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Pursuing Perfection

MONDAY BYTES — November 24, 2014

A few weeks ago I saw the movie ”Whiplash” about an ambitious jazz drummer at a NY conservatory and his abusive teacher. It’s a harrowing depiction of the pursuit of excellence.

Of course there are aspects of the film that are unrealistic in illustrating what goes on in rehearsals and at schools these days.

And yet.

Many of us have had teachers and mentors who pushed too hard, and had impossible standards. Some of us push ourselves just as hard if not harder.

And every musician has been in rehearsals and lessons in which the striving for perfection obliterated any sense of joy, exploration, or discovery in music.

Consider: What is the price we pay for chasing perfection?

Check out the “Whiplash” trailer HERE.

And listen to an NPR interview with the director and a discussion of the film’s themes, this is from Tom Ashbrook’s show On Point.

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

Finding Your Career Sweet Spot

MONDAY BYTES — November 17, 2014

Confession: I love diagrams. They can reduce complex issues to the essentials.

Take a look at this Venn diagram above from Lauren Panepinto of Muddy Colors, a design collective of artists. It explains the how and why of happiness and financial success through work.

Here’s what many musicians get wrong: in most music schools we focus on only 2 of the 3 circles—on getting good at doing what we love to do.

The third circle, “What People Want,” is rarely considered and often labeled ”selling out.”

But “what people want” can instead refer to the community and context for our music: the people whose lives we want to impact through our work as performers, teaching artists, advocates, and leaders. It’s why we make music in the first place—to affect

The sweet spot is where the three spheres collide: the triumvirate of work you love and are good at that is also what audiences and students/customers want (and/or need) and are willing to pay for.

Your sweet spot might include specific types of performance work, and teaching certain age groups or teaching in certain formats, and it may also include specific aspects of your day job that you find rewarding intellectually and emotionally.

The trick in life is to do as much as you can of the sweet spot kinds of work.

For this week: take a few moments to draw your own Venn diagram, detailing your specific sweet spot work activities.

Ask yourself: How can you do MORE of the sweet spot work and less of the other? What approaches have you found helpful? What obstacles have you encountered? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

#1 Problem with CVs?

Monday Bytes — November 10, 2014

What’s the most common problem people have in writing an effective CV for a college teaching job?

It’s in describing their own teaching.

It’s easy to write where you taught, whenwho you taught (undergrads, grads) and what you taught (subject areas or names of courses). For private lessons it’s easy to write, “emphasize good tone production, intonation, basic musicianship, etc.”

But that will only make you a commodity: you’ll look on paper just like the 200 other applicants for the job.

The real challenge is describing HOW you teach—How you create rapport with students, engage and motivate them—HOW (& WHY) you are effective, creative, and innovative.

The HOW is how you distinguish yourself from the 200 other applicants.

Questions that help get at the HOW:
Did you design any of the curriculum you use? (Don’t tell us it was innovative and effective; instead detail HOW)
Any noteworthy examples can you think of?
Tell me about a ‘problem’ student or a challenge in a class and how you turned these into success stories
What do you do in your teaching that students seem surprised by and find fun and effective?
Describe the last time you thought to yourself: THIS is why I teach. What were you doing specifically?

For this week: Take a look at your CV; does it answer the HOW question?

Bonus: Take a look at your bio; does it answer the WHY question?

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.