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Doniell Cushman loves to use her teaching experiences to inspire ways to improve music, teaching, and learning.
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Failure Happens as a musician. A lot. I mean, like A LOT! And you know what? It's okay. It's not the end of the world. Music is an art, an appreciation, a passion. We can't get to the point of elation or success without a few blunders under our belt.
Learning music is difficult enough as it is. Just think about all the combinations of symbols you could have in a piece of music ... it's an endless stream of possibilities. This should make us feel better, but often it leaves us terrified of messing up. And really, we shouldn't fear making bad music. It's all part of the process of learning to be a good musician.
Failure happens largely in executing music, not the comprehension or learning of it. As a teacher, that makes my job somewhat easier because I know I can send a student home with instructions that they can follow without worry. However, when it comes to practicing and performing the concepts learned, we become more fragile and breakable. How can we avoid this? We can't!
How about instead we think back to the first time you poured your own glass of milk. Maybe you dropped the jug and milk spilled everywhere. Maybe you were too small and were chastised by an adult. Or perhaps you dripped milk all over the kitchen trying to get it into a cup. These situations are teaching moments that last with us for a lifetime. We learn how to properly hold and carry the jug of milk, just how to tip it gently sideways, and when to stop filling up. Music is the same side of the coin here. Your teacher is there to guide through the mistakes just like a parent or guardian is for a child learning to pour milk. We want you to make mistakes that you can learn from, and give you lots of praise when you succeed.
Don't take failure too strongly to heart in music. Everyone has a bad day, a bad warm-up, or even a bad song now and again. It's important that instead of becoming overwhelmed or beat-up by the process, we add it to our arsenal of knowledge and practice conquering our challenges daily. No one built Rome in one day, so it goes to show you that failure is something to expect as part of the process. And, just like Rome eventually fell, you too will fall in music. How you bounce is what matters the most though!
There are also times when it is okay to fail, and to let failure have its day. We can pull ourselves up by the bootstraps tomorrow, and try something new, or try what we failed at again. Sure, if we majorly disappointed an audience we can't get that back. But don't let it rule your mind and heart! Learn that humility and grace are key characteristics of a good musician. Understand that the audience appreciates your hard work and effort, even though it may not have pleased them. Grow as a person who has been at all the stop signs and now knows the way better than others.
I'll say it again, Failure Happens. But ... there is always another song, another day, another rehearsal. Let go and enjoy the journey!