It’s a Thing of Beauty: June 2014

I spent the last month teaching and touring on the east coast. It’s a gift to have these outings really. Life can get into a habit of itself and it is a good thing to break it. Play new music with other folks, eat different food, walk new trails. Get unfamiliar.

Often, these trips provide a level of music playing and listening that is breathtaking. I hear things I wouldn’t normally hear. Play things I might not normally think of. It makes me think of what living mindfully means and how this beginner mind is connected to the learning and playing of music.

When I teach a lesson, it seems like there are only certain ways that a student is willing to be vulnerable. Some people more than others. Most people don’t want to hear that they should be improving in precisely the area that they need to most. I truly believe it is because somewhere, they know this truth and are just not entirely ready for it. Half of being a good teacher is learning to approach this negotiation with tact and to encourage the student to “see” what could be improved so that they can own this rather than being told it.

I know my weakest traits are those things I try not to see or confront, although I would love for them to simply disappear. What would happen if I started being unafraid to be vulnerable? Would I then be able to to change? I think the same mindfulness practice occurs in music. Change requires humility. Humility is honesty. And honesty- regardless of technical prowess- is a thing of true beauty. So- here are a few ways I might suggest adding this to your practice.

-Remember that the process of improvement is something that all musicians at all levels are engaged in.
-Don’t repeat mistakes. If you hear something that is not beautiful, fix it.
-If all you can do is play something simple, find the joy in it’s simplicity.
-Focus on seeing and then tackling your weaker points rather than trying to be better, faster or “more than”.
-Listen to music that you find to be utterly honest, moving and define with a discerning ear to what it is that moves you.
-Become your authentic self and allow music to come from that place.
-Seek the unfamiliar. Listen with fresh ears.

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