Thursday, November 13, 2014

Stay in Ready Position

Gosh, I must be getting old! Or maybe I'm just getting lazy. My personal policy has always been to say 'yes' to musical opportunities. If the challenge appears too great, too scary, too whatever … I say 'yes' then figure out a way to survive.

Last weekend I was in Charleston with my long-time friend, Bart Saylor, and my long-time teacher/mentor, Ken Kolodner. Ken invited me to play a tune with him and his son, Brad, during their concert on Saturday night. I really wanted to do it, but I'm a bit rusty in the performance mode. Not quite up to speed, the brain pathways are not as efficiently connected as they could be if I had been practicing recently with performance in mind.

Instead, the work I've done recently has been more cerebral. Meeting the needs of my students … arranging tunes, planning lessons, perfecting my teaching schtick … has taken up a large portion of the "music" time in my life. Make no mistake, I've learned a LOT. Teaching others will certainly increase a person's understanding of any topic. But, I'm not "performance ready" and I don't like that!

So, it got me thinking. How does one stay "performance ready"?

Real on-stage confidence comes from:
  1. being able to nail a tune consistently
  2. knowing that nailing it isn't a coincidence because … 
  3. you have identified what is required to play a tune perfectly every time
How do you get there? It's all about how you structure your practice.

Keep up the repertoire
Remember the old Girl Scout song? Sing along, now … Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. Of course we all want to continue to learn new stuff, but we must constantly revisit the "keepers" that are on our list. They do fade away without attention.

Establish a deliberate, intentional practice.
Deliberate practice is a highly structured activity. "Instead of mindless trial and error, it is an active and thoughtful process by which we relentlessly seek solutions to clearly defined problems." It's slow. It's repetitive. It requires monitoring. Here's a good article about this kind of practice:

What happened at the concert Saturday night? Come back Friday for the rest of the story.

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