Monday, November 25, 2013

10,000 Hours

Hurtling East on highway 80 in the California night, listening to a book on tape through a complicated system of an ancient Walkman connected to a cassette tape converter. On my way to Grass Valley for a workshop with classroom teachers tomorrow after a stimulating World music Rehearsal practicing an Indian vocal rhythm piece with that marvelous language. “Kitataka Terekita Ta Dhin Ta-ki-ta Ta.” The syllables flowing from the lips of experienced practitioners like liquid honey while us clumsy newcomers trip over our own tongues.

The book I’m listening to is “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, a surprising look at what makes successful people successful that debunks much of the “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” mythology (and what the heck are bootstraps anyway?). But referring to other research, the 10,000 hour truth is invoked— ain’t nothing worthy accomplished without putting in your 10,000 hours of focused practice. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Only one punch line possible here and despite my na├»ve “just feel it” and “disciplined practice is so compulsive and boring” coming of age in the mellow “be here now” late 60’s, there simply is no way to sidestep that truth.

There is another blog waiting about how the “get there later” that practice implies can also be the “be here now” if we consider a different approach to practice, especially one more social and fun in company with others instead of being locked away in Conservaotry practice rooms. I love that Zen is called Zen practice rather than Zen faith and belief, meaning that mediation is the verb of our intuition that the world is a spiritual place and our daily practice renews and deepens our understanding of that essential fact. I like that doctors have a practice, though I hope they’re not stumbling over their beginning scales on my body. Practice implies that we are perpetually on our way and never wholly arrived, always approaching mastery and that’s why my field (the one where I’ve truly done my time— probably approaching 30,000 hours of classes with kids!) insists on the term “the Orff approach.” 

In my advancing old age, I’m finally seeing both the wisdom, efficacy and joy of practice. Gave my second duet house concert the other night with the always-inspiring Joshi Marshall and lo and behold, we entered new territory having done this twice in the same month. And the time I’m spending with Chopin, Beethoven, Scarlatti, Grieg and Charlie Parker daily kicking my butt is paying off as my fingers fly over the keys. Practice works!

I spent some of my drive reviewing the Indian syllables, trying to relax my tongue so they could flow more effortlessly. A good way to keep awake and a good place to practice!

One down. 9, 999 to go.

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