As you know I have recently joined a concert band, it felt like an incredibly brave step to take as I haven’t played in a group since I was a child, although I was in a couple of bands when I was a teenager. The main reason this is so brave is that they say you should be a grade 5 to join and I have only done grade 3.
The pieces are often quite difficult and I really struggled at the start, although it is certainly and noticably getting easier.
Austin Kleon in his book Show your work says
Think about what you want to learn and then make a commitment to learning in front of others
I have always wanted to get better at playing the flute, but lessons as an adult working towards grades just seems so futile and boring, not just because I hate exams and they terrify me, but also because most people doing grades are small children. It always seems pointless practicing too.
However now, I don’t want to let the rest of the band down, or stand out as not being able to play. It was a really brave thing to do to join as I hate looking like an idiot, but I did it. There have been a few occasions where I made a complete prat of myself, like when I came in a whole beat early before the whole band at the start of the piece, or played entirely the wrong note REALLY LOUDLY, or when I seemed to be totally incapable of playing A flat and it was the predominant note in the piece for the flute section. But everyone laughed good naturedly, I learned to laugh and not curl up under my chair in shame.
Since I joined in January I have probably practiced more than I have in my whole life. I have also made the biggest improvement. I suddenly see the point in scales and I am now working towards my grade 4 practical and grade 5 theory because I want to learn more so that I am part of the band, rather than being behind, struggling, or worse making a total fuck up on a performance (a big fear).
Ah yes, performance. My first one is the middle of April and then we are performing quite regularly. I desperately don’t want to mess up, so I am practicing a lot. I have always had acute stage fright, one of the reasons I hate exams so much, but I am hoping that being part of a larger band will protect me some what.
So by learning in front of others I have come so much further than I have ever done before, so so much further. I prioritise it, I practice for 25mins each day at least, and will often go back for another practice session later in the day. By surrounding myself with players who are so much better than me I have been stretched, challenged and I would like to think that I am rising to that.