Doing something you know you love is easy. For me, practicing is part of my daily routine…I don’t feel right if my day has started without some time on the flute. It doesn’t have to be anything serious, just some long tones and scale exercises, and I feel like I can face anything. It’s my yoga for the morning. But it’s not like this for everyone, especially if you are pre-college and playing an instrument. That’s ok, because I didn’t always need to practice either. I did it because I had to; because I wanted that first chair; because I wanted to be in that chamber group. The important thing to realize about practicing is that it’s okay if it’s not always the first thing that you add to your list for the day; it’s even okay if you don’t want to put it on that list, as long as it gets done at some point.
So how do you make yourself practice if it’s really not what you want to do? Find ways to motivate yourself. Why did you get into music to begin with? For me, I thought the flute looked pretty and I knew I could carry it; I watched my brother struggle carrying a baritone on the bus every day so I wanted to play something small. But I also loved hearing “real” musicians play the flute. The first time I knew I wanted music to play a key role in my life was when I won a trip to see Les Miserables in seventh grade. The pit amazed me! They sounded perfect; clear, precise and they added so much beauty to the show. This might be something you need for yourself. Go see a show! Go see a professional orchestra concert, or even a community ensemble play. Hearing others perform after years of hard work can show you what is possible; just because you are stuck on a few difficult exercises that your teacher is making you suffer through doesn’t mean there isn’t light at the end of the tunnel.
That brings in another point that is important. Talk to your teacher. If you feel like something needs to change to get you picking up that instrument a few more times in the week, they need to know about it. Ask them if there are any duets or fun pieces you can work on; duets are one way I love to end every lesson because it allows the student and teacher to work together. Maybe your best friend plays an instrument and you can play duets together after school! Go to a music store and look for movie music; maybe your favorite movie has parts written out for your instrument. Another great way to gain motivation and perspective can simply be to ask your teacher to play for you. Most likely they have a piece that they have been working on that they would be glad to play for you. Sometimes you just need to see what can be to know why you are working so hard.
So, next time you sigh before taking your instrument, try to think really hard about why you began in the first place, and use your resources to help you. Ask your parents to take you to a concert, or even use the internet to look up videos of professional ensembles. Hearing the result of hard work can sometimes push you to continue your own hard work. Making music is hard work but it should always be something you love.
Kate Alusik, Flute Instructor at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts