screamwebI stomped in the house, blew past my Mom and slammed my bedroom door behind me. Actually it might have been the first time I had ever done such a thing and I was 19 at the time. But, I was furious at my teacher, the piano, and this thing called music.

As I’ve said before, I did not have a classical preparation for music school. I was way ahead of my colleagues in theory and keyboard musicianship but knew little of classical forms, style, or how to tackle large scale learning and memory. And, it had all come to a head during my lesson that day.

I had spent long hours practicing with little to show for it. I wailed, “But, I practiced more than 3 hours everyday,” I wailed. “Well practice some more!” he roared. Of course, I thought that this was totally unfair not to mention unhelpful. I wanted to give up and quit. 

Now, you might also think that “Practice Some More” was non-specific, unhelpful advice. But it wasn’t. He had been showing me how to learn for months and I hadn’t been listening.It wasn’t the hours that were the problem. It was how I spent them and what I was focusing on. It wasn’t about the notes. 

Of course I couldn’t quit. I loved music too much. I dug in and found that nugget inside that he knew was there all along. I started learning to communicate in the language of music instead of learning notes and I began to blossom under my teacher’s guidance. In the words of Yoda, “There is no try. Do or do not.”

Students who are struggling often assure me that they are trying so very hard. I know they are spending time at the piano. But, is it really trying if you don’t use what was modeled in the lessons in your practice during the week? Is it really trying if I see you driving down the street texting after you have told me you are ill and won’t make your lesson that day?

Trying means striving for excellence in everything. Trying means asking questions and using all you know to answer them. Trying means going beyond what you know now and getting both some nasty surprises and some wonderful ones. Trying means being ok with the fact that this piano journey is never over no matter how good you get.

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