Music Mastery Practice Tips Newsletter, Issue 12
While April and May were the most active months ever on my website, June has continued that trend with great articles, great videos added, and exciting things on the horizon! Site membership has climbed to 245 with 2 or 3 joining every week, and my new Facebook Group took in over 100 followers in the first 36 hours! Here's a review of the great things that happened on the website in late May and early June:
: For the first time ever, an internet advertising firm contacted me and asked to place an ad on one of my blog pages. Another of my articles was graced with a link ad from the same company on an article that I wrote as a guest author on MusicEdMajor dot Net
. This is the first real income I've made directly from my website alone! This comes on the heels of organizing a page on my website specifically for advertisers to get information and contact me to place an ad. Check out the current web stats on my website here
Revamped Reviews Page:
One of the most popular services my web page offers are review articles for various events, products, and services related to music performance and music education. I have gotten a fairly steady stream of requests for reviews this past year, and have two in the works right now. This called for a remodeling of my Articles page, which is now called the Reviews page. It includes seperate categories for events and concerts, products and services, and featured articles. Check it out here
Summer Blog Carnival:
The summer has begun, and between projects around the house, summer day trips with my family, and the website and personal projects I have planned, I'm going to be hard pressed to write blog articles this summer! Therefore, I am looking for guest authors to write a blog article to be featured on my website. Guest articles include a free in-page text or image advertisement! If you are interested in writing an article, visit theSummer Blog Carnival Page
Webcam Music Lessons: Definitely an idea ahead of its time: My webcam music lessons page continues to attract a lot of attention, and even a few skeptics! To better explain how webcam music lessons work, I created a 4-minute video which is hosted on YouTube and embedded on my lessons page. I also moved all registration and lesson management off site to a site sponsored by MusicTeachersHelper dot Com. I met a new webcam student this month, and I am creating some promotional materials to highlight the growing Remote Access program that is part of my teaching duties at PA Leadership Charter School. Check out the video here. Facebook Groups: When you try something, test it out for a trial period, and get little yield, it's time to make a change. In early June, I deleted my old Facebook Fan page that was specific to my website and, taking some cues from a very successful FB Group, created Online Music Education, a Facebook community dedicated to using the Internet to teach, inform, connect, and promote music education. The community quickly surpassed my previous Facbook group and has gotten the attention of several key people in the profession. If all goes as planned, the page is going to be transformed into the official Facebook presence of the new Music Professional Learning Network community, which is currently in its beta testing stage. I am extremely excited and honored to be included as a beta tester for musicpln.org and look forward to the membership of this page growing. I was also asked by the folks at iSchoolBand to be a co-moderator for the extremely busy and successful Band Directors Facebook community. Posting links, answering and posing questions, and keeping that community engaged is an easy way to create an even bigger online presence of music educators! Check out the Online Music Education Facebook page and sing up here.
Recommendation of the Month
Learn to Improvise Jazz Music, Volume 54 - Maiden Voyage by Jamie Aebersold is as indispensible a book as books number 1 and 2 in the series. Every tune in this book is well-suited for the beginning student of jazz music as early on as middle school. I used this book with my Jazz Improv. class at Lindenwold High School in New Jersey, and I'll be using it again as part of a new Jazz Studies class at my current school. Pick up a copy here.
May-June Blog Highlights
U.S. Memorial Day - Tradition with a Purpose: Over the years, I've had a "love/hate" relationship with rituals and traditions. I love the comfort and sense of belonging they create, but I hate the close-mindedness and rigidity they often produce. Memorial Day is one of th... Read more
What Doesn't Work in American Public Music Education and How We Change It: As we approach the end of the 2009-2010 school year here in the U.S., I find myself to be a teacher who has been totally transformed. Talk about professional development! I never thought I'd be teaching music without being a band director. I never thought I wouldn't be directing a marching band program somewhere. And yet, here I am, with... Read more
Wake Up Band Directors! Frank Battisti Lecture at TMEA 2001: It has become quite apparent to me that American Music Education as a profession has never been in a better position to reach more students and affect the fabric of our society. It is also quite apparent that if Music Education as a profession does not seriously innovate and begin reaching more people, public school music education will be marginalized and eliminated from school systems all over the coun... Read more
This Month's Practice Tip: Developing Patience
There are few people I know who can't do with a bit more patience as part of their personal development. The study of a musical instrument can be quite a challenge in many ways, and it certainly can help you to develop your personal level of patience.
In most cases, impatience in playing a musical instrument comes in one of two forms:
- Impatience with reaching the final product: a clean, expressive musical performance - or perhaps a particular skill on the instrument. Or...
- Impatience with yourself for physically not being able to perform a particular skill, musical passage, etc.
Both of these cases involve our expectations and not living up to them, but they really come from two different levels of experience in musical performance. The first type of impatience that stems from not having a finished product tends to be common among young or inexperienced performers who have not be through the process of preparing a musical performance. Young students tend to give up too soon in the process, or almost immmediate label the problematic piece of music as "the song I hate to play" because they are not willing to invest the time to bring it to fruition. In most cases, it takes an understanding teacher to lead them through the process to a satisfying end result before this type of impatience is diffused by the internal voice of experience.
The second type of impatience, that of impatience with one's own physical or mental abilities, is much more pervasive and common for performers of any age. It is a type of impatience that comes part-and-parcel with being a "perfectionist," or a person of strong convictions and character. People who are intrinsically motivated to master their craft tend towards this habit of being their own harshest critic. It becomes very easy to be dissatisfied with the rate at which one progresses through their skill development.
Impatience is the state of anxiety produced when one desires a future event to occur immediately. As we grow in age and experience, we naturally improve our ability to be patient and wait for desired results to manifest. Some areas of our lives seem to become easier to wait for than others. Quite literally, impatience is the mental desire to be somewhere we are currently not. We mentally project ourselves into a future where we have accomplished the task, gotten the reward, or arrived at the destination. When we compare our current present moment to that mental image, we find the current moment lacking and create our own emotional reaction.
The vast majority of emotional reactions we experience in the course of a day can be directly linked to an associative memory we have from our past experiences. We learn and remember things by association, and those associations are connected neurochemically by emotions. Our emotional chemicals are the way our brain sends a message to every cell in the body about what we are thinking. (Candace Pert, Molecules of Emotion, 1999) It is true that there are also primal instinctive reactions in certain situations, such as the survival fear reflex, but this is beyond the scope of this discussion.
When one understands that our impatience is our mind analytically creating a situation and causing its own anxiety, it becomes much easier to retrain our thinking and minimize the anxiety-producing patterns. I say "minimize" because it takes a great deal of presence and discipline to eliminate anxiety-producing thoughts entirely.
Tips for Minimizing Impatience
Here are a few easy tips for identifying when you are being impatient with yourself while practicing a musical instrument. These tips can easily be transferred to any part of your life where you produce your own anxiety.
- When impatience arises, focus on your breathing for three to five cycles. Breathing connects you back to the present moment (the only true reality - past and future are just potentials).
- Break desired outcomes into smaller, more easily achieved sub-goals
- Make sure your instrumental "to-do list" is never longer than 12 items. Even if the items are simple to accomplish, you mentally will create anxiety for yourself by that list that never gets smaller.
- Become more aware of what you are using as a basis for comparison. Is it your own experience? The expectations of a teacher or applied studio professor? The abilities of professional-level players? Are your expectations too lofty?
- The number one creater of anxiety in our life is time, or the perception that there is not enough time to complete a task or that the task we are trying to accomplish is taking too long to complete. If you have a time limit on mastering a skill, such as an upcoming concert performance, be sure to choose your repertoire carefully so that the skills required can be mastered in the time alotted.
- If the task is taking too long to complete, become aware that you can't rush your own nervous system's process. Some people have a higher aptitude for creating fine motor skill neural nets in a shorter amount of time. The old phrase "You get it when you get it, and not a moment sooner" is exactly applied here. Being impatient with your own mind and body is, when you consider it, quite a silly notion!
- Become aware of when you are comparing your rate of progress to someone else's. They are not you. You are not them. Their aptitudes and experiences are unique to them and should not be used as a comparison, if for no other reason tahtn to have company along the journey.
Impatience, anxiety, and any strong emotions are always dissolved when you become aware of the present moment. Unless you are an inch away from death, there are no problems in The Now. Staying focused on your ultimate goal and taking each step towards that goal as it comes will undoubtedly bring you to where your desire is leading you.
Until next time,
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