Wednesday, January 03, 2018

3.28- The Tuning Slide: Goals for a New Year

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

What better way to begin a new year of posts than to talk this month about goals. Setting them, working on them, achieving them, revising them. I will let the quote below tell us why.

When I was growing up I always wanted to be someone.
Now I realize I should have been more specific.
— Lily Tomlin

So this month we will get specific. That’s what goals are all about isn’t it? We move and grow, change and develop. We start with who we are, where we are, and then move into what we might want to become. Simply said, goals are ways to help us grow and realize the potential that is within us.

While I have been starting each post with one of the summary statements on the board at the end of last summer’s Workshop. But this week’s is based on a whole paragraph from the groundbreaking book, The Inner Game of Tennis. We talk a great deal about the principles in that amazing book and The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green with Gallwey. The note I wrote down from the summary simply said:

✓ Be yourself at your full potential (Example of the rose, Inner Game of Tennis, p. 37)

I needed to be reminded what that meant so I went digging and easily found it. Here’s the full paragraph:
When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as "rootless and stemless." We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don't condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”
― W. Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
Our potential is already present before we start this process; at each moment we are right where we are and that is okay! I can’t help but think of our individual genetic codes when I read that. Inside that double helix of genes and chromosomes is all that is needed to make each of who we are. Period. Nothing else is needed. Each cell in our body is completely us. No, I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it, the processes behind it, etc. But I don’t need to. All that I ever was, all that I have ever become, all that I am yet to be is somehow or another encoded. Yes, I have an impact on how that happens. But the potential is there.

What then do I want to do? Where have I been? What have I learned and experienced already that can help me. So, as I think about 2018 I look at where I am and what has gotten me to this point. Last week I did a list of the experiences of 2017 that have created dots that I have connected in the past 12 months. Here are a few of them. They were:

⁃ Dots of inspiration and humility.
⁃ Dots of learning and staying open to growth.
⁃ Dots of discipline and commitment.
⁃ Dots of patience and improving skill.
⁃ Dots of acceptance of Self Two doing its work.
⁃ Dots of sharing what I have learned so others, too, may learn.

What didn’t happen as fully as I wanted?
  • Exercise and weight loss (I know that's not a direct musical issue. But it does go back to the old "how you do anything is how you do everything" mantra. If I can so easily lose commitment and dedication in that area, it could happen in other ways. Not to mention that being in better shape and weight will help me in many ways, including as a musician.)
What do I want to expand on?
  • Increased endurance and range. (Already a huge jump over a year ago.)
  • Improvising. (Also leaps and bounds ahead.)
Making a plan:
James Blackwell has some ideas and ways to keep track of goals and the path to fulfill them. (

Here’s my take on it in a mock-up of just part of what James talks about. Mine is set up on a weekly basis instead of monthly. That’s just the way it fits in my mind. My mock-up shows via an Excel spreadsheet what I am doing. I keep the list in my “Basics” notebook so I can follow along.

Barry's Practice Log Su M T W Th F Sa
Daily Routine
Long Tones x x x x x x x
2 Octav Thirds- Circle of 4ths x x x x x x x
Clarke 1 Expanding x x x x x
4-5 days/week
Schlossberg 28 x x x x
Scales- various Exercises from Arban x Ab x Ab x Ab x Ab x Db
Clarke 4 Expanding x x x
Arban Lessons (Examples)
Basics, Lip Slurs, Chromatics, B, C LS C B
Scales, arpeggios A A A A A
Tonguing, Technique x x x x
Goldman 1-6 1 2,3 2 5
Clarke 5-6, 7-8 5, 6 5,6 5,6
Arpeggio Scales x x x x
Getchell/Concone x
Arban- Characteristic Study
Keel Row/Blue Bells x x
Yankee Doodle/America x
Jazz Improv x x x
Current Band Pieces, etc.

That’s a lot, I realize. It would easily take over 2 hours/day to do it all. That isn’t the point, of course. Even my over-active perfectionism knows that. What this is doing is now giving me an overall structure to my daily practice. The Daily Routine is required and can take up to 35 minutes. It is what I have learned keeps me centered and focused on the very basics.

I said earlier that I want to really work on jazz improvisation this year. That may mean that the Jazz Improv line may need to move up on the chart. Even if it doesn’t, I will have a way of noting if I am truly doing what I say I am going to do. For me, that is the real value of this chart and my accompanying notebook/journal. The charting gives me a great visual that can show me at a glance were I might be missing something. Following James Blackwell's thoughts, I will probably keep tweaking this, moving things around, adding and deleting as I work through things and find new areas to improve.

One of the goals for the year is reflected above in the line- Arban's Lessons. I am hoping to get through a significant part of the classic Arban's book in the next 12 months. I am using an excellent resource recommended by one of my teachers. Eric Bolvin has developed a series of lessons that takes you through Arban in a well-organized manner. It is called The Arban Manual and is available at his web site. (

Over the next few months I have more practice time and plan to try at least two 50-60 minute sessions/day. Perhaps more some days? I know it can be done. Can I do it? Will I do it? The goals and planner will hopefully keep me on target.

Remember, for each of us, like with the rose, the seed - our potential is already present. It can always be changing and growing, but it is also always there.

Last week I talked about Steve Jobs' now famous commencement address where we talked about connecting all the dots. He knew any of us can get lazy and stop making good dots, or get distracted, or find ourselves in difficult situations. He ended that address with words placed on the back cover of an early 70s iconic publication, The Whole Earth Catalog. The catalog's farewell was written beneath a picture of an early morning country road. All it said was:
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Jobs said he wished that for himself and for his listeners. Stay hungry for more adventure and growth. Stay foolish enough to think we can actually do it.

Or as Mr. Baca would put it,
Crazy? Yeah. Crazy Good.

It's going to be a great new year!

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