Awesome what's the plan? | This WONDERfilled Life

I’ve thought about this topic for almost 6 months…more probably.  So many things we deal with as musicians (and a freelancer on top of that) are just really good life lessons and lately I keep coming back to the concept of "planning".  You have a goal, you have an end game, an end vision.  Maybe it’s a new patio for the backyard, or getting in shape before a certain event,  or the giving a recital with a certain theme.  No matter what the end "product"is you have to take certain steps to get there.  Decide on what style of patio you want, set a budget, hire a contractor or spend some serious time on the Googles learning a new skill set. Dreaming the dream, seeing that end goal is the EASY part.  I can create vision board of any and every success I can imagine but that doesn’t put that ball in motion toward that goal.  

Looking back on what I would consider some of my greatest accomplishments I realized that the most successful moments in my life came from dreaming big, working hard and a PLAN! How to get from point A to point B. Last year when I launched I had a plan.  I was going to write about being a maker, a maker of music and of art, of sewing…everything.  I started the #52wonderfilledweeks challenge.  I planned out the first few projects and I told my family that I would be taking an hour every Sunday morning to write my weekly post.  I had a plan, I followed the plan and I was successful in that endeavor.  

As a musician, preparing music for performance, “what is the plan?” is literally the question.  What am I doing with this piece? What am I trying to say? What is the story I am telling? Last fall, I gave a duo recital. It was a great challenge and I had the privilege to perform with a friend and colleague of almost 20 years. We chose a really challenging program and I learned A LOT about myself as a musician (and hornist). In addition to music written for two horns and piano we each played a solo horn/piano work. I chose the Neuling, Bagatelle…if you remember my post about comparison you might remember that low playing has not (until recently) been a comfortable thing for me. I chose the Neuling because I thought that if I could perform this, by choice, in front of an audience it might be the final hurdle in embracing my new skill and re-writing my brain paths. I loved the recording a friend sent me to listen to and was really pumped to put my own stamp on it. We had one rehearsal with our pianist (who was amazing by the way) and I of course recorded it. During the brief run thru with the pianist I just felt things falling apart (on my end). I remember thinking “what am I doing here?”  In this moment, this measure, this phrase…which led to “what do I want to say?” Which led to me realizing something I had known in my gut for the previous two weeks. I hadn’t sat down and decided on what I, Mary Jo, wanted to say in this piece. I knew the notes and the rhythms, but I didn’t have a plan. I hadn’t marked my breathes, my exact tempos, rubato…nothing. I was staring at a perfectly clean piece of original sheet music which was such a physical representation of my lack of making this piece my own. I went home that night and promptly copied my music (I don’t like to write on originals!) and listened back to that morning’s recording. It was painful and eye opening and within 30 minutes of concentrated practice, pencil in hand I had marked every breath, every rubato, accelerando and alternate fingerings. Suddenly the piece breathed with life…with purpose…it felt completely different to play it and sounded like a brand-new piece compared to my morning attempt.
Now here’s the kicker. I KNEW what needed to be done to get to that point.  But I kept putting it off. I could use the excuse that I have two kids under the age of 5, or that I am a busy and active freelancer, or I am successfully producing a weekly blog with pictures and newly crafted items every week but the fact is that if I had just asked myself “what am I doing here”, “what is my goal?”, “what do I want to say?” “What is the PLAN?” –  I would have saved myself so much time in the long run. I’m mad at myself for ignoring what I knew needed to be done and wasting valuable practice time when I could have been perfecting my plan, but I am thankful for the reminder.

If I had to guess, the act of planning, actually putting together steps towards whatever the goal is, in music for me specifically, is once I put those balls in motion there’s no turning back.  If I haven’t set a plan I can always use that as an excuse when things don’t sound the way I want, things aren’t further along than where I hoped to be, you get the idea.

Earlier this week I was teaching a private lesson.  After the student finished a passage I asked what was the plan? They admitted that there was none in place and I heard myself say… 

”You have to have a plan.  You have to start somewhere, you can always change the plan…but if you don’t have something in place you have no starting point.”

WOW…I should, like, really take my own advice sometimes. So I am going to hold myself to making a plan.  Physically take the pencil and make the marks, remove the "I'll do that next time" thought from my practice room and face my procrastination head on.

What things do you do (or not do) that you KNOW you should?


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