The Deliberate Practice Book Club

An Avalanche of Understanding Back in 2008, I read a book that changed my life. It’s called Talent is Overrated, written by Geoff Colvin, and it’s partially based on Anders Ericsson’s research. In my previous post, I described this event as “my third inflection point,” in which I began working with John Tafoya, he recommended the book, and I subsequently embraced its practice methodologies under his guidance. That process was tremendously influential. It radically accelerated my improvement, and pointed my trajectory much higher. I want to dive more deeply into that experience, …

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I Don’t Care How Good You Are — I Care About the Trajectory You’re Willing to Set

I was not born talented at the timpani To wit, there’s Mrs. Gustafson’s entirely accurate assessment. I was definitely weak due to lack of consistent practice. I was not a committed music student. This is partly because my entire career as a timpanist traces back to random occurrences. The first was in 1988: “Beverly Hills Cop” was in theaters, and for some reason my 4th grade music teacher created a version of its famous theme, “Axel F,” to play on his (then-brand new) Ensoniq synthesizer. I heard that tune and thought it …

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A Process for Everyone: Teachers, Freelancers, and Big-Job Auditioners

Audience calibration can be difficult. Being an opera timpanist is, to put it mildly, a very specific niche. But one of my aims with this blog overall is to use my specific experience to extract and extrapolate principles that are universally applicable. So, reader, who are you? If you clicked your way here, you might be a percussionist at a conservatory, or an auditioning instrumentalist, or a dedicated music enthusiast. (Feel free to comment below!) Maybe you saw a facebook post, are on the mailing list, and/or have already read some of …

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Well-Documented Failure

One of the funny things about being a former scientist in the orchestral field is encountering musicians’ perceptions of a “scientist.” Among people already in scientific fields, this really isn’t something that ever comes up — we intuitively understand the basics of what we do, and the day to day machinations of our jobs. And this cuts both ways: among orchestral musicians, there are lots of things we can assume as understood when it comes to the rhythms of our lives that are non-obvious to outsiders. Thankfully, I see a growing number …

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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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