Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Tuning Slide 3.35- Aim High!

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…
Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.
– Daniel Burnham

Attitude- how you approach whatever you are doing and how you act on it. With that in mind here’s this week’s Trumpet Workshop Summary quote:

✓ Shoot high- don’t sell yourself short

Yeah, but what if I am only fooling myself when I think I can do that? What if I’m setting myself up for failure by shooting too high? Is it possible to shoot too high? In other words:

How do you know how high to aim?

I found some thoughts in a book a friend recommended to me, Making Music for the Joy of It: Enhancing Creativity, Skills and Musical Confidence by Stephanie Judy. She talks about making a self-analysis of our goals and purposes.
Begin by asking yourself hard questions like these: “What am I making music for? What part of music making gives me pleasure? What kinds of challenges do I welcome, and what kinds of challenges are pointlessly frustrating?” The purpose of such questions is to discover which musical experiences provide, for youth greatest meaning, the greatest connection, the most nourishing environment, the most direct route to your musical self. (p. 22)
Which in many ways brings us back to the question I didn’t dive too deeply into last week: Passion. How do you know what your passion is in order to go for it? In setting our goals, how high to aim and what to aim at, we go back to the questions related to passion.

Each amateur, and most of us will be advanced amateurs who are not earning a living at our music, will have different answers. Even if we plan on being “professionals” there are all kinds of different answers to them as well, jazz, classical, performance, education, etc. Actually the questions are similar in setting the goals. For example,
  • What kind of music do I want to play? Classical, jazz, Americana, pop, rock?
  • What kind of musical tradition do I see myself being part of? Folk, bluegrass, American jazz, Classical era?
  • What kind of ensembles do I want to be part of, large or small? Concert bands or orchestras, jazz big bands, combos- jazz or classical or combinations?
With these questions we are giving ourselves a general direction. Stephanie Judy comments that what we are doing when we find these answers is finding the “welcome soil” in which we can plant our musical seeds.

So here we are, today. Each of us has gotten to today’s musical place. We are where we are, we have accomplished what we have accomplished, we have some idea of what we are able to do- today! This is where we start.
  • Has the type of music I want to play changed?
  • Is there something new I want to learn?
  • Is there a different type of ensemble or group that I want to play in?
  • Is there something I want to get better at doing?
  • What are the strong points of my musicianship?
  • What are the weak points of my playing?
  • What are the ways I can apply the stronger points to the weaker points in order to improve?
Then aim and plan. Set the goals and do them.

We are talking about an attitude of passion AND openness in this post. The passion is what excites us and keeps us practicing even when it would appear to others to be “dull” or “boring” or when we feel that moment of boredom before picking up the instrument. (Not those long tones again!) The passion pushes us forward because it’s who we are.

The openness is the attitude that says “I don’t know if I can do that, but the only way to find out is to do it.” Stay away from “try to do it” and, to borrow a well-worn phrase- “Just do it.” Pick up the horn and play. Pick up the phone and call a teacher. Make a recording of your routine and listen for where it can be improved. Google the ideas you are thinking about and see what others have done to get there.
  • I WANT to do this, it excites me, and
  • I CAN do this if I am willing to work on it.
But what if I fail? What if I’m not talented enough? What if…?

Okay, what if the sky falls tomorrow or the promised warm weather goes south for the winter? See how silly that can sound. “What if?” is good, old Self One being its over-analytic and fearful self. It’s selling Self Two short. Again. Don’t let it happen.

Do it and see what happens. Not everyone can hit a double high C, no matter what some people say. But if we don’t aim at it, we won’t get up to the G a fourth below it. Not everyone can move their fingers as fast as Dizzy or Freddie, but we won’t know how fast until we do it.

And yes, “professionals” do have more specific time they spend on their work. Those of us who have other jobs spend as much time on our “professions” as “professional” musicians do. But that can still leave a great deal of time to do what we want to do with our musicianship. That does not mean we are second-class musicians. I will never be asked why I wasn’t as good as Doc or Maynard. I should be asked, “Are you as good as you can be?” The answer is, naturally, “Not yet but I’m working on it.”

One last thought on attitude. See how this might change you attitude if you are worried about that amateur-professional dichotomy. If you are an “amateur” and have no plans to become “professional” Stephanie Judy has a reminder that puts our “amateur” music-making in perspective and can change our attitude.
To be an amateur is to be, literally, a lover. An amateur pursues a thing for itself alone, not for profit, recognition, or perfection in others’ eyes, but purely as an end in itself. In many ways, there is no higher calling than that of amateur. So be proud of your amateur status. (p. 27)

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