LIVE in THE SPOTLIGHT
- How to practice: exploring strategies and tactics in an aging body through book reviews, interviews, personal anecdotes, with the goal of staying happy, healthy and focused.
- Attitude: what it is a good attitude, how does helps us to learn and persevere, which daily tactics help us to acquire or keep a good one, what to do if yours needs a tune up?
- Metacognition: what it is, what it can teach us about learning, resources for study, conferences, and in practice.
- Intrinsic motivation: what it is, how it helps us to learn and persevere as we age, how to help those we mentor with theirs.
Just back from a week away in the Azores. We had a great time. Do I feel refreshed? No. I think I've reached the age where I need instruction on how to have a vacation. Here are my self instructions, I hope you find them helpful.
Today my 2 jazz jam buddies gave me some firm direction on how to play jazz drums. Ditch the steady 4 on the floor bass drums and just accent with the snare/bass drum. It will tighten up the time and lighten up the texture. " We don't need you to keep time".
Bingo, 9 years of occasional chunkiness goes poof.
In 2015 over lunch Rufus Reid told me how to comp and play the ride pattern on the jazz kit. I was in a serious funk. I had just come from a workshop where trumpeter/drummer Bobby Shew, vibraphonist/percussionist Dick Sisto, and legendary drummer/teacher Ed Soph simultaneously critiqued my playing in front of my classmates, while I haplessly played away. It wasn't pretty. I went to lunch ready to call it a day, hand in my sticks and head back to Canada.
Rufus saved my drumming career over lunch when he saw me sitting alone looking like I lost my best friend. Sitting down he asked me what was the matter. I told him. He said, "Play quarters on the ride and whenever you detect a space in the soloist and or melody, throw in the skip beat and/or comping 8th note" Bingo more flow, more listening. Thank you Rufus.
There is a lesson for all of us here: Take direction from master musicians, value feedback, and suck it up.
I do a lot of music coaching everyday. It is interesting work. The most important part of the work is helping musicians get their goals and desires congruent with the time and resources available to them.
Next, is guiding them to enjoy the process of getting better. Musicians spend most of their time alone with their instrument. So, we all have had to get comfortable with being alone doing the work of mastering the instrument. A former mentor suggested I get good before I get "creative". Forty years later I understand.
Last point for this post is the idea that welcoming feedback is crucial for development. Simple way to start? Record yourself, take lessons, attend a workshop, post a performance online if you dare, go to a jam, join a band. Get out there.
When to act your age? When things get serious.
I'm trying to follow Brad Stulberg's program. BTW, I can't recommend his work highly enough.
I'm working out three times a week, practice times are blocked out. Accountability partner and I are in touch each week. I'm upping the piano time, goal is to match drum time with piano time. Twenty hours on the bench and throne. I'm up to 15 hours and still intact. I'll stay in touch on progress.
It's 7 AM time to hit the practice studio for an hour of drumming.
That was interesting, I think. Last night my wife and I went dancing with a crowd of 20-30 somethings at a private club we belong to. The older crowd stayed home. A good time was had by all. After a lesson on the "Hollywood Lindy Hop" the band swung into action. The dance floor was packed. They set good tempi. They knew what they were doing. The drummer keep it real simple. We had fun dancing.
Before and after the swing set the band played function music for general dancing. I counted one new tune by Taylor Swift in their repertoire. The rest was the same repertoire I played for 35 years and I retired from that line of work over a decade ago. Most of the musicians were in my cohort. Lot's of grey. Tunes from the 60's, 70's, a few 80's, no 90's, two standards for slow dancing.
I felt I was in a time warp and stuck in 1985. That was no fun. I like 2019.
The idea of an accountability partner has been around for some time. They help us stay committed.
The combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation has been shown to work best in staying in any long-term project. That means of course that the musician is internally driven to succeed and see’s a coach/teacher/mentor regularly to stay honest and accountable.
I have a drum coach: Enrique Loyola, he helps me work on the concepts introduced by my mentor Terry Clarke. I never want to let Terry down.
I now have an accountability partner: Marc, a NYC musician I met last summer. We email each other our weekly practice numbers. It’s working like a charm. Last week 9.75 hours up from 8.5 hours the week before for me. He did over 20. Yikes. Some others I know are up there too. My goal is 10 hours per week on the drum kit.
I now carefully watch my schedule for any open time. Every little bit counts and easily adds an hour or two a week to the total. In these micro slots, I focus on a single thing. It’s all very satisfying.
Now today is a snow day here in Toronto offering me an unexpected two hour slot. Off to practice.
My bet is this. If you are interested in a blog such as this, you’ve seen way too many new years. And, you know the futility of making new year’s resolutions. If I’ve learned anything in 60 years it is this: we are what we do, intentions are meaningless. Aristotle asserted we are our habits. Blah, blah, blah.
So, what are the actions/habits that allow us to keep going?
Have a great year.
Violinist Mark Fewer is breaking down old barrios between “classical” and “jazz” in 2018. Throughout my life span this barrier has been strong. Musicians have identified as one or the other. His exciting program started with a solo Bach piece, followed by a duo performance with cellist Joseph Johnson of a large work by Kodaly. Intermission was followed by a jazz trio with guitarist Nathan Hiltz and bassist Justin Gray. Mark was swingin’ hard, it was very exciting.
How many opportunities for musical growth and exciting collaborations have we musicians missed in the past due to this self imposed barriers? Good question.
David Story: Professional pianist, drummer, composer, and educator. Well into his 4th enthusiastic musical decade, David works with adults pursuing musical dreams in the autumn of life, while he maintains an active presence in the Toronto arts scene.