Sunday, February 21, 2010

Peaks Jazz Part 2

I didn't take as many notes on Saturday, I just went to soak things in. There were a couple of themes that emerged, though.

I mentioned last time that Gordon Goodwin talked about the 10,000 hour rule. At another clinic done by Chase Baird (saxophone) and Steve Lyman (drums), I asked them how much time they practice. Steve mentioned the 10,000 hour rule again and said in his younger days he started out doing 2 hours a day, then later up to 6. I was glad they brought this out, since I don't think a lot of kids today really know what it means to practice. They think that a half hour a day will get them there. That's a start, but to get to the level that these guest artists play at, they need a lot more.

Gordon Goodwin did another clinic talking about his experience at writing and arranging music for animation (Warner Brothers, the Incredibles). I only heard the very end since I went to hear my daughters performance with the Orem High jazz band, but Gordon made a great statement. He said, "Video games are time bandits." In other words, they steal time from us that they don't give back. I have to confess that, for a while, I was addicted to computer games. I still play them here and there for a few minutes for stress release (spider solitaire anyone?), but not the hours on end like I used to. I find that I don't have time to do that anymore because I have more important things to do. I've got a music career to maintain and a writing career I'm starting. When you finish a computer games, what have you accomplished? So you make level 10,000, so what? Can you get a job or make money with that? The thing I've found with writing (or music practice) is that I get the same satisfaction as having conquered some game, AND I have something to show for it. I've also increased my skills in a marketable area.

Since the Olympics are on, we keep hearing stories about how these athletes have to dedicate a tremendous number of hours a day in order to get to their skill level. Is being a musician or writer any different? Okay, we don't get to earn expensive medals when we're done, but we don't have to retire at 30, either. But we need that same mindset, a willingness to put time and focus into our craft. Something else Gordon Goodwin said at the end of his clinic yesterday, "Perseverance and hard work are worth more than talent." From my experience watching students over the years, I whole-heartedly agree. I've had students with all kinds of talent levels, but the ones who have gone on to experience success are the ones who were willing to put the time in. Not a half hour a day, but two or more.

Eric Marienthal gave a great clinic in the morning. My frustration with is was that people kept asking him simple questions about saxophone equipment and fundamentals that their band teacher or I could have answered. Here we have one of the greatest jazz saxophonists on the planet and he is being asked about the difference between metal and plastic mouthpieces. He did have a few pedagogical approaches that were interesting and I need to experiment with.

Back to my theme of the day, though, Eric demonstrated, again, the importance of practicing. He really emphasized technique, and even has a two hour routine on his website that is very technical. So, again, time on task and smart practice were things he brought up.

Well, there are a few thoughts from yesterday. My dilemma now is, what do I do on Monday? I want to practice for three hours, but I also want to keep writing my novel. Decisions, decisions.

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