With all the sports analogies in use (the “inner game” of music, etc.), I often find myself thinking about what winning means in music. Is there an objective standard which, when attained, means we have won? Is it only an inner game, where winning is measured purely in satisfaction? A combination of the two? And how do you know when you get there? Where is the finish line, the scoreboard, the medal podium?
If you have ever pondered these questions, here are some points to consider:
1. Music is a marathon, not a sprint. Those of us who started this journey as children understand this all too well. I love this quote of the great cellist Pablo Casals. He was 93 years old at the time, and in response to the interviewer asking why he continued to practice three hours a day, he replied, “I’m beginning to notice some improvement.”
2. Winning is not “once and done.” In music, we don’t set a world record and then retire to the front of a cereal box. Winning happens every day of practice, every lesson, every performance. If this week’s lesson doesn’t go well, or in other words isn’t a win, you have another chance next week. Every day is another opportunity for a win.
3. Winning can be achieving milestones. Another piece learned to the end, a difficult passage conquered, learning that one piece you have always wanted to play. Winning is a step on a journey.
4. Winning can be shared. You can see it in the pride the whole ensemble takes in a performance. You can hear it from the person who is touched by something you played. You can see it in the smile on a child’s face when you let him or her touch your harp strings.
5. Above all, winning is knowing that tomorrow, whether it is rainy or sunny, whether it’s a good hair day or your face is breaking out again, whether you had a good day at work or you failed a pop quiz at school, you get to play music.
No losers here!