It’s been a busy couple of weeks, winding up my corporate career. This week, I’ll formally begin my new life as an entrepreneur. And, in a strange way, my musical life has been the better for it.
It’s not that I’ve been practicing more; if anything, I have had much less time to practice. My sleepless nights have focused on finances, transition issues, and a thousand other things, so I haven’t even been thinking about music as much as normal.
Yet my playing, in some ways, seems better. It is more free, more focused, more musical.
An incident this week brought this thought home. I went to orchestra rehearsal, feeling very guilty because I hadn’t even opened the violin case since rehearsal the week before. We’re only a few rehearsals away from our next concert (April 16th), so it was a very intense session. Somewhere during the rehearsal, I sort of mentally sat back and reminded myself how much I enjoy playing in an orchestra again, and let the sound of the entire group wash over me. I stopped listening so hard to myself, and became more focused on the ensemble. After that, I noticed that my own playing improved!
What is going on here?
Were my recent piano lessons, with a new focus on chords and improvisation, working magic already? My gut said perhaps a little, but that couldn’t account for what I felt during those moments in rehearsal.
The puzzle led me to pick up a book that had been floating around the house for the past year unread. It’s called Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner.
Werner has a lot to say about how music was drummed out of the kids of the Baby Boom, by a combination of the public school system, the culture, and television. Yet what resonated most was his statement that many people are limited in what they can achieve with an intrument because of a fear of playing. We become our own worst critics, he says, because we fear we won’t be good enough, or we’ll make a mistake, or we’ll be found lacking in some way. We listen too hard to the tyrant inside our head, instead of relaxing and just letting the music happen.
So in the end, because I hadn’t practiced much, I didn’t expect much of myself. That left me freer to just feel the music and let it come, rather than play the music.
Does that mean I should never practice? Of course not.
But the experience has left me seconding Werner’s admonition to Be Kind to Yourself. Remember that this is FUN, and you can let yourself enjoy it.