Blog | May 29

Effort Creates Motivation – Part 1

Quality Music Lesson Practice

Effort Creates Motivation –

Ways to Inspire Joy and Creativity In Music Lessons

Part one of a three-part series

I read an article in Oprah Magazine a few years ago which has always stuck with me as a musician and teacher: “Effort creates inspiration”. It has become a sort of mantra for me at times that helps me countless times along my musical journey.

There have been many times when I know I ‘should’ practice, and need to practice, yet just don’t feel like it. At these times I often don’t feel motivated or inspired. The idea of practicing feels like a chore, a list of tasks to get through. Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there, whether we’re a young student or a seasoned professional. The benefit of being a more advanced player or pro is that we know we must put in the time every day to maintain our current level and/or meet an upcoming deadline such as a performance or rehearsal.

But what if we don’t have a deadline? Or what if we do but we’re struggling with “getting going”, similar to the “writer’s block” that writers face at times?

Here are some ideas that I will expand on in more detail in this three-part blog series!

  • Being part of a musical community is key. This can include chamber music or orchestra, a practice group, or a technique class
  • Attending live performances 
  • Listening to recordings and/or watching high quality YouTube performances
  • Attending lessons (even when you have not practiced well)
  • Attending workshops, camps, or institutes
  • Setting a manageable practice goal (daily, weekly, monthly, annual)
  • Allowing for freeform, enjoyable playing time

For this first part of the series, let’s examine Being Part of a Musical Community and Attending Live Performances

Musical community is inspiring on many levels. For children and teens musical success really depends on music not happening in a vacuum. By this I mean that only having a weekly private music lesson can begin to lose meaning for a young person.

Yes, there is excitement and challenge in learning the skills of playing an instrument but sharing this learning side-by-side with peers who are also learning, as well as performance and ensemble opportunities are where we bring to bear what we’ve learned into action.

Using a group class to learn and practice certain musical skills can be much more enjoyable to learn in the group setting than one-on-one in a lesson. Reading skills, technique (shifting, transposing), thumb position for cello, or improvisation are several of these that come to mind. 

Preparing for a musical performance helps motivate us; we want to be prepared and show what we are capable of. Even the best musicians struggle with motivation. Many colleagues admit they have’t practiced regularly or consistently when they do not have a performance goal such as a concert or audition.

One idea is to create monthly performance groups, opportunities to play something we’ve worked on and give each other constructive feedback. Being an aural art form, we learn so much from listening to each others’ performances and seeing our peers working on some of the same challenges. Sharing practice tips, and seeing our friends progress and improve inspires us to keep working. We can create new friendships by gathering together every month to perform for each other, building special bonds that carry over into other aspects of our lives as well. 

One of our Gifted Music School teachers, Kelly McConkie Stewart, shared how her daughter started a Zoom practice group during COVID. She had some friends log on, mute themselves and practice together! Even though this group was working remotely on various scales, etudes and pieces that were different from each others’, they were sharing collectively in the same work, thereby creating solidarity, camaraderie that helped them get through the challenges of online learning. How much more fun to practice with buddies than on our own! Try implementing your own group music lesson. 

Attending live performances: One of my fondest memories is of a student becoming so inspired after attending a Yo-Yo Ma concert that he immediately began practicing without parental reminders, experimenting with playing more dramatically (moving and simulating the body movements of Yo-Yo Ma). 

I think what is particularly important about this is that seeing Yo-Yo Ma provided a vision for this student to reach. We need this vision in our mind of what a masterful musician looks like and sounds like before we can create it ourselves! This vision is fostered through live performance, where we hear in three dimensions the ringing sounds of a live instrument and the up-close and intimate facial expressions, athletic prowess of a masterful player. This is much more immediate and impactful than listening to a recording or seeing a YouTube video. We experience performances on a visceral level: aural, visual, kinesthetic, and also feel the emotional energy of the performer. Video performances, while extremely valuable and important to motivation (which I’ll discuss in the next series), are nothing equal to a live performance: the sounds and vibration, the three-dimensional humanity of the performer as well as surrounding audience sharing in the experience.

Studio recitals with fellow students are an inspiration as well. When music students see and hear more advanced students perform this also gives them a vision of what they themselves are working toward attaining on their instrument.

The pandemic has limited our ability to come together and attend concerts. However, we can find creative ways to connect and share our accomplishments to inspire each other. As activities open up, the collaboration opportunities will be more available to everyone to further inspire each other.

May your efforts create the motivation you need to further your musical growth!

Suzuki Triangle Newsletter, October 4th Moderator Christine E. Goodner Growth, Beauty & Connection an Interview with Brittany Gardner and Kelly McConkie Stewart | Christine Goodner: The Suzuki Triangle Blog, Author, Speaker, Podcaster


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