G-OOOOOOOO-A-L-S for the New Year

As 2010 comes to a close, I think it is time to look back and evaluate your goals for 2010 and set new goals for 2011. Did you take the time to write down specific goals? Did you accomplish everything you wanted to in 2010? If not, what got in your way of accomplishing your goals? How did you measure your success or failure? These are all important questions to ask as you set goals for the coming year. It is my hope that after you read this post, you will take some time to sit down and jot down your goals for 2011. I would encourage everyone to post your goals in the comment section. I think it is important to be accountable for the goals. We will periodically check in and see how you are doing throughout the year.

At the beginning of each semester, I ask my students to write down their goals for the semester. I think it is important to write down your goals so you can look back on them throughout the semester and re-evaluate your progress. Once their goals are written down, we talk about the three levels of goal setting and assign their goals into one of the following categories:

Short-Term Goals – These goals can be accomplished in 1 to 2 weeks. These goals could include learning a portion of a solo (Letter A to B of your marimba solo) or an etude from a method book. If it takes longer than a week or two to accomplish this goal, then next time, you should assign it as a mid-term goal.

Mid-Term Goals – These goals can be accomplished in 4 to 6 weeks. These goals could include learning all of the notes of a solo or preparing all of your ensemble music for the upcoming concert.

Long-Term Goals – These goals will take a significant amount of time to complete. This time period could be a semester or longer. These goals could include preparing your music for your recital or your repertoire for an upcoming audition.

As you set your goals for 2011, remember that you may not always be able to complete your goals in the “assigned time.” It is important to reevaluate your goals periodically. I prefer to reevaluate my goals on a weekly basis, generally at the beginning of the week. It takes time and practice to set-up goals and if this is the first time you have written down your goals, don’t be frustrated if you don’t accomplish everything you set out to do. You must evaluate your goals and determine why you succeed and why you failed. If you were able to complete a short term goal in a couple of days, it was probably too easy of a task and conversely, if it took a month, it was probably too ambitious. Learning how to set-up your goals is just as important as writing down your goals. It will take some time and practice, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Trust me, the accomplishment you feel from reaching your goals will be infectious!!

The second thing to remember when setting up goals is to make sure you can measure your success (or failure). Try and set-up specific goals. For example, when learning a new marimba solo, I generally look through the music for a couple of days to determine the difficulty of the piece. At that point, I write in dates at specific points in the music so my goals are visible as I learn the piece. Instead of setting a goal that you want to be a better marimba player, set a specific goal of learning a new repertoire piece each month.

To learn more about measuring your goals, check out the Goal Setting Guide. Author Arina Nikitina introduces the SMART Goal Setting system. The acronym SMART stands for:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely

As we continue to grow as performers and teachers, we need to learn how to set-up effective goals. Take some time and write down your goals for 2011. Once you have these goals, talk to your teacher or post them in the Chattr Section and determine if these are realistic goals. Be accountable to your goals. If you were not able to reach your goal in a specific time period, try to determine what you could do differently next time. Do not get frustrated. It takes time and practice to learn how to set obtainable goals and I am confident that over time anyone can do it. Make it your “goal” to set-up goals for 2011.

We always love your comments and feedback. Leave your thoughts (and hopefully a list of your goals) in the comments.

Have a safe and productive New Year!

Originally posted on DrumChattr on December 31, 2010 by Dave Gerhart.

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The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by Aleksandr Osipov on Flickr.com.

Get Organized to get the Gig

By Adam Groh

‘Tis the season…for audition preparation. That’s right, at a time when most “normal” people are looking forward to a relaxing Christmas break, countless percussionists are gearing up for grad school auditions in the early spring. For that group of people, the break from classes means a perfect chance for getting extra practice time in. With that in mind, I decided to write a couple blog posts about getting ready for auditions. This is the first of those posts…

One of the most challenging aspects of getting ready for an audition is managing all the repertoire that you have to prepare. There is no other musician who has to juggle as much material, on as many instruments, as we do. A normal graduate school audition can include solo repertoire on marimba, snare drum, and timpani, as well as orchestral excerpts on a variety of instruments, plus the possibility of things like drum set styles, multi-percussion solos, etc. There are a couple strategies that have worked for me in the past when trying to manage all of the material that I have to prepare, and I’m hopeful that they can work for others.

The first step is to get yourself organized on paper. Hopefully your prospective schools are flexible with their repertoire requirements which allows you to use the same material at multiple auditions. Begin by making a master list of all the material that you have to prepare for all of your auditions. Group it by instrument, keeping the solos separate from the excerpts. This will show you exactly how much you need to get ready over the next couple of months.

After you’ve got your master list, do some diagnosis. Figure out what things you’re going to need to do the most work on. For example, if you’re putting three xylophone excerpts together, but you have played two in the past, you’ll probably want to spend the majority of your time on the one excerpt that you have no experience with. In short, decide what the best use of your time will be, and weight each item against the others. This method corresponds with Don Greene’s ideas in Audition Success about “red, yellow, and green” labels for things. If you don’t know the book, it’s worth checking out.

At this point you know what you need to do and what you need to emphasize. Now it’s time for the real organization… Scheduling. I always plan out my practice schedule way in advance of an important audition. Not to add to the stress, but graduate school auditions can be an important and life-altering time. It’s not a time to just wing it and hope that it all works out for the best. I get pretty crazy about scheduling. I figure out when my first audition is, and work backwards. I write down days on the calendar for mock auditions, usually putting my first one about two weeks in front of the first audition. At that point I want to have all of my material playable. That gives me a chance to record a full run, take inventory, and budget my practice time as best as I can in the home stretch. I’ll schedule mock auditions with increasing frequency over the last two weeks to get used to playing everything through. You can check out my previous post about that part of the process.

However, prior to that last two weeks I have a very strict schedule. I like to divide my week into two groups… Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. I never plan out Sunday so that I can use it for whatever things I feel the least comfortable about from the preceding week’s practice sessions. Then I divide up my material so that it’s evenly split between the two groups of days. You may notice that by doing this I am not practicing anything every day of the week. That might seem crazy, but it works. The human brain is constantly searching for order and logic and patterns. You can actually practice things less frequently (but more consistently) and have better results than if you were just trying to figure out what to do each time you walked in the practice room.

There are two ways to divide up your material. Basically, you can choose to either do each instrument on a particular day, or you can spread it out so that you play all of your instruments on each day, but alternate the material. For example, you could organize by instruments as such…

MWF – Marimba solo(s), Xylophone excerpts, Timpani excerpts and solo

TThS – Snare drum solo and excerpts, Glock excerpts, Accessory instrument excerpts

In that set up you confine each instrument to a specific set of days. You could also set up your schedule so that you touch each instrument every day, like so…

MWF – Marimba solo (4-mallet), Snare drum excerpts, Timpani solo, Xylo excerpt 1 & 2, Glock excerpt 1

TThS – Marimba solo (2-mallet), Snare drum solo, Timpani excerpts, Xylo excerpt 3, Glock excerpt 2 & 3

There are good elements to both arrangements, and I’ve had success with both. Some of this may depend on your individual situation and practice facilities. If you know that you’ll be able to get access to all the instruments every single day then you could do the second arrangement. If you think it will be harder to get into all the practice rooms then you may choose the first option so that you don’t need to rely on room availability. You may even choose to plan out what time you’ll practice each item on its designated day, but don’t get yourself scheduled so tight that you can’t adjust if necessary. If someone is in the marimba room at 10am on Monday when you planned to practice, it shouldn’t ruin your entire day of practice. Be flexible and move things around so that you can still get to the marimba later on without missing a beat. (No pun intended)

The most important thing with all of this is to make sure that you are giving each item from the master list that you made its fair share of time. That time should also be consistently scheduled so that you can get in a routine and maximize efficiency. As time progresses you can alter your schedule to make up for things that need more or less work. If your snare drum etude is doing great, but your 4-mallet marimba solo needs some more work, instead of sticking with one hour for each, do 30 minutes on the snare drum etude and an hour and a half for marimba.

If you can get yourself organized you will greatly increase your chances of having a successful audition. More often than not, I find that the people who struggle with auditions have not prepared in a way that sets them up for success. Be meticulous with your preparation and organization and it will show in your playing!

How do you organize your time when preparing for auditions? What techniques have led to success, especially while balancing so much material? Discuss it in the comments.

Originally posted on DrumChattr on December 29, 2010 by Adam Groh.

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The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by William Murphy on Flickr.com.

“What if…”

‘Tis the season of new years resolutions. In that spirit I thought it would be a good time to re-post something I wrote a few years back. The following post, dedicated to the memory of Jeffrey Weng, is a good reminder (if only for me!) that we often live too carefully, afraid to take the chances to reach for the things we dream of. For what its worth….

“What if…”

You only get one shot… at this thing called life. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my short life-span it is that you never want to wonder “what if…”. You pursue things not just to wonder if you can achieve them, but to ultimately answer “what if”… No one likes to fail, but what if that is the only way to “know” for sure? To know “if” you were supposed to do this, or go there. Doesn’t a clear “No”, or “failure” point toward the other direction? (Where you currently are..) Couldn’t it help you stay and persist on your current path? Isn’t there some benefit in “knowing where you can’t or weren’t supposed to go”?

Why are we all so afraid of failing? Without failure there is no taste of success. Without failure success would have no meaning! Deep down, I think we all wish we could feel better about admitting failure! In failure we learn the most. The most about who we are and who we are supposed to become. In failure we find drive, drive to over achieve and move forward. Being human means being flawed. If we don’t acknowledge that than we have already lost! Embrace your flaws and don’t be afraid to admit to them. Our flaws define our own “musicianship”. A musicianship that can never be duplicated because perfection would be “antiseptic” at best!

Couldn’t we all ask ourselves the question: “What if I….. (fill in the blank)”. In success we achieve a dream.. in failure we are reaffirmed in our current path. Either way we are left confident in who we are and what we are doing! Or, are YOU afraid of exposing yourself? Sure, it is risky… to go for it, actually try and live your dreams, but wouldn’t it be better to risk all? Risk everything just to find out: “What if?”….. At least then, no matter what happens, you WILL KNOW “what if..”.

Dedicated in memory of Jeffrey Weng: 7/1/89 – 2/15/09

What new years resolutions are you looking to make? Leave your comments below.

Originally posted on DrumChattr on December 26, 2010 by Thomas Burritt.

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The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by William Murphy on Flickr.com.

Christmas Boomwhackers

Santa is coming tonight and we want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. As you put together the bike for your kids, be sure to check out Christmas Boomwhackers.

Originally posted on DrumChattr on December 24, 2010.

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