*DISCLAIMER* This post may be depressing to music majors
So the title of this blog is “The Adventures of a Peace Corps Violist” While this is true, I have gotten some inquiries as to, Sara, are you really practicing over there?
The answer is yes, I am practicing, but it’s hard to keep the motivation going. Before our In-service training, I forced myself to practice scales in all 12 keys, major and minor, C intervals, and triads in different inversions for 30 minutes each day before IST for 7 days. That worked great, until I was in Ouagadougou for 11 days and in training from 8-5pm each day. I fell off the wagon again and I have to start back at square one.
This got me thinking, how important is motivation when practicing?
In high school, you have private lessons, you prepare for those each week and get guilt-tripped into practicing. You also have solo and ensemble competitions and school band/orchestra and that also motivates you to practice.
In college/music school, you have juries and recitals. Juries are playing examinations where you typically have to play scales, an etude, and some part of a major work. You also have orchestra where you are responsible for you part, and if you are sitting principal, you have to lead the section (although technically you should be leading from wherever you are in the section especially in the last chair)
Another form of motivation are auditions. My relationship with auditions has been certainly less than perfect. College auditions are extraordinarily stressful, you go out to the audition site, pay your own way, and then wait for months before you find out if you got in.
In college, there are auditions for orchestra in which you play the hardest parts of the orchestral repertoire for your instrument. They can really tune up your playing on those excerpts, but the way that you practice them sucks any/all of the fun out of playing your instrument. To prepare for these auditions I took lessons with members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and even played for my students during my student teaching.
Unfortunately the audition comes down to how you lay that moment, that day. One of my colleagues accurately described the audition as a snapshot of your playing, and like photos in real life, they can turn out bad. The people on the other side of the screen don’t know and don’t care that your flight got cancelled, your luggage got lost, and you had to layover 3000 miles from your intended destination.On the other hand, If you do well in the audition, all the preparation was worth it, and you feel great. You are motivated to continue and do the best you can.
According to my experience, if the audition did not go well I tend to fall off the wagon. I lose my motivation, and I feel like I failed. Yes, I did everything I could in my power to prepare, but sometimes that snapshot can be bad. And so you sit in the ensemble and play the gig.
So Sara, What’s your point?
My point is that it’s hard to practice here in Africa, I haven’t had a private lesson for over 6 months,no auditions, no juries, and it’s not enjoyable practicing when it’s hot. You have no idea how much I long for the air-conditioned cells that we had at Illinois that were open all night. Also, there are many distractions, donkeys, neighbor children, etc. But I would say that the hardest thing at all is to get back on that wagon. I’m forcing myself to do scales, to really work on my right hand and my bowing, and hopefully by July I can finish the Walton concerto before the end of next summer. I know it’s going to be hard, and the transition from Music School to Peace Corps is not an easy one, but I keep remembering this one proverb
“A Journey of 1000 miles begins with one single step” – Lao-Tzu