Perspective, and preparing to practice

In addition to my regular writings, I’ve been working on a series of posts regarding the art of practicing. After all, a musician’s life is largely devoted to practicing, and many of the techniques I used to further my musical studies have come in handy since I turned my hand (heh) to writing.

As a prologue to those posts, I’m re-posting an article called “Perspective” that one of my singing teachers gave to me when I began to make the transition from student to professional. While the article is focused on musicians, I believe most of the points it makes apply to any creative pursuit, whether it be writing, art, cooking, riding…any activity that one dedicates oneself to. I give this article to any student I teach who expresses a desire to make music a career, because perspective is important, and often, dear.

Stay tuned for more about the art of practicing…

Perspective

If you can be happy doing something else, do it.

1. No one insists that you be a musician.
2. No one is going to pay you to practice.
3. There’s no job or concert guarantee at the end of long training.
4. Four percent of the U.S. population supports the arts.
5. A musician’s life is not “normal”. It’s a radical lifestyle. You need 4-5 hours a day of practicing or you’re not in the game. The rest of your life has to fit around that pillar.
6. There’s a difference between a life with music and a career in music. Find a place for your art.
7. Art is not, by definition, linked to fame and fortune. Art is simply what artists do. A “big” career is the rare exception, not the rule.
8. “Celebrity is conferred upon on by the mediocre and the rogues, with whom one is then bound to share it.” – Camus

If you have decided that music is your vocation, relax, and adjust your sights.

9. Seek growth, not perfection.
10. Rework your life so that music is first; that’s what your decision was all about.
11. Be patient with yourself. You don’t have the deadlines other people have. It’s your life’s work. “Only the mediocre are impatient; the great know how to wait.” – Pablo Cassels
12. Guard your time. It is the key to your development.
13. Look forward to spending a lot of time alone with your work.
14. Find mentors and supports systems that sustain and encourage you.
15. Only compete with yourself and your last best performance. Yours is a personal odyssey. What someone else does is part of their story, not yours.
16. Get the best information and training you can find. “Genius without education is live silver in the mine.” – Benjamin Franklin
17. Continue to coach with people and seek other opinions.
18. Keep a balanced view of success and failure. The sun comes up tomorrow regardless. “It is nothing to succeed if one has taken great trouble and it is nothing to fail if one has done the best one could.” – Nadia Boulanger
19. Stay flexible.
20. There is nothing wrong with doing some commercial music. It helps pay bills. If it takes too much time, re-evaluate.
21. “Ambition is not enough; necessity is everything.” – Martha Graham
22. Your art will take everything you have – every strength, every insight, every effort, every minute. It is perhaps the most exhilarating and consuming way of life there is.
23. Keep your life simple. Where there is an intense interior life, the outside life needs to be calm.
24. Share your art with others via teaching, recitals, etc. It is of incalculable value and unending personal satisfaction. “You can’t get the news from poems, but men die everyday for lack of what is found there.” – William Carlos William
25. Realize that your gift is very special and affords you experiences others may never have. It is freely given, but you have to pay for it. “If you have a voice, your voice has you.” – Shirley Verrett
26. The more talent you have, the longer it will take to hone it.

27. “Courage is the difference between talent and art.” – Louise Nevelson.

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