Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Tuning Slide: Crazy Great! Preparing for Tomorrow

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential 
but rather a way of developing it.”
― Anders Ericsson,  

A recently published book has been making some waves. In Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson (psychologist) and Robert Pool (science writer)...
skillfully examine the eternal debate of nature vs. nurture with this thoughtful treatise supporting the latter. The authors posit that deliberate, focused practice is the key to learning and mastering any new skill, whether or not an underlying natural talent is present. “Generally the solution is not ‘try harder,’ but ‘try differently,’”
-Publishers Weekly
Success in today's world, expertise, requires a focus on practical performance, not just the accumulation of information.

 I thought this would be an appropriate way to end this first year of the Tuning Slide. It gets back to the general themes we have looked at in these posts since last September. It deals with intention, practice, passion, having mentors, paying attention. Anders and Pool comment that they
..can report with confidence that I have never found a convincing case for anyone developing extraordinary abilities without intense, extended practice.
The students of Bill Adam's instruction (and their students!) who have so influenced me this past year would agree. They have challenged me, and through me, you to look more closely at what we do in practice. Take it seriously. Find the time if you want to find the skills. Over this past year, as I have shared with you my journey at age 67 to become a much more proficient trumpet player this has been my constant awareness.  Each month I found myself practicing more days- because I wanted to and made it happen. Each month I also practiced longer each day- again because I wanted to and had the increased ability to do so. There are now days when I finish my routine and practice and can't believe what I have managed. Old dogs- new tricks. Yep!

But, as Anders and Pool tell us:
Doing the same thing over and over again in exactly the same way is not a recipe for improvement; it is a recipe for stagnation and gradual decline.
If I keep doing what I have always done I will keep getting what I have always gotten. Sure, I may have more endurance, but I won't have gained much else. One thing I know I want to work on, for example, is my high-note ability. I have a hunch I have been working on that the way I have always worked on it. Yes, I am more able to hit the high "C" than I used to be, but it is not solid or clear. My experience tells me I am not finding new ways to work on it to get me past my plateau. One of my goals this summer at adult Big Band Camp is to find one of the instructors who can help me figure that out.

Well, fleshing all this out will be one of the themes for next year. Which brings me to answer the question
  • What's coming on The Tuning Slide?
First, I'm not posting anything for the next two weeks. I will be at the adult Big Band Camp at Shell Lake taking my next step into jazz and improv. I will be taking notes and developing the next series of 8 posts here on the Tuning Slide- all about jazz and improv and how they apply to life and what we can learn from Jazz about living. I will try to keep it broadly about jazz and not narrow it down to trumpets. This has been a passion of mine for many, many years and now I will take some time to write about it. Watch for that beginning Wednesday, July 6.

I will also be at the Trumpet Camp at Shell Lake the first week of August, taking notes and talking to people, including you, Mr. Baca. My goal will be to develop and expand the thoughts and ideas for year 2. Year 2 posts will begin on Wednesday, August 31.

Let me know if you have any topics you want me to research or riff on. Much of what I do here is my own written version of improvising, which is not, as some people think, simply flying by the seat of one's pants. Send me thoughts, quotes, or questions. Add them to the comments on the blog and I will work on them.

So, have a good two weeks while I regroup and move this blog into the next phase. Hope to have you back in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, don't stop practicing and growing. It is easy in the summer to become distracted. If you want to continue to grow toward your expertise, keep at it.

Let me conclude with two paragraphs from the website, Create Yourself Today about the Anders and Pool book. This is her takeaway from it
It’s not what you are born with or not, that makes you great at anything, makes your performance peak. And it’s not your environment either, at least not the one you were born into.

Your performance at any given field is all about your intent, your readiness, your desire to get great. Exceptionally great.
Maybe even
Crazy great!

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