I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic.” I like books about creativity and fearless living, I have quite a collection and enjoyed her view on the subject.
I consider the life that I live a creative life – I dropped out of college (to later finish my degree in Expressive Art with a personal emphasis on leadership and healing) to wander around Portland, OR and participate in an Artist’s Way group and learn to meditate and feed myself after spending three months wandering around Europe and looking at art. I’ve spent time as a very underpaid professional aerial dancer and been the lead choreographer on a couple of projects. I’ve journaled pretty consistently since I was 10 and have a few poems in print. I consider myself to be crafty and have made most of the plates and bowls in my house during a pottery phase, nearly all the decorations on the Christmas tree, a fair amount of the art on our walls, and a good collection of the stuffed animals that the little one is enjoying right now.
One of the things that Gilbert recommends is following curiosity (rather than passion because passion can be so volatile). So, where is my curiosity today? Playing m’bira and playing marimba. The pesky desire to learn to sing a little better is still lurking – I haven’t scratched that itch yet – though I sing everyday to the little one and have been paying more attention to singing and learning new songs.
Gilbert also recommended calling on the trickster energy when things got sticky (vs. the martyr). I asked David today how he would recommend me trick some of the issues that I have with performing and he recommended performing with a worship team using my shaman energy. I like that answer and want to keep meditating on this because it seems that I end up on stage fairly often and I’d love to make peace with it – even to the point of embracing it as being part of my path right now (reading that feels scary, who would I be without this resistance to performance and the personal drama that ensues?). Kenny Werner, pianist and author of Effortless Mastery writes, “When you don’t try as hard to play good, you play better.” And I imagine that this is part of the trick as well. I have also noticed the last three shows that I’ve done that if I keep my blood sugar stabilized by eating smart snacks often, that helps too. I’ll keep looking into this.
our 1/21/17 Musical Caravan setup
“Music is the art, the craft, and the science of organizing sound and silence in the framework of time.” – Michael Miller The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory
The November practice challenge was a great experiment for me, and a great way to structure my practice time. I will certainly keep practicing now that the practice challenge is complete, though I might let it breathe a bit more and see how it goes to have the goal of practicing daily but not a specific amount on a specific area and see where that leads me.
I’m sure that areas that need work will be revealed at this weekend’s 12/8 workshop.
Here’s a fun video of our 2016 Harvest Festival Parade – the community band is a great way to play with other folks. . . Monday nights at the Hotchkiss High School band room.
I was starting to wobble on the whole practice thing around day 24. The thought process went something like this – Why does it matter? No one but me is keeping track. I don’t even have any performances coming up for another two months. . .
Being the instigator of the practice challenge helped in keeping me going other than missing one 15-minute stick control session – it matters because I say it does and because consistency does matter. The wobble also pointed out to me that it was time to re-visit my practice goals. It just took a few minutes to look at my goals and to chart out the next several months and what I might like to work on and focus on for that time. Since then, my practices have been easier to motivate for and have been much more fun. It’s amazing what a difference that little goal-setting time made for me.
There is a lot of thinking about practicing and goal-setting out there. Since I’ve already spent some time with goal setting and practice, it just took a moment to re-focus my energy. If you haven’t – here‘s a link to a page to help get started. It can also be helpful to talk with a teacher or mentor to help get you pointed in the right direction.
and a spoken word poem that feels relevant at this time on the planet . . .
After spending a fair amount of time working on material alone this month, and teaching a lovely 5 week class, I remember that one of my favorite ways to work on rhythmic concepts and music is with other people – so I’ve asked David to teach a couple of workshops in December, one on the 4th and one on the 18th. Feel free to contact me through our website: www.embodyingrhythm.com
if you’d like more info.
Marimba Ensemble Workshops focusing on the 12/8 rhythmic feel. Deepen your relationship to this fun & elusive musical time-feel & the inherent polyrhythms held within. This workshop is geared for musicians who have at least some marimba experience or are an intermediate player of another instrument.
It’s been fun to hear from a few people that are taking up the practice challenge (more info here). Yay. It’s certainly working as a motivating factor for me, so thanks for that. Some days it feels like no big deal and not really enough practice time to make a difference, but I can feel the consistency working and it is making a difference in my playing, willingness to take the time it takes to learn something, and musical ability. It’s also a great haven to hang out in when life feels a little crazy.
Last Saturday was the only day that I didn’t do my practice, but I listened to a great live concert – FEAST playing chamber music – so that was fun, and certainly felt like it counted as deepening my relationship with music. It’s been quite a few years since I performed with that crew and it was fun to hear the music from my new perspective from all the time I’ve been putting in with the Marimba Project, music is richer for me now.
In two days we travel to Maryland to visit David’s family – this will add another level of complexity for me to keep the practicing going while out of my routine here at home. Wish me luck.
day 7 of the practice challenge wasn’t particularly breathtaking for me. glad for the consistency and interesting to see how long it takes for a couple of the things I’m working on now to click.
however, as I’m thinking about it, I’m remembering that I used to spend a lot of time in resistance or frustration about practicing – so simply neutral is actually pretty darn good, really.
the only trouble with this practicing thing is that the more I do, the more aware I am of the places where I’ve just been fudging it without really being able to break it down. . . teaching also points out those places. . . I’m trying to be gentle while also getting more precise.
this is how Jonathan Harnum illustrates it in his book “The Practice of Practice” thepracticeofpractice.com/book-preview-sample/
practicing is making it easier to learn parts. yay.
this has been a weird sleep week, but glad to be playing regularly. and glad to know there are some folks out there taking me up on the practice challenge. yippee!
today started a bit shaky – to bed at 12:30 and then up again at 6 with a very awake toddler-guy who was very clear that he was not going back to sleep (though he usually sleeps until 8:30). After breakfast, I sent him to grandma’s early.
Though I had a slight headache from not enough sleep, I made it out to the drum room and dug into a sticking that was throwing me off in rehearsal and it immediately revealed itself. So satisfying to see the practicing working. A half hour (15 min of sticking work and 15 min of other marimba practice) flew by and with enough child-care time to work with David on some music too. Yippee.
And then a nap with the little one who tried to convince me he wasn’t sleepy, but I was sleepy enough for the both of us and he’s still resting (2 hours later).
I’m really excited to try something new and to try to use my enthusiasm for practice (and my need for accountability) to encourage you in deepening your relationship with music.
The concept is easy – add 15 minutes of practice/musical inquiry into your life.
I’ve currently been doing 15 minutes of stick-control (drumming rudiments) on top of the rehearsals and classes that I’m currently teaching and attending. I’ve noticed the difference in my playing. David has noticed the difference in my playing. This is exciting.
If you don’t have a practice routine – how exciting to start thinking about building one. If you do, how exciting to think about adding a quarter of an hour to work on something specific.
I was originally thinking that my 15 minutes would be enough, but I’ve incorporated it into my routine to the point that I want to challenge myself along with you, so. . . I’ll be adding another 15 minutes of marimba specific practice to my schedule for the month of November.
I’m also loving singing to the little one and looking forward to getting some vocal coaching to really be able to use my voice as part of my musical repertoire. We’ll see if that unfolds this month as well. I’ll keep you posted.
Happy music making!