Enhanced Perception — A Superpower of Deliberate Practice

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: Enhanced Perception) Back in 2017, I chaired the audition committee for the MET Orchestra’s co-principal timpani audition, won by my phenomenal colleague Parker Lee. Like most ICSOM orchestra auditions, the first phase is sorting through resumes, and the second phase is listening to applicants’ CDs. The process is entirely blind, so the audition committee is simply voting “yes/no” on a number. In this instance, the CDs contained only six excerpts in the following order: Tchaik 4, Brahms 1, Mozart Magic Flute, Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, Verdi Don …

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The Diminishing Returns of Practicing on Empty

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: Physical Limits and Sleep-Replenishing) Have you ever fallen asleep standing up? I have. I was a freshman at Gustavus Adolphus College. My course load was too heavy, my time-management skills not yet adequate to the task, and I compensated by burning the candle at both ends…and in the middle. I was basically the college-freshman version of Prince Valium from SPACEBALLS. One particularly rough morning, I trudged down to my dorm’s communal bathroom facilities. The shower stalls were narrow brick-encased enclaves, like upright sarcophagi. I blasted the hot …

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Unless Your Phone Is in Airplane Mode, You Are Practicing like a Nazgûl

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: Focus and Concentration) In the ancient past, devices were forged with which the Dark Lord would enslave the race of men. The lure of these devices’ power would prove so overwhelming that none could resist, and these men would ultimately become corrupted and trapped, fading into disembodied Wraiths and permanently bound to the will of their master. “They are…neither living or dead. At all times they [are] drawn to the power of the one…. They will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, …

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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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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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