Blogging in Exile: Ramping Up for a Performance of Beethoven 9 After Nine Months Without Access to Timpani

On November 30th, I sat down to play on real timpani for the first time in 264 days. It was exhilarating. The concussion of each mallet resonated through the rehearsal hall. I welcomed the vibrations I felt in my fingers, hands, wrists, and arms. It seemed both familiar and new. The reverberations were recognizable, but they sounded to my ears almost like a forgotten dead language. I’ll admit I was misty-eyed within thirty seconds as the gravity of that moment began to sink in…. Likewise, on December 18th, I sat down behind …

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The Most Teachable Era In Human History For The Necessity of Expertise

Like every other human being with a conscience, I’ve been watching in horror as virtually the entire United States falls back into the coronavirus hellscape that ravaged New York City so ferociously in April. I’m not sure an English word exists for the particular blend of disbelief, exasperation, enmity, anguish, despondency, inevitability, and rageful numbness that accompanies watching most of the rest of the country fail to learn the lessons for which we New Yorkers paid so dearly. It’s hard to know what to do with these feelings. One of my previous …

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Honoring Anders Ericsson (1947-2020)

Late last week, I learned through a colleague that Anders Ericsson — the intellectual father of deliberate practice — had just died, suddenly and tragically. He was only 73. Anders and I were emailing just a few days prior. This has been a complete gut-wrenching shock. Anyone who has worked with me knows how fully Ericsson’s research permeates everything I do, and everything I teach. And while it may be common for scientists’ work to have important ramifications for advancing understanding, technological development, and public policy, in my experience it’s much rarer …

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Deliberate Practice is a Riddle — And Here’s the Answer

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice Epilogue) Among filmmakers, novelists, playwrights, and opera composers, there’s a term for when the audience knows something a character doesn’t: dramatic irony. Horror movies employ a classic form of this when a naive character walks down a dark hallway as the camera reveals the slasher just around the corner. Mozart’s Così fan tutte is built upon a foundation of dramatic irony, with Guglielmo and Ferrando donning (usually not very convincing!) disguises and switching roles in order to seduce each others’ fiancées. There’s another sort of meta-dramatic-irony that …

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I’m Never Completely Satisfied With My Own Playing…As It Should Be

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: Mental Representations) Regular readers: I know it’s been a long time since my previous post. I believe that Mental Representations (the topic of this post) are both the most important and most difficult-to-describe attribute of deliberate practice. Because they are abstract and intangible, they defy easy and succinct definition…so apologies in advance for the length. Anyway, I used my summer hiatus to consider how to write about this topic most effectively…and I’m honestly still not sure how successful that’s been. So it goes. Also during my hiatus, …

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