Ahh, Winter Break. I love this time of year. Before my dear students misunderstand: I miss them dearly, but the change in routine presents an opportunity to assess our current path. The role we play in our own future is critical. Practicing, instrument, mentors, classes, parents --- it is all secondary to YOU.
So the heart of this blog: What are YOU doing to reach your goals?
I travel frequently and work with students of varying levels across the world. Below, I list five areas I have noticed limit students …
Perhaps this is surprising to see on the list. We, after all are training to perform. In my observation, many wait for performances to be assigned by teachers and ensembles. Do not wait: volunteer. Seek opportunities to perform. Create opportunities to perform. The more you are playing in the public sphere, the more comfortable you are performing in the public sphere.
It is easy to grow comfortable in your present environment. Exposure to new ideas, differing players, and the true scope of your peers is paramount to your success. Take advantage of Summer Festivals and Winter Workshops. Travel to regional Double Reed Days. Take lessons with guest artists.
The number one reason quoted for not attending festivals, workshops, and double reed days is money. I observe students wearing $1000 wardrobes, driving Audis, and discussing Friday nights’ out. Prioritize your bassooning.
Many do not fall into the latter category. Communities and universities have multiple ‘research’ grants for students. Few artists/musicians apply. Look into these funds – a world will open to you. My students have received grants to attend festivals, conferences, and workshops in Italy, England, New York City, and further domestic locations.
It is always disheartening to work with an individual who has not “googled” their composer, less yet listened to multiple recordings. In an era of Naxos, YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Oxford Music Online, ArkivMusic, WorldCat, and, well, Google … being unfamiliar with a piece you are playing is akin to laziness.
Come on, you know I’m right …
I have saved this for last because these can turn addictive for many students! For some, however, this word “competition” elicits the fear of God. Preparing for a competition is equivalent to professionally recording. It requires consistency of the highest level in technique, musical line, intonation, timbre, and confidence. It also requires players to remain on the same repertoire for quite a while to reach these lofty goals. I strongly recommend players pursuing performance challenge themselves to enter a competition and press themselves to rise to the occasion. Regardless of the outcome, the process will improve you ten-fold.
Best of luck in your Winter Break assessment. Drop a line and let me know what you are discovering!
As always: Happy Practicing.