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Life Lessons Anyone?

MONDAY BYTES — October 20, 2014

What did you learn last week—about yourself, others, or about the world—that’s going to help you do better this week?

It’s easy to focus on specific aspects of our performance, stage presence, or technique—or any logistical aspect of our work—and assume that these are the most important things to be paying attention to.

Of course, these ARE important.

But there is a whole other realm of self-improvement that we’re all too often tuning out.

I’m referring to who you are altogether as a person—how you are to work with and to be around. And it’s these interpersonal skills and traits that determine our quality of workplace interactions and our quality of life.

In such a reputation-based and relationship-oriented profession, who we are as individuals really matters.

Try this for a week: Before you go to sleep, review your day. Think over your interactions with people and your actions, big and small.

Is there anything you would choose to do differently? Don’t beat yourself up, just calmly think it through. Everything starts with the awareness of what you’d like to change, so you can develop the new habits to help you more consistently be your best self.

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

Optimizing YOU!

MONDAY BYTES — October 13, 2014

This week I’m re-appreciating a great life lesson I received years ago from my good friend and colleague Michael Gaskins (that’s him above). We used to work together at NEC, and he now runs the Alumni Affairs office at Berklee.

Michael has a terrifically positive effect on others and always seems unflappable even when confronted by the most difficult people.

No matter how demanding or unreasonable a client might be, Michael would deal with them calmly and rationally—in a way that de-escalated the situation. More often than not, he’d completely win them over, and by the end of the exchange, the person having the flare-up would apologize.

Once when I complimented Michael on performing one of these miracles, I asked how he did it. Michael said that when he gets up in the morning, he realizes he has a choice: to either have a good day or a bad day.

He chooses to have a good day.

At the time he told me this I thought, that’s great, but I didn’t believe it would last me past the front door. What happens as soon once the day starts and we’re confronted with challenges we can’t control?

It’s only now, years later that I’m finally appreciating the full power of Michael’s approach.

What’s powerful is that it’s not just the choice made when we get up. But it’s that initial choice that can ‘prime the pump’ so that we continue making that choice throughout the day—no matter what we encounter.

Because we always have a choice of how to react or respond.

That’s the challenge: recognizing that we have a choice in every moment to see the good in any situation—the good in the person or the challenge in front of us—and to respond with our best self.

This is NOT about ignoring difficulties or denying the painful truth. It IS about choosing how we respond. We can choose to start from a place of optimism with the intention to do good work for and with others.

Being able to do good work in the world requires being able to first find the good in ourselves and in others.

Thank you for all that you inspire in others, Michael!

Question for the week: What’s a life lesson you recently re-learned? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Bonus: Just found a terrific video workshop Michael recently gave at Berklee:
Advanced Resume Techniques for Music Industry Professionals

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

The Job Interview Masterclass

MONDAY BYTES — October 6, 2014

Giving advice to folks who are preparing for college level music teaching jobs often includes tips on how to teach the demonstration lesson or public master class. I’ve found this is a “mystery” area for many musicians, because although they’ve been on the receiving end of many master classes and may have some good teaching experience, many have never taught a public master class. In a job interview context, a master class involves working with a student you don’t know (whose teacher or coach may be in the room) with limited time per student, often just 20 minutes. In that time, we’re expected to develop a rapport with the student and our audience and to diagnose key performance issues and showcase ”teaching interventions” that make a demonstrable impact. Education is a two way street: it’s a dance. The search committee is looking to see a feedback loop between you and the student: each party learning from and reacting to each other. To help, here are 5 tips: 1. Rapport: Make sure you address the student by name, smile, and shake her / his hand at the start. 2. Assess: listen and watch a whole aria/movement if possible—but if time is short, listen to a chunk equivalent to the exposition before interrupting. While observing, note what’s working well as well as what could be improved. Of the latter, you’ll need to diagnose and select just a few ”big ticket” issues you want to focus on. 3. Respond 1st with the positive: tell the student specifically what you appreciated in their performance: what you see as their strengths. Be detailed, genuine, and appreciative: don’t phone this in. 4. Make Strategic Interventions. Of the issues you might address, select those that will have demonstrable impact—that will unlock multiple improvements in the performance. These could be something technical and/or conceptual that the student can apply to not just to the passage in question, but eventually to the thinking in an entire piece, and their music making in general. Even with a specific technical intervention that might be “small” in scope, you might offer a new way of thinking or listening that has a much larger ramifications. The “trick” lies in selecting what to focus on and on how to address the issue so that it helps free up a number of aspects in the performance. In a master class situation, this calls for a mix of intuition, teaching experience, and “people reading” skills. Work on items one at a time. Ask the student to experiment by making a clear specific change. Give the student a chance to see how the change feels and then ask do they hear the difference. And ask your audience if they hear a difference. 5. Be real: you’re dealing not just with the mechanics of music-making, you’re dealing with students’ emotions, ambitions, and self-esteem. Remember that in the end, your subject area is not simply music, it’s life. Bonus: In case you haven’t seen it, watch this fabulous Barbara Cook master class from The New York Public Library. Question for the week: What master class experiences do you have to share—good or otherwise—either as student, teacher, or audience member? What were the lessons learned? I’d love to hear about your experience! PS: the photo above is one of the late Janos Starker teaching a master class. Who’s your master class hero? For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.