It’s Sunday night, and I’m watching football, fingers crossed for the success of my Philadelphia Eagles. And then it hits me. Maybe music and football have more in common than I thought…
1. “Football” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, just ask a Brit who thinks it should be played with a round ball and a goalkeeper. Music isn’t just one thing either. Different styles and genres, instrumental or choral, rap, pop or jazz – it’s all still music. Find your particular focus and passion and enjoy the ride.
2. Football is about showing up every day. Peyton Manning, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, is known for his dedication not only on the practice field but in his off the field studies as well. His in-depth study of the opposing teams and his dedication to every aspect of his sport have contributed to his superstar football career.
This kind of dedication is what makes a superstar musician as well. Practicing, performing, listening, learning and involving oneself deeply in all aspects of music should all be regular parts of your daily musical life.
3. Good football players adapt to changing circumstances. That’s why quarterbacks “call an audible.” It’s a last-minute decision, made in response to the way a quarterback sees the opposing team line up. They have the ability to choose another play to take better advantage of the situation on the field.
When we are preparing for performance, we need to build in those backup plans, to prepare in a way that will allow us to respond to and rise above the most likely obstacles, things like nerves and distractions. Preview performances or practicing in distracting and unaccustomed environments are just two of the ways we can increase our resilience in a performance situation.
4. It’s an inner game. You can see it in the eyes of the players, the focus that shows itself as a laser-like intensity certain to intimidate an opponent. You can feel the mental and emotional energy that is being concentrated on that one play, that one moment in time.
Learning to develop and focus that energy is part of the inner game of music. That focus is what puts you in the zone, that place where nothing outside the moment exists and where you can do your best creative work.
5. Practice your touchdown dance. What is the point of a touchdown dance? It’s to celebrate a score, an accomplishment. It’s a moment for that player to revel in that momentary victory for him and for his team. He “owns” that moment.
We musicians need to remember to celebrate and “own” our moments of success as well, whether it’s a great concert, a good lesson or just a passage that went really well in our practice that day. You don’t have to wait to win the game; celebrate each touchdown along the way.
And for the record, I’m not a fan of throwback uniforms. Just saying.