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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: priorities

Finding Time vs. Making Time

Andrew Hitz

I taught a young guy from New York City who plays the bass, Ray Cetta, a lesson on tuba today. He's started to get a lot of calls to play Sousaphone on gigs and wanted to take his first ever lesson on the instrument. I was immediately impressed when he told me he had no car (typical New Yorker) but was willing to take the train all the way to DC with his Sousaphone! It was a really great experience for me. He is exactly the kind of student that we all enjoy teaching. He grasped concepts immediately and was eager to learn. One remark he made in response to something I said really jumped out at me.

He asked me about playing really softly with control. I showed him a number of exercises to work on that, then told him the obvious: to work on the extremes of playing the most important aspect is doing it every single day. Much more important than the total amount of time spent on practicing a skill like pianissimo playing is the regularity of the practicing. I told him I knew that was a pain, especially on a secondary instrument. His response was right on the money:

"I will find time ..... no, I will make time for it. I needed to do it on a gig once and that's enough times for me to need to make time to do it."

This is from a 23 year old kid who is about to release an album, is a band leader, has a very active freelance career, and has more irons in the fire than most of us. The difference between finding time and making time for essential work is what separates those who make it and those who don't. I learned something during his lesson today as well.

Ray is a Yankees fan so this is for him.

Don't Just Look Busy

Andrew Hitz

We've all fallen into the trap of when in doubt, look busy.  I know I certainly have. But when you take a moment and observe the most successful band directors, professors, performers and entrepreneurs in music, they don't have looking busy as their top priority.  In fact, it's not anywhere on their list.  The best in our business have the ability to constantly prioritize what needs to be done right now.

If I have an unpleasant phone call to make, I may procrastinate by cleaning up my inbox.  The trap is that cleaning up my inbox might be something that needs to be done, maybe even badly.  But if that phone call I'm putting off is the most important thing to take care of, it doesn't matter what I'm using to procrastinate.  It needs to get done.

One job that makes it incredibly easy to "look busy" is being a band director.  That's because they are, in fact, always busy.  Have you ever known a band director who seems to be constantly working but always seems to not quite take care of everything when it needs to be taken care of? That is not a symptom of work ethic.  It is a problem with prioritization.

(Note: I believe that being a great band, chorus, or orchestra director is possibly the hardest job to do really well in the entire music business and have said so over and over again.  To be clear, I wouldn't last a week  two days as a band director.)

© 2012 eskimo_jo


I have worked with both colleagues and students who seem to feel entitled to success because they are working hard.  (Coincidentally, people who feel this way rarely seem to be working as hard as they think they are but that's for another blog post!) The people who stick around in this business and succeed are the ones who master the art of addressing and changing priorities to get the most out of their time and effort.

For anyone just starting out in any aspect of the music business, the earlier you can master the art of prioritization, the better.