By Anita Komorski
In this new technological age that is changing all the time, some things don’t seem to change. Today the latest thing is a blog or podcast that talks about virtuously any topic. As a musician and music educator, I ran across an old article that I held onto for years in one of my files. It struck me that the more things change the more they stay the same.
As a longtime fan of the syndicated columnist Sidney J. Harris from the Chicago Sun-Times, his article brought back the fact that no matter how much we want something to happen right now, there is not a short-cut to the top of the mountain for any of us. When we strive for success, we have to be willing to do the “boring” things to get the expertise we need to become successful.
In his article, he talks about the violinist that gets up every morning and practices his scales for at least an hour before breakfast no matter what. He says if he doesn’t do that each day his playing suffers that evening and he can tell the difference. To remain on top of his game he has to continue to do the boring regular workout of scales to keep his fingers and mind up to the standard needed to perform flawlessly.
Most of us want the instant success of stardom or think we can become an overnight revered professional. I know many students want to play the piano or become an overnight sensation on American Idol, or perhaps become a professional athlete and make the “big bucks”. But if they are unwilling to work through the “boring” practicing of the basic skills necessary to achieve their goals, it will never happen.
Even the finest craftsmen in the symphony sharpen their tools to keep them ready to use, or their hands lose their dexterity. Natural ability is certainly a help, but can only go so far if not coupled with the discipline to put up with the hours of exercises. They may be physical or mental, but they are day after day necessary duties if you want to achieve your ultimate goals. Without this combination, the talent will not be fulfilled.
The ultimate test for recognizing if any activity you are perusing means enough to you lies in honestly asking yourself if you are willing to “pay your dues” to get to those moments of great delight. A dancer dedicates hours or more of practice for just a 1-hour performance. Boxers train for months for a single match. The golfer hits putt after putt or drive after drive on the practice range before playing his round in the hopes he’ll make the cut.
As Thomas Edison once said, genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. There is far more perspiration than inspiration in most successful endeavors. Having instant food, instant fame, or instant gratification from your efforts is what most people want. “Just remember there is no short-cut to the mountain top, if that is where you want to go. If you are not willing to be “bored” a good deal of the time, you have chosen the wrong mountain to conquer. “
My thanks to Sidney Harris syndicated columnist of the Chicago Sun Times for the inspiration for this article and my life as a teacher of music.