Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Leap of Faith- Trust and Letting Go.

It's really easy to equate the words 'new' and 'scary'.

       Humans tend to be creatures of habit. Musicians are no different (The exception lies in trying new gear. Most of us seem to like doing that WAAAAAYYYYY too much; much to the detriment of our skill sets and our wallets). We tend to get comfortable in a routine and think "Well this is sorta working. I'll stick with it.".

    It's something that beginners and experienced musicians both experience. The trick is to first- recognize it, second- decide to do something about it, and third- allow yourself to take that leap.

    More often than not, this 'leap' is accompanied by either a new teacher or a teacher who has decided you need to to experience something new.

 This is where I ended up recently.

       In December, five days after receiving a degree in Saxophone Pedagogy, I accepted a graduate assistant position at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Therein lay the first leap of faith. I had just said yes to, in less than a month, packing up the old car and driving 1700 miles to my new school. It also meant a new teacher.....with whom I'd conversed quite a bit and actually had one lesson but who I still didn't know THAT well. Was this going to work?

   Here is the first lesson from this blog. There's always a risk when beginning study with a new private music teacher. Now, the risk isn't huge if you are a high school student taking lessons once a week with no real binding committment. However, when the subject becomes one of the teacher being your major professor in college or a grad school situation (especially one all the way across the country), there's a real risk. One must do their due diligence in picking a teacher and there's a little bit of 'going with your gut' involved as well.

     Thus far, my gut has been right every time. It was right when I decided to study with Allen Rippe at Memphis. It was right when I decided to study with Doug Owens at UT Martin (after one phone call) and , thus far, it's been right with my decision to spend a great deal of time on Route 66 to come study with Mark McArthur.

That said, there will always be bumps. I'm already experiencing them in my grad study.

   Since I was a youngster I've been tremendously proud of the sound I was able to develop. I've always gotten compliments on it and I've always considered my sound and musicality to be the strength of my playing. On the other hand, my technique has always been the biggest shortcoming in my playing. It's been a constant source of frustration and nothing I've done has seemed to really move the bar forward in a significant manner.

Then Mark caught something that rocked my world.

    In perhaps my third lesson here he said "Your sound is hurting your technique. You're over voicing and it's causing a lot of tension. We need to get you to stop over voicing."



   I handled it well.....if by 'well' one means pouting like a grade school age student. I even told him "My sound is what makes me unique. It's the one thing that makes me stand out!". I left the lesson thinking "Man I made a mistake. This guy is going to turn me into a robot and I'm just going to sound like everyone else." (the voicing/ over voicing discussion will be a future blog so if you don't know what I'm talking about, it's ok)

   Of course, like most times, the professor has a bit more insight than the student. My sound is still fact, it's actually improving. My fingers are improving. My technique is much more relaxed. My sound is more relaxed. Do you know why?

   It's pretty simple. Following an hour of my bottom lip poking out and me grumbling it finally dawned on me that Mark didn't accept me into his grad program to destroy my playing and maybe I ought to give it a chance. I decided to 'buy in'....and have bought in more each week.

So, what's the moral?

 The moral is simple.For you to grow, you must embrace the concept that you must, on occasion, just take a deep breath and jump into a new concept or technique. If your teacher is the one telling you to jump, 99.999999% of the time, it's going to help and you need to trust them. Yes, absolutely go pout and grumble for a while, It's human nature and probably healthy. After that, however, time to put on your big kid britches and get to work. It may get worse before it gets better. Accept the frustration and plow ahead.

Sure, it's scary.....but isn't that how most great things start out?

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