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Why We Practice: The Discipline of Preparing to Fly

I love this video. Watch and see an extraordinary opportunity take shape for one young musician.




David Tolley, after his spontaneous national debut, went on to have a long career as a performer. He wasn't necessarily a household name or wealthy beyond belief, but he had a respectable career that allowed him to make music for audiences for decades. That is a good definition of success as a gigging musician in my book.


However, if he hadn't been ready for this moment when it came up, things maybe would have been very different for him. It's all speculation how things might have turned out, but one thing we do know for sure, when the moment came for him to leap, he was ready to fly.


This is why we practice. Why having a disciplined routine that includes keeping our skills sharp and working toward continual improvement is so essential. David Tolley wouldn't have been able to tell Johnny Carson at this moment to give him an hour to warm up, or that he could come back tomorrow after he'd prepared something. By then, the moment would have passed. No, he seems to have been somebody who had already put in the time to be more than adequately prepared to perform when the moment came. And he not only did a great technical job, he put on a show!

We know that so much of what goes on in the lives of performing musicians is behind the scenes. The little bit that the audience sees could be thrilling, but it's a tiny percentage of what's required to make the show happen. There's the time spent in rehearsal with colleagues, practicing on your own, score study, character development, self-care (not to be forgotten!), travel, marketing, and on and on it goes. There's SO MUCH that is below the surface, that the audience never sees, and much of that can be downright boring, or even disheartening. It's much more fun to do other things, rather than practice those blasted scales and riffs yet again. And again. And again.


I get it. There are days I don't want to do it either. But I also know I've been afforded opportunities to take giant leaps into things I didn't see coming, and if I hadn't been prepared well enough ahead of time, I would have either had to turn those things down or fall flat on my face. Just last year I had the chance to take a short tour in Asia....with only four weeks from the offer to the day I was on a plane. If my technique wasn't ready to go, I don't think there would have been any way I could have been successful or felt good about the work. Because I was ready, I could say yes and start learning the scores, without having to build up the technique in the process.


None of us may ever have the chance to wow a nationally televised crowd with thirty seconds notice, but every one of us has the potential to have opportunities land in our laps from out of nowhere. Will you be ready to take them?


So, what about you? Are you in a place with your technique or your confidence that you could leap if you had the chance? Tell us in the comments how you feel about your level of readiness right now. And if you know you need a tune up or need to finally build that good foundation, message me and let's set up a time to talk about it. I can help you get to the level of readiness you need for your next opportunity. It's work that's rarely ever seen, but it's never wasted.

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