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If practicing were like the gym…

We would see the others in our world working too, see the sweat on their brow, see them standing, breathing hard, bent over with hands on hips, see their pain and their exhilaration, see their slow and fast days, see it all. Their presence, their bodies and faces, would remind us, that is what we look like.  We would hear them too, their grunts and cries of joy, we would hear words of encouragement, coaching and respect. We are all in this together, a community.  Some older, some younger, some faster, some slower. Some champions, some with incorrect form, someone’s first day, someone who makes it look easy.

A good gym is an amazing place, where you walk in feeling like coming home, where most folks aren’t trying to prove anything much, just battling the thing which is life, which keeps us from what we intended to do a lot of the time. When we walk into the gym we may not have wanted to leave the house, but we know when we get there we’ll feel better in the end. And we do.

The gym has a lot of mirrors, not only to reflect our work, form, confidence, posture and progress, but to reflect back to us the work of those around us. Too bad we practice our instruments alone in a room a lot. Too bad often as students, we forget that playing for our teacher is that same thing, a mirror.

The gym has a beat…it has music, maybe not your music, but someone’s. The music which will push you through that last rep, give you a boost, remind you of life. Too bad we have to make our own in the practice room, but what if we remembered our love of music when we practiced? Can we channel our love of a beat more strongly?

The gym has numbers. Numbers for us to track our progress. It has weights and elevations, calories burned and distance travelled, it has numbers of steps, minutes and miles. How great it would be if we remembered our practice session should be filled with numbers too, like the evenness of a triplet arpeggio, the metronome mark of our most recent lip slurring attempt, the slow practice beat of the upcoming solo. The number of practice hours we logged working on each element of what makes us sing into our instruments, the time on the face, the times we wanted to throw our horns across the room but didn’t. The times we took a break, but then went back.

The amazing thing about the gym is that it is an open work space, everyone together side by side.  For musicians, the social aspect, support and camaraderie, doesn’t happen until the end, it comes in performance, which is at the wrong time.  When we need the reminders of all those folks working across the world, is when we are alone in a practice room.

If practicing were like the gym…