We had the good fortune of connecting with Fred sokolow and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Fred, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I think diversity has helped me survive in music. I perform, teach private lessons, teach classes, do recording sessions, teach and perform at music festivals, write instruction books and videos, and play a number of different instruments in a number of different styles.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Two things that set me apart as a musician: one is my expertise in so many genres and on so many stringed instruments. I’ve performed and recorded in bluegrass, blues, rock, jazz, country, western swing, cajun/zydeco, Hawaiian and folk bands, playing acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, ukulele, Dobro, lap steel, mandolin and autoharp…and I’ve written instruction books and videos that teach all those instruments and styles…around 200 books and videos.
Performing came naturally, and the diversity of my skills helped me survive the very competitive world of music. Teaching also came naturally to me, starting as a teenager. The instruction book career was more of an accident. I had one idea for a banjo book and did it myself (writing, publishing, advertising, distributing) with no intention of doing more books. But one thing led to another, and meeting someone who knew all the publishers and knew the business and believed in my abilities really helped.
I know a lot of very talented musicians who are under apprediated and never made enough money to live very comfortably, so I believe there is a lot of luck involved: who you meet, being in the right place at the right time, etc. But I know it’s good to meet lots of people in the field you’re in, not be shy, and take chances and put yourself out there as much as possible. And play or sing what you believe in.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
That’s tough now during the pandemic. If that were over, I’d take them to the beach (I’m in west LA), show them the typical tourist places (the Chinese theatre, the Griffith Observatory, Beverly Hills, Venice canals, etc.) and some music venues and my favorite restaurants.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My editor and literary agent, Ronny Schiff, was a tremendous help in my career in writing music books. And my parents exposed me to all kinds of music and encouraged me to pursue music as a career when most parents would do the opposite. More recently my wife has been very helpful, coming up with lots of ideas that have helped me get through the covid period.
Fred Sokolow Lynn Shipley Sokolow