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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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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