime? It's simple- to inspire. That's it. That's all. I am truly blessed to know that I have inspired a few folks along the way in my mere musical meanderings, and in turn, I expect those that I inspire to do the same. If someone's desire to be better truly gets in the way of their walk with God, then that is a different thing altogether- and natural selection can and does take over and those people are eventually shown for what they are. In the meantime, I exhort you to listen to things with the idea of making them your own and exploring your heart to see what kind of voice you can add to the instrument that you express yourself with, be it a bass, a guitar, a paintbrush or a voice.