Has anyone ever told you that you should try meditation? Cool, I will too.
YOU NEED TO MEDITATE!
What do I mean when I say meditate?
Meditation is time that you spend trying to quiet your mind. You try to focus on a single thing. I usually focus on my breathing while sitting in a chair. You could also mentally scan your body, or listen to a guided meditation. This type of meditation is basic mindfulness meditation. There are lots of resources online for helping you choose what could be most useful to you. I use mindfulness because seems to be the most useful to me.
Here’s my process:
To me, meditation is the best way to train your mind to focus on what you need to focus on when you want to be focusing on it. There's plenty of research to back this up as well. Basically, it says that meditation is one of the best ways to combat distraction. Some research also says that on average we are distracted every 40 seconds when we work from a computer and it takes us up to 23 minutes to get focused again. Yikes! That means most people spend the majority of their workday either in a distracted state or recovering from it.
Why is distraction a bad thing?
Distraction slows down practice productivity. Your mind also wants you to be distracted by the symptoms of nervous anxiety when you perform.
Why is meditation good for your attention?
It lowers the time it takes for you to bounce back from distraction. This will have positive ramifications for more than just practice and performance.
When should you meditate?
I usually do a quick session of mindfulness meditation before each practice session or performance. This typically happens early in the morning and in the late afternoon or evening. I also tend to cap daily meditation sessions at two.
Give mindfulness meditation a try and let me know what you think.
Thank you for reading!
What do you do when you’ve been rejected? When you’re told what you did wasn’t good enough? When they say someone else was better? What do you do in the face of harsh criticism?
If you want to make a living in the music business, you've got to learn to handle being rejected over and over again. I’m not afraid to say that I have a fair bit of experience dealing with these things. When I’m rejected for an audition or job application, I've learned to view it, even welcome it, as an opportunity to improve. I think to myself, “I'm not going to let this happen again. Next time I come back, I’ll be too good to be ignored.” I use any anger or frustration as a fire that motivates me to buckle down, work even harder to improve, and find the way past the current hurdle.
At certain points in my life I've rebounded from a slight or rejection by finding fury. This isn’t the kind of fury that causes people to lash out or get in a fight; this is the simmering, brooding fury that settles in and makes a home in your mind for a while. This is the fury that whispers, "They said you weren't good enough. Will you let that happen next time?"
Here's an example: when I was in graduate school at Indiana University, we had auditions every semester for ensemble placement. There were four or five orchestras, three bands, and four big bands. The most coveted positions were in the orchestra, or at least the top band. My second semester I was in the second jazz band. I was last place in that particular audition. I know this because Mr. P left his audition notes out on the table for me to read while I waited for him to start my lesson. I think he did it on purpose because he knew me well enough at that point to understand what it would do for me.
I read Mr. P's audition results and at first was hurt. I'm very competitive, and desire to be the best of the best. I also sulked over the dawning realization that I would be spending the next semester in the jazz band (nothing against jazz, but it's not my thing). Most shamefully, I tried to find someone else to blame for this, but couldn’t manage to. It always came back to me. Being last hurt my pride and stung my ego, but I had no one to blame but myself. I was the one who didn't take the audition seriously. I was the one who failed to prepare the repertoire. I was the one who had earned a last place finish.
So what happened next, you ask? I practiced, and practiced, and practiced some more. Going to jazz rehearsals was a constant reminder of my own failure to take my job of getting better at tuba seriously. The fury was there and was fueled as I attended orchestra concerts with my peers playing in the ensemble. Before the audition I'd been practicing around two hours a day. That was barely enough for maintenance; I needed to be working on improvement. Clearly I was not in a position to rest on my laurels. That semester I upped my average daily practice time to around five hours. That summer I increased it again. By the time we came back to school in the fall of my second year at IU I was practicing on average forty hours a week. In the first semester of my second year I fared much better, earning one of the top positions and placement in the orchestras.
I keep pressing on and working hard because I want to become my best self, the best possible teacher and performer I can be. Here’s what keeps me rolling: I don’t blame anyone else for not noticing my end product. I take total responsibility for it and vow to put in the work so that next time, they will have no choice but to realize how much I’ve improved.
Thank you for reading!
Jeremy is Associate Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at West Texas A&M University.