Friday, December 11, 2015

The Tuning Slide- Sky Thinking

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Hard work beats talent 
when talent doesn't work hard.
-Tim Notke

I'm actually not going to write about "hard work" but about what I may need in order to do the "hard work." That happens to be having "goals." In essence goals are the ways we know where we are going. Over the years I have been taught at many workshops that goals have to be SMART:
  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Attainable – assuring that an end can be achieved.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
  • -Wikipedia
Which means that my goal
to be an excellent trumpet player
doesn't really fit the criteria. But
to be able to play at speed the first section (12 measures) of Arban's 1st Characteristic Study by January 15
does fit. (And now that I mention it, might be a goal to work on over the next month!) I have a few goals related to next summer's Big Band and Trumpet Camps, including
to be able to comfortably extend my range to that elusive (to me) high C or D
as well as
to be more comfortable with dealing with changes in songs and do an improvised solo.
That goal of comfort in changes is a little too vague to really fit the criteria. If I have some specific activities and exercises that I am using to get in that direction such a long-range goal can tend to be okay.

The Edge of Unachievable is one way we learned at camp to find goals. Maybe we could use the phrase Sky Thinking. Even though that phrase is often used to mean things that are out of touch with reality, why do our goals have to be that way? How about, instead, may be on the edge of unachievable but not quite out of reach. With hard work informing and forming whatever talent we may have, who says we can't get there?

Hoping your Sky Thinking plans have been
Written Down, and traced back to exactly
what to Act on today.
-Bob Baca
Expanding on Bob Baca's wish for us at the end of camp, there are three things necessary for us to move forward.
  • Do your sky thinking. Brainstorm. Take some time to think about where you want to be in a month, six months. I was talking to a young trumpet player the other week who has been working on the Carnival of Venice from Arbans. He has already played it for Solo/Ensemble but hasn't reached where he wants to go with it. He is still pushing his sky thinking.
  • Write them down. Start a journal where you note your sky thinking goals and can see your progress. If they aren't written down, they are less likely to happen. The further out you go, of course, the less specific you can be. You also have to be ready to go with whatever life may throw at you. Don't be so rigid that you will break if something gets in your way. Writing them down may also be a way to share them with others- teachers, family, friends, band directors- who can help you.
  • Translate into action. Ah, here's the work. I am great at spinning ideas and plans into thin air (the "sky" of sky thinking.) I can easily get side-tracked by those pesky squirrels that are everywhere. I can lose focus and direction if I don't have some form of plan of action. It doesn't have to be fully outlined with footnotes and explanations. I'm not that structured. But I need a flow-chart that keeps me on the ball. I need to have some way of knowing what I need to do today in order to get closer to my goal tomorrow.
Put this all together and I end up with a far better set of goals than I had when I started. I also feel better about what I am doing. I know I am going somewhere that I can regularly test by my own criteria.

Try some of these for yourself if you are having trouble in some area of your life. Where are you going? What do you want for you? Get out of the rut by going off into that almost unachievable place.

[By the way- since I listed some achievable goals above, I promise to let you know how I'm doing.]

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