new year, new…1’s..?


There are plenty of people that have already broken their resolutions, and I even know a faction of friends that make a serious number of resolutions  for each area of their lives. (Talk about serious achievers.) But I haven’t had luck with either of these tactics as things then to fall off the rails as soon as mid-January occurs.

So instead I am making list of things I wish to accomplish this year, not just generic ideas that could come or go. Something I can measure. After all, that what teachers do right? We measure to assess progress, and then adjust. And so…

Things I will do in 2016

  • learn 1 new flashy cello piece
  • re-learn 1 old piano piece (from back in the day, which was a Wednesday)
  • spend 1 night each week being a homebody, doing whatever makes me happy
  • discover 1 new favorite cocktail
  • send 1 encouragement to someone each month
  • take 1 picture each day that I am proud of
  • go on 1 vacation (at least)
  • update 1 medium thing in my house

After putting this down in writing, I am noticing that it is just 1 thing. Aiming for 1 thing seems small and doable, right? It even seems to even out, as 1 big cello piece kind of equals 1 focused moment each day (sort of…) so it also doesn’t feel like cheating.

What will you plan this year?


small wins

There are all sizes of wins, right? If you set out a goal of sight reading through a new piece, that is a “do it or don’t” kind of win. But what about the big battles, like learning a new sonata or getting control of your vibrato? Those are hard-core journeys that take time.

But who is motivated by “it’s going to take me 10 minutes a day for 2 months to conquer this thing?” Not most. So how do you motivate yourself halfway through this waging war?

Small wins.

Finding what you now can do that you couldn’t do before is quite a shot of adrenaline. You my not be able to play the entire sonata yet, but you have a good grasp of the first page. The vibrato sounds more like a sick cow, but it is an improvement from the “Janis from Friends laugh” that it was! Small win!

So when it feels like you are wading through the mud battling towards the thing you want, take a quick look behind you and see the path you have overcome to get here. And then keep going.


cookies = learning

A parent from my program gave me this activity she uses with her daughter to work on her scales:

27403-cinnamon-schoolbook-cookiesTrader Joe’s sells alphabet cookies which her daughter loves, and if she can build the scale we are currently working on in the correct order she gets to eat the cookies! If some are out of order she doesn’t get to snack on those ones. (Now only if they made number cookies in there too you could work on fingerings to go with it!)

Disclaimer: I am not ever a proponent of equating music to food or constant rewards, but sporadic rewards can be helpful if you use them sparingly and with instruction first. If they become consistent they are no longer effective. But if used correctly they can be fun!

Keeping them on their toes

ImageI love to find new motivators in my studio (and life in general.) Sometimes you just need to leave things up to chance and revel in the excitement of not knowing what is coming next, and the “paper fortune teller” is a great way to enjoy that mystery.

This origami-esque paper game allows the student to choose their fate without knowing the consequence. I have used this in my studio this week to help choose our warm-ups and to loosen up not just our bodies but our brains and creativity as well! A beautiful blog of I Still Love You created two to use: one for chores and everyday life, and a blank one to use for your music practice, choosing who gets to sit in the front seat, or what to eat for a snack!

I love the fact that you get to choose, yet the final choice is out of your control. Click HERE to visit Melissa Esplin’s page and download the paper fortune teller.

Does anyone else have a great way to get through the tough choices of our daily practice?