My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Let me count the ways - a piano collaborator's ode to an artform


I recently had the great joy of giving a masterclass for young pianists who were trying their hands, many for the first time I believe, at collaborating with their peers.  Readers of my blog will not be surprised to hear that I ate up every moment of our time together.  I am a huge advocate for enlisting pianists into the collaborative piano field because I believe there are many advantages of spending at least part of one's time and career in this role, whether one is a student, amateur, or professional.  I also believe our world needs more skilled pianists that are willing to serve musicians of all ages and abilities.  Although I realize I've outlined some of these advantages in at least one other blog post, I'm going to do it again with the hope that something new will pop up this time around and that maybe this post will catch the eye of someone new.

In my mind, here are some of the benefits of learning how to accompany, especially at an early age:

  • It's a social way for pianists to be involved in music-making.  So much of our time is spent alone in the practice room.  It is more difficult, as pianists, to find opportunities to make music with others.  Especially for high schoolers I think this social outlet can help keep someone in the game who might otherwise quit.
  • It gives pianists a sense of purpose and of being needed.  An extension of my first point, solo playing can start to feel a bit selfish after a while.  At least for me it can start to feel like I'm doing it solely because I like doing it or because I like the music.  When I throw another person into the mix, however, I sense a shift in purpose.  It's no longer about "me" but rather about "us."  I like that!  Even when the accompaniment part is one of those "easy" ones that require little practice, I still know that without it the music would not be the same.  Being a collaborator puts me in a role that inspires the nurturing, guiding, supporting side of myself.  It feels great to be needed and for a young person, feeling needed can make a dark, lonely, seemingly pointless world seem a lot brighter.
  • When pianists collaborate they are opening the doors to countless libraries of new and different repertoire.   I realize that as pianists we have so much music at our fingertips that we need not fear running out at any time, but I think most people enjoy having an excuse to check out other composers and styles of music.  Granted, some of it can be downright scary and un-pianistic, (thank you Paris Conservatory for your yearly competitions that seem to have inspired some of the most devilishly tricky piano parts!) But even then, all that different repertoire keeps life interesting and our brains working in full gear.  Maybe collaborators live longer thanks to the intense mental workouts we put ourselves through.  Somehow I doubt there's been a study on that topic.
  • Collaborating gives us many more opportunities to perform.  Having just a few solo performances a year can make every performing experience a daunting one and it makes it challenging to practice performing.  When we collaborate, however, we often find ourselves performing more than we ever thought we would or even could.  It gives us lots of practice in a safe way.  And for me, because I'm in a support role, any nerves I might have tend to be outweighed by my desire to be there for the person with whom I'm playing.  Another advantage is that when collaborating, memory isn't necessary.  For those students for whom memory can be a stressor, being able to use music in performance can be an encouraging experience that leads to more confidence.  In time, successes can infuse courage into music-free solo performances as well.
  • Playing with different instruments and voice types can open up our ears to new sounds and different timbres.  I can often guess when a pianist hasn't worked much with other instrumentalists or singers because their sound tends to be very vanilla.  Having grown up in a fantastic youth orchestra as a cellist surrounded by the most incredible sounds, I have those different timbres, colors, and densities of sound in my mind even when I'm at the piano.  I strive to pull an orchestra out of the piano strings, pedals, and hammers.  Rarely does a young pianist have the opportunity to participate in an orchestra so accompanying with different types of musicians should be a part of their education in my mind.  It gives them a palette of multiple colors, textures, and thicknesses rather than just a few shades of black and white.
  • Working as a team player brings a pianist a different motivation to work hard.  No pressure here, fellow pianists, but in my opinion a pianist can make or break a performance in a collaborative situation.  That's not to say that the pianist has to play the music perfectly - I don't believe in the importance of note-perfect performances because I think that's unrealistic and simply not the point.  But I do think the pianist has a lot of responsibility on his or her shoulders.  Time spent in the practice room is for a very clear cause and that sense of purpose can lead to a pointed concentration that can carry on into a pianist's solo practicing as well.
  • It can help pianists let go of their quest for "perfection."  I think it's safe to say that most professional collaborators learn that delivering a note-perfect performance is rarely, if ever, possible.  I daresay sometimes it's not even desirable especially when we're talking about an orchestral reduction for which the arranger was paid by each note he jumbled the page with.  (I've heard this is why so many of the reductions are as beastly as they are!)  Check out my blog post, "Confessions of a piano collaborator" from several years ago to read about some of my creative escapades on the keyboard.  There are usually lightbulb moments once a pianist realizes that people rarely if ever realize when he or she has judiciously left out notes or artfully re-arranged the music.  And once this revelation has been made, wrong notes in a solo performance don't seem nearly as disastrous either.  The focus instead falls on the music and on expression - always a good thing in my book!
  • There's nothing quite like collaborating to reveal any weaknesses one may have in regards to rhythm and pulse.  To extend my earlier point about working as a team player, it becomes clear quite quickly that a collaborator can't add beats here and there or fudge rhythms as successfully when there is someone else whose part needs to interlock with the pianist's part.  The pianist needs to be the conductor at all times, without fail, all the while also being sensitive and aware of anyone else.  
  • When working with singers especially, collaborating can bring a new dimension into musical interpretation.  Pianists so often have to dig deep in order to come up with a storyline or something to say in their music unless it's clearly programmatic.  Singers have the great advantage of having text to inspire their musical decisions.  Working with vocal literature can inspire more drama and creativity when it comes to the interpretation of solo piano literature. 
  • After some experience, collaborating can improve one's sight-reading skills and can help pianists see the value of developing them further.  I believe that it is very difficult to work on this skill on one's own.  It's much easier when there's another musician playing along, especially someone that's able to play or sight-read at a higher level.  My mother made me play duets with her regularly starting at a very early age.  I whined and groaned about it a lot at the time but I really should send her a bouquet of flowers every week for the rest of her life to thank her for doing that!
  • Rehearsals require a level of verbal communication that will serve anyone well in whichever field they end up in.  In order for rehearsals to be productive, good communication has to happen between musicians that are playing with one another.  It takes time and practice to get good at it but it's so worth the effort.  I once tweeted that if politicians conducted business the way musicians conduct rehearsals the world would be a much better place.  I still believe that to be true and judging from the reaction of others to that tweet, I'm not alone.  
  • If we can get young pianists interested and experienced in collaborating at a young age they will be more likely to use their skills as an adult, regardless of whether or not they are professionals.  I can tell you that especially outside of big cities, there is a desperate need for skilled pianists to accompany in the community.  Whether it's for church choirs, local music studios, in the schools, or in the community, there need to be more pianists that feel comfortable collaborating.  It helps that is also a good way to earn some money doing something social and personally satisfying. 


Can you tell I love what I do?  Sigh...

Those are just a few of my thoughts on the topic.  If anyone has any to add, by all means, please do by commenting at the end of this post! 



Monday, October 27, 2014

New livestreaming project! "Practice on a Dime of Time"

I've decided to get back into livestreaming my practice sessions.  This time my goal is to record in shorter segments, between 10 and 20 minutes at a time which is why I'm calling this series, as corny as it is, "Practice on a Dime of Time."  My thought is that:

  • people don't have time to listen to me practice all day.
  • I don't have time to practice all day.
  • I have a difficult time finding large blocks of time when our piano is available to play since my husband uses the studio to teach much of the day.
  • it's better for me (and most people) to practice in small little segments.
  • it might be interesting and informative for people to see that improvement can actually happen in a short amount of time.

For those of you who have never seem me do this, it's probably helpful to know that I narrate what's going on in my head while I'm practicing.  You'll see and hear me give myself feedback (hopefully in a civil way), problem solve, test out various strategies, and explore musical choices in the process.  And yes, you will probably catch some not-so-good practice strategies as well - I am human, after all.  I actually think there's value in seeing me flail every now and then.

My goal is to do this on a regular basis but I'll be pretty sporadic in terms of what time of day I'll be livestreaming.  I will tweet and post on my Facebook page when I'm about to go live so keep an eye on my postings if you want to catch one.  I'll also be checking the social media streams in between sessions so if you have a pressing question that arises while watching, let me know and I'll try to answer you promptly.

If you miss the livestream sessions you'll be able to watch them on my ustream channel for up to 30 days or on my YouTube playlist at any time.

Here are my three sessions from today.  I particularly love (hear the sarcasm!) the thumbnail image that accompanies the first video - yikes!  I hope you find something useful in watching them and please do spread the word!











Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A brave but beautiful new world


Life has been so good to me lately.  A bit baffling, but good.  I've been adding "workshop presenter" to my list of things that I do and even though this had never been part of my picture and I'm still getting used to being on stage in this different sort of way, I'm enjoying the benefits so much that it's far outweighing the newness of it all.

So far I've presented two different workshops:

  • "Behind Closed Doors - a discussion about what really goes on in the practice room" 
  • "Musical Investigations - making music learning more engaging and musical"

It's been interesting to realize that presenting workshops is a bit like performing music.  I feel each one is still a work in progress and I have a sneaking suspicion that how I present them is going to be different each time but I can safely say that I have fallen in love with the topics and am finding myself energized by having the opportunity to share what I've learned over the past few years with others.  I also love the fact that I walk away knowing a lot more myself from listening to the teachers, parents, and students that attend.  There is such a wealth of information out there and I love being in the middle of it all.


This past weekend I was down in Pensacola, Florida, presenting for the folks in the MTNA chapter there.  I was especially looking forward to this one because it meant I was finally going to meet two twitter friends and fellow bloggers in person, Victor Andzulis and Monika Durbin.  (For folks who don't know much about twitter, this is known as a "tweet-up.")  We had a wonderful time at the workshop and I got to hear about some of the struggles and successes the teachers there have been experiencing in regards to getting their students (and the students' parents) thinking more creatively in the practice room.  I was also really excited this visit to be able to present not only a mini-recital with my dear colleague, soprano Youngmi Kim, but to also give a masterclass for young piano collaborators.  This was a first for me in a formal sense even though I've coached plenty of people in one-on-one settings and I just loved it!  It was a fun challenge for me to tie together everything I had discussed in the workshop in the morning with what how I approached the recital repertoire we were performing and then to help the students get a sense of those same concepts themselves.  Being able to share my love of the art of collaboration and the music itself was exhilarating and getting to hear and see young people playing music with one another while having fun put me on cloud 9 for hours...no wait, make that days...oh heck, I'm still there!!  

Needless to say, I'm hoping that this masterclass thing will become an option for whenever I conduct a workshop.  

So onward!  At this point I have another workshop scheduled in November over in Chesapeake, Virginia and then possibly a workshop weekend in Tennessee in February.  Meanwhile I have ideas for other topics I want to start discussing so I have lots of work ahead of me!  

I'll try to keep my upcoming events listed in the sidebar of this blog so keep checking there.  If you find out that I'm going to be in your area, please do let me know if you want more information.  



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Learning to productively say, "Forget you!" in the practice room

You may already find yourself saying this a lot in the practice room...

"FORGET YOU!$&%&$*&*&%*&#!!!!!!!!!!!!"

In most cases I suspect that phrase isn't being used in the most productive way.  I'm here to turn that around.

Picture this...it's practice time and you've decided to tackle that nasty passage you have yet to defeat. You give it another go...and then another... but you're still getting tripped up every time. Most people I know will diligently persist in this vein until they are ready to tear their hair out. Trust me, I know because I've been there myself. What I've learned to do instead is to ask myself a question such as, "Is there a better fingering?"  This question is a great way to lure me down a different path,  away from the one that ends at a brick wall with my head banging against it.   Often times it only takes a few tries to discover a fingering that enables me to play the passage correctly, comfortably, and musically after only one or two attempts. I love those moments!  Who doesn't?  It makes me feel like I rule the world, that I am the master of my own domain, and that I can do anything.  Corny?  Perhaps...but I'm sorry, it's true.  Must be that adrenaline rush that comes from success and from saying (or shouting enthusiastically), "FORGET YOU!!" to or at your old fingering.

It's not always a less-than-idea fingering that is the issue, by the way.  It depends on the instrument and the moment.  Here's a general list of the options to play around with based on the instrument:

Pianists:  fingerings, hand distribution (which hand is playing which notes)
String players:  fingerings (including which string to play on), bowings
Wind/brass players:  fingerings (that's why there are alternative fingerings!), breath placement
Singers: breath placement, placement (falsetto? chest voice? head voice? a mix?)

While you're practicing, if you are stuck, check to see if you can move past the issue by changing one of these factors.

Exploring more options and daring to move away from the composer's, a teacher's, or editor's own choices, especially after some experience and successes, can be a fun and effective way to practice because it is a sure-fire way to ensure that my mind is engaged.  Problem solving like this can also be incredibly empowering as it reminds me that I have actually learned something through the many years of working at my instrument.   It also saves endless time and frustration in the practice room which is a really important asset of this technique because as I always tell folks, it's what we do in the practice room physically and mentally, that we'll carry onto the stage when we perform.  If we have practiced a passage ad-nauseam without success and with a feeling like the passage owns us, we are going to walk onto the stage feeling apprehensive and wondering what's going to happen.  This technique allows us to take the reins earlier on in the process so that we can feel like we are in control of the piece, even the tricky bits.

I want to end this post with a little story that demonstrates the power of this technique.  Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to play piano at two masterclasses that have been taught by the cellist, Zuill Bailey.  Time and time again he has asked students about shifts that are obviously giving them trouble.  He likes to ask why they are doing it the way they are.  Have they considered another fingering or bowing?  Usually the student can't really respond with a good answer besides, "Because it's in the music" or "My teacher told me to" to which he then asks them how it's working for them.  How often do they get it right in the practice room?  Usually they respond in the negative which leads everyone in the audience and on the stage into a bit of a chuckle-fest.  Why?  Because it's so obvious when it's addressed in this way.  Why should we keep trying something when it's clearly not working?  Why should we expect something to magically work when we're on stage performing in front of a world class artist?  Mr. Bailey then follows up by offering a possible alternative and having the student try it.  Once they hit on one that produces success he then has a little contest between the old fingering or bowing and the new one.  Whichever one enables the student to play the passage three times in a row consistently is the one that wins.  More often than not, it's the new version that wins, surprise, surprise!  In this demonstration, the power of having a choice and of being able to say, "FORGET YOU!" to something that's not working is so clear.

Now we just need to bring it into the practice room and to see how fun it can be to tell ourselves off...in a nice way, of course!

Quick note to folks that try doing this but are still frustrated.  Half the battle is knowing where the problem spots are so pat yourself on the back for at least knowing that!  Then take it to a teacher, a friend, or a friendly practice coach (like me!) and ask for some suggestions.  I'm sure whoever you ask would be delighted to help out if they can.  And if they don't want to help you, you know what to say.  "FORGET YOU!!"  (Just joking...kind of.)

HAPPY PRACTICING!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Want to know what I think about practicing?

A few weeks ago Sam Rao, the CEO and developer of a soon to be released practice app called Practicia, asked me to do an interview with him.  As usual I had a bit of a difficult time keeping my answers short and sweet - I always have so much to say about practicing!  I wanted to share the interview here since we covered a lot of ground.  And if you want to read my blog post about Practicia, just click here.  Enjoy!

PRACTICIA: What started you on the path to thinking about practicing and becoming a practice coach?
EAS: My role as a practice coach evolved very naturally alongside my role as a piano collaborator and accompanist. I spend a lot of time in practice rooms with students for rehearsals and I have a very hard time just playing. Maybe I should say it this way – I have a difficult time keeping my mouth shut, especially when I can tell that a musician is frustrated with a certain passage in the music or when I hear the same mistakes being made. As soon as I started speaking up and offering to help musicians work through problems I realized what a relief it can be for people to have some guidance in the practice room. Of course teachers are crucial in helping students learn the art of practicing but more often than not the time spent with one another is only an hour a week during lessons. Students are then left on their own for 7 times that amount if they practice an hour a day. If they practice 3 hours a day, 6 times a week, that’s 17 hours. That’s a lot of time to be frustrated - too much time, in my book.

The teachers of the students with whom I have worked, have also grown to value my work because I act as a fresh, new voice. It’s like a common issue that parents deal with - as a parent I can tell my child 10 times to do something but have no effect on her. But if a teacher or someone she respects asks her to do the exact same thing she immediately follows through. I enjoy helping teachers by reinforcing and elaborating on what they are trying to teach their students and being there in the practice room to help bring the process of refinement from the studio into the practice room – to help the students become independent “practicers”.

Last but not least, I was encouraged to take my role as a practice coach more seriously when I began tweeting about practicing several years ago. It quickly became clear that there is a lot of mystery that surrounds the topic and I felt it was time to change that. Being open about my frustrations and joys in the practice room and on the stage has inspired a lot of valuable conversation between professionals, amateurs, and students alike and that’s a good thing, I think.


I truly believe people want to talk about practicing and to learn how to improve what they do on their own – my goal is to be there to guide and to cheer folks on in that pursuit because regardless of whether or not they become musicians professionally, the skills learned by practicing well are the skills that are most needed in our society – problem solving, collaboration, creativity, and persistence.
PRACTICIA: What is the value of a practice "boot camp"?
EAS: The practice boot camp gives me the opportunity to look at the whole of what a musician is doing in the practice room rather than just focusing on specific issues that they might have. When people sign up for this service I ask them to videotape themselves while practicing for either one large chunk of time, preferably around 45 minutes, or in smaller chunks. It’s amazing how reluctant most people are to doing this! That, in itself, is very revealing. I then watch the recordings on my own and am able to pick up just about everything I need to know to begin the work of revamping a client’s approach to practicing. Through the video recordings I am able to catch visual and audio cues, many of which are psychological and have nothing to do with technique, that give me a glimpse into what’s going on in the client’s mind. After putting together a detailed list of recommendations, I go over them with the clients, either in person or via the Internet, and answer any questions that they may have. Together the client and I come up with a plan of action for the next week or so after which they make another recording for me to review after they’ve had a chance to tweak their practicing. After another follow-up the client is usually well on his or her way to adopting a new attitude that allows them to healthfully and effectively work independently.
PRACTICIA: How did you come up with the title "Beyond the Notes" for your website?
EAS: I came up with that name back in 2009 when I started writing my blog by the same name. One of the things I’ve noticed with young musicians especially is that there is a strong focus on the individual notes on the page. All those black dots tend to overwhelm rather than inspire. My goal is to help musicians see beyond those black dots in order to see the fascinating language they create and to learn to speak in that language so that their own emotions and experiences can be spoken through music.
PRACTICIA: In your opinion, why do most students struggle with practicing?
EAS: I believe many students struggle because done the traditional way, full of mindless repetition while counting down minutes on the clock, it is usually mind-numbingly boring and devoid of creativity and thought. It isn’t fun to practice that way. And when practicing is mindless, effective practicing tends not to happen which means mistakes are more likely to occur and endless repetitions take forever to be fruitful. We are human. We like to see results. We like to feel successful. The traditional way of practicing, in my opinion, doesn’t get us to that point which is why heading to the practice room can often feel like torture. I truly believe that if we can make practicing a creative process, a mystery that requires us to ask lots of interesting questions, or a game that encourages us to quickly and accurately learn music, practicing can become something that musicians look forward to and not dread
PRACTICIA: What are the most common practice flaws that you have observed?
EAS:
-Playing too quickly or too slowly.
-Not stopping when mistakes occur to figure out what caused the mistake and problem solving.
-Starting from the beginning too much of the time.
-Starting with the easiest material and leaving the hardest parts for later, when you’re brain and body are already tired.
-Talking to oneself negatively rather than giving oneself neutral feedback.
-Not having an understanding of rhythm, meter, and pulse.
-Trying to do too much at once (learning left and right hand at the same time; a singer trying to learn pitches, rhythms, and text at the same time)
-Not isolating problem spots and then once learned, working it back into the fabric of the piece.
-Depending too much on the metronome to provide a steady pulse.
-Not writing fingerings, bowings, breathes or accidentals in the score.
PRACTICIA: How can teachers help improve the quality of student practice?
EAS: I think teachers can help the student develop a healthy vocabulary to use in the practice room. Rather than saying, “That was horrible!” for instance, the teacher can help the student re-think how to address what they didn’t like and to rephrase it in a more neutral tone… “I think I want a more warm sound here. Let’s try that again.” I also think teachers can help students to see what good problem solving can look like. Lessons go by so quickly that I think it can be tempting for us as teachers to jump right in when we hear something we like to direct what should be done rather than walking the student through a process. Time may not always allow for this but a little bit would go a long way. Or perhaps teachers could intentionally set aside a portion of a lesson now and then to do some guided practice with their students

I would also encourage teachers to livestream or videotape their own practice sessions for their students to watch. As teachers, we are like superheroes to our students. I don’t think they realize that we too are human…that we have good and bad days in the practice room, that we get stumped, and that we make mistakes, even. I livestreamed my practice sessions for a while a couple of years ago and was amazed at the positive feedback from teachers, professional musicians, students…everyone. Practicing is an art, but it shouldn’t be a mystery.

With the soon-to-be-unveiled app, PRACTICIA, teachers will also be able to check in on their students’ practicing and to offer suggestions during the time in between lessons. I’m very eager to see how we can use this to encourage more thoughtful, encouraging, and effective practicing.
PRACTICIA: How can parents (especially those without a musical background) help their children work better?
EAS: Instead of focusing on how much time is spent in the practice room, a pretty common thing for parents and teachers to focus on, parents can help their kids choose small, do-able, mini goals. When something gets in the way of achieving those goals, parents can help the student problem solve. “Why are you stuck? Do you know what bowing you’re supposed to be doing? Do you know what fingering you should be using?” Parents can also ask questions to inspire creativity. “What does this part of the piece sound like to you? Does it sound like someone who’s happy? Do you think there might be a conversation going on here or maybe even an argument?” I think parents can also help students to identify when they need to walk away from the instrument when they are getting frustrated and problem solving isn’t getting anywhere. Sometimes breaks are necessary but this can be challenging to accept when the focus is on getting in that half-hour the teacher requires every day. Keep this in mind, though - bad practicing can undermine good practicing in a very short amount of time and the state of mind a musician tends to have when practicing is the state of mind they will have on the stage in performance. Cultivating a positive attitude in the practice room will pay off when it comes time to perform.

In summary, even if a parent doesn’t have a musical background I believe he or she can help the student move away from practicing that is boring, mindless, and frustrating.
PRACTICIA: What do you think about extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation in practicing?
EAS: I am not a huge extrinsic motivation fan myself but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good thing. Ever since I started music, when I was 5, I have been intrinsically motivated and for that I’m grateful. It probably saved my parents and my teacher a lot of stickers and M&Ms too! But I realize I may have been a bit of an odd child. With that said, I think that especially with younger children, rewards can be very motivating as long as they aren’t bribes. (They are different!) I do think, however, that a good goal for parents and teachers is to help make music learning and practicing creative and positive enough that children will quickly become inspired on their own to engage mindfully in practice. They will see that how they choose to practice and deal with difficulties directly affects the outcome and then those outcomes keep improving and they see and hear what they are capable of, magical things can start to happen in a self-directed way.
PRACTICIA: What is the value of practicing away from the instrument? Can it be overdone?
EAS: I am a huge advocate for practicing away from the instrument for many reasons. It inspires creativity and kinesthetic learning; it enables a student to process notes on the page without involving technical issues that arise the minute he or she is at the instrument; it can also be done anywhere, anytime. With younger students I think practicing away from the instrument can be overdone. Students need a certain amount of time with their instrument, developing technique and making musical patterns part of their language. As students get older, however, I think the ratio between at-the-instrument and away-from-the-instrument practice can shift. There are many stories of professionals that learn pieces on the plane on the way to the concert – that’s definitely one end of the spectrum and would be an interesting goal for any musician to shoot for eventually.
PRACTICIA: How important do you think is musical knowledge (theory, solfege etc) in practicing?
EAS: I think it is very important – it is one way to get “beyond the notes” and leads to interpretation rather than just regurgitation. But theory can be intimidating for many students, myself included, which is why I think it’s helpful to teach those things in a way that directly applies to the music students are learning. They are more open to learning the concepts if they can see that knowing the theory can help them make decisions with regard to how they want to play the music. With solfege, understanding what the value of solfege is can make the process of learning it more palatable. I’m not a big fan of the “Just learn it, it’s like taking your medicine!” approach to teaching these concepts.
PRACTICIA: How did you come about writing your book "Inspired Practice" and what is it about?
EAS: My book was a bit of an experiment. For several years readers of my blog had told me that I should write a book but I found the idea very intimidating. To me, my blog is like my personal journal. It doesn’t feel as set in stone as a book. My fear was that I’d publish my thoughts and then the next week I’d change my mind about everything I had written. My compromise was to put together what I call a coffee-table book for the practice room and music studio with nuggets of information that I find myself telling people and myself all the time. Because I’m a very visual person, I wanted to also include good images that would illustrate those same concepts. I also decided to throw in some quotes that I find particularly inspiring, some by other musicians that write about practicing, others by non-musicians. My hope was that people could turn to a different page in the book every day to give them a burst of inspiration for their practice sessions.
I am just starting work on another book that I’m very excited about. I’m avoiding the traditional format again, choosing instead a workbook format for both students and teachers to help encourage creative score investigation that will be flexible enough to be used by students of every age and level. I’m very excited about it!
PRACTICIA: What are your top three bits of advice to students about practicing?
EAS:
- It’s about mini goals accomplished, not about time.
- It’s about process, not the end product and perfection.
- If you approach practicing using your whole body in harmony with your whole mind, with creativity, curiosity, and problem solving skills, your practicing will bring you to a place of security and originality that will allow you to deliver performances you’ll be proud of and that audiences will receive as a very unique gift.