DAMTA President’s Message Aug 2016
Greetings DAMTA Members,
It may be hard to believe with all the 90 degree days we’ve been having, but fall is rapidly approaching! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone once we get into the swing of regular meetings.
I want to remind everyone to sign up for the fall course if you haven’t already. Early registration is over, but it’s still a bargain at $115 for the seven lecture series, “The Periods of Music: exploring repertoire, style and context.” Sign up today!
I also want to remind everyone to attend the DAMTA Ice Cream Social. Arlyce Black is hosting. You can find further details in this newsletter.
This month I want to share with you an insight I was reminded of regarding progress and practicing. Of course, the more you practice, the better you get. And effective techniques can help that progress happen faster and more consistently. But there’s an aspect to how we improve when we practice that I was reminded of this morning. Progress from our practice is not always linear.
I joined a gym a few weeks ago. This place has a couple of basketball courts that are often empty when I go in the mornings. I got into the habit of shooting free throws for fun. I decided to keep shooting until I made 3 baskets. The first days, that could take 15 minutes! Just miss, miss, miss. I was never much of a basketball player, so I was doing it for the exercise, not really worried about how much I improved. But I was doing this several times a week, so I was getting consistent practice. But I really hadn’t noticed more than a modest improvement.
I went in today, expecting more of the same. In fact, it had been 3 days since I’d even made it into the gym. The first shot I took went right in! I was sure this was a fluke. So I tried again. It went in again! I made 4 or 5 baskets in about 15 tries! Certainly not NBA level, but a tremendous improvement for me!
It reminded me of something I’ve seen in practicing. Sometimes I’ll really beat my head against the wall on a piece. Finally, I’ll call it a day and give up, discouraged not to have made more progress. The I’ll come back later and magically be much improved! All that practice payed off, but not at the moment I was doing it. Has this ever happened to you?
Not certain why this is, but I have a theory. In “The Talent Code” Daniel Coyle explains that what makes physical skill is the myelin sheath that forms around the nerves that send messages to your muscles. The more you repeat a motion, the stronger that sheath becomes, allowing you to move more quickly and accurately.
I’m thinking that this sheath needs time to form. So when you’ve played that passage that’s driving you nuts 100 times, you’re showing your body the nerves that need the myelin sheath to grow. But it doesn’t happen instantly. You leave and come back a day or two later, and your body has worked it’s magic. “All of a sudden” you can play it. What happened? Practice happened! But the cause and the effect are not immediate.
I think we need to remind our students of this so they won’t lose heart when they actually sit down and practice really hard, but don’t see an immediate result. The practice is helping. It’s just not instant.
In our instant gratification culture, it’s easy to lose sight of this. But patience is one more gift that learning a musical instrument can give us.
Have a great summer!
Vince Madison
DAMTA President
Aug 2016


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