Do you have musical goals?
I do an exercise with all of my adult students when they first consider studying with me or any of our great faculty at Brooklyn Music Factory. I ask them to first take a closer look at why do they want to study music. And I ask them to look at the ‘why’ from three different altitudes: 1,000 feet/10,000 feet/ & 30,000 feet. This is about specifics goals/abilities/skills they want to achieve. This is NOT about feelings or appearances (ie. I think it would be cool to have fun playing drums!). I challenge those that aspire to learn the language of music to get concrete, get detailed in their dreams.
Here is how it breaks down. Let’s pretend you are ready to take up an instrument (either for the first time or once again after a twenty year hiatus…):
30,000 Foot View: This is what you hope to be able to do in 3-5 years. Have you always dreamed of being able to sing and play Broadway show tunes? Do you want to be able to play bass on KISS cover tunes in a band? One recent adult piano student said she wanted to accompany the choir at her church (that is very real and concrete). And here is an essential part of the process: do not limit your dreams at this altitude. This view can have wild and crazy aspirations. You are limited only by your imagination. Do not limit yourself to what you imagine to be ‘realistic.’ Think big and be specific.
10,000 Foot View: This is going to be what you achieve in your first year studying and playing. For example, if your dream is to play and sing Broadway show tunes, then in year one you may set a real goal of performing just one or possibly two songs with a simplified piano part (could just be right hand alone playing block chords). Or maybe you sing while someone else accompanies you. This view is when you do start to get a bit more realistic and set dates and skills to go along with them. At Brooklyn Music Factory, we use the gigs with other musicians to keep all our students on a clear path towards the goals set in this view. We all need to be held accountable & working on a language like music is no different. Think of setting a concrete performance goal. It’s just like forcing yourself to order food at a restaurant in the new language you have just spent a year studying. You won’t truly know how far you have come until you step up and perform. And remember…Performance can be defined in many ways, it can simply be playing with your family at the holiday sing along. Performance does not have to mean a concert in front of hundreds of fans.
1,000 Foot View: Here is the immediate goal…what you will be able to do in one month from now that you cannot do today. This is where it gets very real and week to week. One example might be transcribing and memorizing the words to that Broadway show tune. One month from now you will be able to sing along with your favorite recording of the song by memory. Simple, concrete, and measurable. This view is where you drill down and break up each skill into bite size chunks that are attainable at your level. And this is often when a good teacher becomes invaluable. One of the biggest challenges people face in the arts is they want to go from point A to Z and really have no idea the steps in between. Folks imagine painting a self portrait, yet they have not even begun to study color or brush strokes. In music, everything is a learned skill…absolutely everything. There is no ‘natural gift’ that gives someone the power to magically sing and play Broadway show tunes. Our 1,000 foot view is about accepting our knowledge (or lack of knowledge) and recognizing the single next step that needs to happen to get us closer to achieving our one year goal.
The great musicians universally talk about staying humble each and every day of the journey. Setting goals at every level and then doing regular assessments of the journey (your success or failure in reaching each next step) is a large part of what they are talking about.
At Brooklyn Music Factory, we help our students set both long and short term goals. For most of our younger students, the short term goals are the most important. As the students move into their third or fourth year, we can begin to dig deeper and ask them to imagine a 10,000 foot view on their musical life. By the time students are reaching high school, it is not only OK, but essential to challenge the student to get up to 30,000 feet and begin to really look ahead and put in writing their musical dreams. Fun music lessons results in effective music lessons. Effective music lessons means the student is consistently stepping up towards his or her goals, one gig at a time.
Next week I will look deeper into musical goal setting for kids and ask you as a parent to look more closely at why you have a child studying and playing music. For now, take five minutes to jot down on a piece of paper one new skill you would love to acquire (it doesn’t have to be musically inclined) and then try to break the goal down into three views.
Go ahead…take a chance on dreaming in detail.