Wednesday, January 23, 2019


I was trying to get myself out the door on a cold, grey, January morning. It wasn't easy. I didn't feel like going anywhere or doing anything. But I've still got things to do.

Look, you wrote a nice little piece of music yesterday, and now if you go to church you can make a recording of it and share it with people in only a small amount of time. Plus there is a nice Steinway that needs company and a large organ, and a beautiful space and great people. It certainly beats staying home and being depressed because of the cloud cover. 

It can be easy to succumb to negative thoughts at times. The trick is to turn them around, and if there are no external stimuli acting on you to do it, you have to make the decision to do it yourself.

Wednesdays this semester we are going to be talking a lot about practicing. And it occurs to me that an awful lot of it is simply psychological. That, before worrying about technique, we have to get ourselves there, and we know it will be a challenge, but the question is whether the result will be worth it. And that question depends largely on how we frame it. What is going on in our heads? Is it sufficiently positive to get us to work? How about, incentive driven with a dash of realism and humor? That's my formula. It works for me, most times. And not just at the piano.

It's the same thing I do when I'm running. Come on, this is the last hill! Or, after this admittedly steep hill, you've got an entire mile of down hill running coming up. Or, you can think about it all you want, but this is where you really earn the chance to run marathons. Right now. And you. Will. Do it!

One of my most remembered pep talks occurred when I was a finalist in a concerto competition some 25 years ago, and was trying to psyche myself up for the finals, which were right after dinner and only a few minutes after we found out who made the cut. You spend how many hours sleeping, or eating, or standing in line, or going grocery shopping, or I don't know what? And how many minutes out of all of that routine do you get the opportunity to go out on a stage and play this fabulous music in front of a live crowd, and just knock em out? Right now. That's when. Go for it. These next 15 minutes are your 15 minutes. They're rare. They are wonderful. You get to really live now. Be alive! Do it!

Or something like that.

My internal coach has given a lot of great speeches over the years. And I'm sure it's made a lot of difference. Some people may not have one. But I haven't got the money to pay somebody else to do it. Though at various times I may get encouragement from someone else, there are times when nobody else is around and you just have to soldier on yourself. Or not. And the difference might just be the quality of the coaching. So I take justifiable pride in some of the great speeches I've given myself over the years. Not least because it gives me something to concentrate on besides how hard it is to do the thing I'm trying to do.

Of course, like anything, it improves with practice. The more you do it, the better you do it.

So....get out there and...psyche yourself up!

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