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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What’s It Like Starting at the Met Opera?

Pre-season orchestra rehearsals recommence at the Met this Tuesday, September 5th. I’m thrilled to have 4 brand new colleagues joining the orchestra this season, and thinking about their journey takes me back to September 2013 when I was just starting myself…. Man, what a whirlwind. What’s it like starting at the Met? In many ways, the “starting” part happens long before that first rehearsal. To begin with, you have to find a place to live, and then actually move to New York City. Both are non-trivial tasks which, especially for a timpanist, …

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How Did a Scientist Become Principal Timpanist of the MET Orchestra?

Because I did. I was senior scientist at a nanotechnology company in Chicago for 10 years, and now I’m a tenured member of the great MET Orchestra. But something about this unusual path seems to have stoked some creative legends. I consistently get variations of the following: “I heard you were like some scientist guy, and then one day you won the audition for one of the most competitive timpani positions in the world even though you’d never studied music.” Ummmm…. WHAT?! Yeah RIGHT. I’m also 8 feet tall, kill men by …

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