The first step in maintaining the motivation to practice, whether you’re an overburdened student, a recent graduate free from the expectations that go along with weekly lessons, or a band director who is swamped with band boosters, it is important to begin each practice session with an exercise that feeds your musical self. This may sound a bit silly at first but think about the number of tasks we complete each day and think about how many of these tasks we do in for our own health and sanity. Self-care is an important part of maintaining good mental and physical health, so it makes sense to incorporate it into a practice session. Instead of launching into a volley of scales and arpeggios at fast tempi begin by doing some breathing exercises and connecting with your body. Don’t play long tones while thinking about your to- do list; instead, focus on your sound and technique. Perhaps, in addition to your normal etudes and solos that you need to practice each day, you can incorporate music that interests you outside of the normal lesson setting. We are more motivated to complete tasks when they contain some kind of reward for us, so treat yourself!

The next step in staying motivated as a musician is to be gentle with yourself in the practice setting. On the surface this may sound like psychobabble but imagine if each time you met with friends you made snide remarks the entire time. You would run out of friends quickly! The same is true with yourself–– if you think negative, unkind thoughts about your playing every time you practice you will not look forward to the next session. Instead of focusing on negative aspects of your playing, think constructively; instead of saying, “My double-tonguing in the Ewazen Sonata is terrible. I’m a terrible trumpet player and I’ll never play this well,” think, “I need to work on my double tonguing in a few measures of the Ewazen Sonata. I sound quite good on some parts, but I can make some improvements to this aspect of my performance.” Having a balanced view of your performance is a vitally important part of staying motivated and interested in practicing.

A third step in staying motivated as a ala breve 39

musician in a stressful world is to share your gifts with your community. Too often, we approach performances with a sense of dread; we don’t want to make any mistakes, and if we do make these inevitable mistakes then we are failures who don’t deserve to make music. Imagine if a professional athlete held themselves to this standard, framing themselves as failures whenever they made a mistake in a game. If they did, there would not be many sporting events! We should approach our performances in the same manner—mistakes happen, but what matters is sharing our talents with others. Performances should be events that are highlights of our schedules, chances to see the culmination of our hard work. Looking forward to recitals and ensemble performances as opportunities to engage with people and share a part of yourself can help to reframe the stress that often accompanies concerts.

Here is a final step that can help musicians of all ages and ability levels stay motivated: read about other musicians who have struggled in similar ways and to know that you are not alone in your struggles! There are numerous books written by

athletes, scholars,

psychologists, and musicians about the struggles that accompany practicing and performing at a high level. These books are not written by people who have never dealt with any problems and have lived trouble-free lives—quite the opposite! At the risk of sounding callous, it is important that musicians know that they are not unique in their struggles. This issue of staying motivated and satisfied as a performer has been written about in numerous articles and books, which should be encouraging to all musicians! Instead of living a life of isolation dealing with the loneliness of being the only person who has experienced the pressure and difficulties of facing day after day of practice and self-evaluation, we are surrounded by a supportive community of people who understand this lifestyle and have provided resources for coping with it. It is imperative that musicians take advantage of these resources to battle burnout and depression and live the most fulfilling lives that they can.

Music is a demanding activity that requires its practitioners to be completely engaged physically, mentally, and emotionally in order to perform at the highest level. Because of the demands that are placed on musicians on a daily basis, maintaining the motivation to practice can be difficult. The most important thing that a musician can do to keep this motivation is to keep a positive attitude and to know that no matter what, you are not alone!

Suggested Further Reading

Toughness Training for Life by James E. Loehr Beyond Talent by Angela Myles Beeching

The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey

The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart by Madeline Bruser

Dr. Brittney Patterson is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Montevallo where she teaches Musicology and Flute. She earned her Doctorate from the University of Alabama, her Master’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado, and her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Tennessee. Her research interests are flute pedagogy, the music of Germaine Tailleferre, and music at the court of Frederick the Great.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68