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Harrisonburg, Virginia, United States
Professor of Saxophone, James Madison University

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Managing a Busy Schedule

Please, forgive me for the relatively long hiatus.  I've been extremely busy with performances.  In fact, I don't think I've ever been this busy.  That is a very good thing!  We all like to have our calendars filled with gigs, but we should also be careful what we wish for.  It only takes one or two extra commitments to go from feeling good to being totally overwhelmed.  Practice Monster can help, but only if we train for success under pressure.

Have a Schedule

Mark down all your concerts and rehearsals on the calendar - that should be obvious.  From there, assess how much music you have to learn, and divide it up.  Literally assign yourself a page a week, or 2 lines per day; get out your calculator, and split things up into manageable chunks that have hard deadlines.  Block out your practice for each and every day, and set very specific goals.  Get excited about attacking the music for the day, and keep on schedule.

Keep the Beast in Blinders

Practice Monster has a way of freaking out when he feels overwhelmed.  Use the schedule to distract him.  Focus intensely on learning the new material on your schedule, and on reviewing what you have already learned.  As long as your schedule is reasonable, and you allow extra time at the end to synthesize everything into a finished product, there is no need to fret about the looming performances.  Get yourself organized at the beginning, and then try not to look to far ahead.  Focus on the work at hand, and on the short-term deadline.

No Rest for the Weary

I recently played a concert at a major venue.  The preparation was long and intense.  It would have been very easy to take a few days off.  I started the very next day by forcing myself to practice for the next project at 8:30AM.  I was aiming for 8AM, but I'm only human!  Excellence is habit forming, but so is lounging about.  When you have work to do, go do it.  The sooner, the better.

Just Say Yes - Unless . . .

It is very important to say yes (read Bill Shatner's new book).  I can't count the number of times I reluctantly agreed to do something, and it turned out to be a wonderful experience.  At different times in our careers, the stipulations for what we are willing to do will change.  (I don't play very many weddings anymore, and performing gratis is rare.)  While it is important to seize opportunities, we must also be cautious not to go overboard.  There are limits to what an individual can do, and it sometimes isn't worth the stress and strain to do "just one more gig."  Always lean towards saying yes, but respect your schedule, and try to have a life outside of work.

There is a time to put Practice Monster to bed.  And with that, I say goodnight!

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