100 Days of Practice 51-69

Ta Da! Here is my update for days 51-69 of the #100daysofpractice challenge. Abbreviated, because I'm writing this several months after the fact. But still, at least I'm doing it! That counts for something, right?

Day 51

I had my riding lesson this morning, and it was nuts at the barn because of Spring Break. I had a great lesson working on patience; waiting for the jump, making and sticking to a plan (no matter what), maintaining a consistent pace, and bending lines. Trying to figure out how to cue a horse in a way that they understand and respond appropriately definitely teaches patience! It is humbling and frustrating, but 9 times out of 10 it is the riders, fault if your horse is not responding correctly. Patience is so hard! Riding horses magnifies every life lesson, but I try to apply the same approach to violin playing. For instance: in a moment of stress or insecurity (during a performance or whatever) it is tempting to rush forward or push ahead rather than use the established tempo to maintain control. I think if I ever write a book, it will be based on the lessons I learn in the saddle and how they apply to my life. The title would be "The Strategy of Patience" OR "Patience as a Strategy" and the premise would be something like, "if you take the time to wait and properly set yourself up for success (over a jump, or a course, or even an audition), you will be more likely to achieve success (a smooth ride, clear all of the jumps, have the proper count, and ride with ease, feel confident during a performance). BUT If you push, make too many changes, micromanage every motion in an attempt to be successful, you often hurt your chances of a positive outcome. OR how can patience and hard work pay off for LONG TERM gains and positive growth or change? These are the things that I've been thinking about recently, and riding seems to clarify things.

I did not teach today (yay! Spring Break!), but I did a ton of practicing and time wasting before the TSO dress rehearsal. I am nervous about this concert! I can't seem to nail the John Adams every time (my batting average is low), and it is giving me anxiety. Jeff did sous vide a steak for dinner, so I did end up feeling well fueled for the rehearsal so at least my concentration didn't evaporate halfway through work.

Mozart Violin Concerto in D major

Day 52

We had a luxurious "coffee with a book" breakfast at Hodges Bend and met a political science professor at TU who did graduate work at UMN in Minneapolis when I was a student there - small world! It was fun to compare notes about the Twin Cities before starting a new book.

I taught a few lessons in the afternoon, practiced, picked up a coffee, and rehearsed with Emily (who drove down from Wichita) for our upcoming duo concert then headed to the TSO  concert. The concert was okay - the music was fantastic - but I was dissatisfied with how we barely scratched the surface during rehearsals. There was so much more we could have and should have done if we had just a little more time.

Sometimes when I'm tired, I like to sit down while I'm practicing BUT I don't want to slouch so I use the better back to help.

Sometimes when I'm tired, I like to sit down while I'm practicing BUT I don't want to slouch so I use the better back to help.

Day 53

I had brunch at the new restaurant at the Philbrook. It rained all day. Emily and I worked on our duos a little more (our concert is next month). It was a low key day otherwise - I did some laundry, practiced, read my book, and tried to prep for the week ahead - no rehearsals or concerts (well, except for one at noon on Friday) feels like a luxury.

I did some grocery shopping and bought some new oils for my diffuser. This was my second "day off" of Spring Break. I am starting to crave a break from ALL obligations (teaching, rehearsals, concerts, planning) so I can catch up on my blog and all of my other side projects (and guilt free sleeping)!

I did a ton of work on solo repertoire for the audition - it requires solo Bach, a Mozart concerto, and a Romantic Concerto, so I've been dusting off some cobwebs and breathing new life (or trying to, at least) into some familiar war horses.

Day 54 

I went to 6 am yoga - it was brutal! I think I need to stop vinyasa-ing because my shoulder is really starting to hurt! Workout yoga is aggravating my violin playing. I think this is a call to return to my therapeutic yoga lifestyle and get my "workout" somewhere else...or just stop doing all of the chaturangas for a little while. What I do know is Chaturangas + Endless rehearsal schedules + 100 day challenge = Hannah's unhappy body. I need some recovery and rest. The older and busier I get, the more I understand how important it really is!

They say HOW one rests sets athletes apart. I wonder if its the same for musicians? (I bet the answer is the same, and now I want to figure it out!)

After yoga, I coached at Union and took care of some errands and then headed to the barn for my riding lesson. I think I took the whole patience thing a little too far and found myself "waiting" too much. This is NOT the same as patience as a strategy. I was frustrated with myself.

I practiced in the evening and am really trying to think about excerpts as interlocking puzzle pieces rather than one bigger problem. I'm trying to identify and perfect each piece before connecting them together one at a time. Hopefully, this strategy works, it is definitely more engaging.

Day 55

I played an education concert in the morning then went straight to a TSO meeting. I used my free time before Harmony Project to do some accounting because tax season is just around the corner. 

I started my practice a little late in the day. It is always hard to find the motivation if I wait, but I committed to practicing a few puzzle pieces in the Shostakovich excerpt and Copland's 3rd Symphony and it turned out to be kind of fun. I also reconnected with a friend from middle school who is not on Facebook. It was such a pleasant surprise and the highlight of my week.

Excerpts from Shostakovich Symphony #5, movement 1. With special appearances from Jeff 😂 - still working on accuracy with some of these shifts.

Day 56

No Musicians Committee meeting, and an early airport run for Jeff meant that I had the morning "off" to catch up on things. So I did some journaling, baked a hummingbird cake (my first, and so delicious), went on a run, did some accounting, practiced, read, and snuggled with Blanche. It was heavenly.

This was the first hummingbird cake I have ever made or eaten, but it won't be my last. It was delicious!

This was the first hummingbird cake I have ever made or eaten, but it won't be my last. It was delicious!

My left shoulder has been really tight and uncomfortable recently and I've been trying to go easy on it while still getting my practice done. It starts out fine in the morning but gets more and more uncomfortable as the day wears on. I promised Joe, the owner of Be Love Yoga, that I would try his acro yoga class and this was my first Wednesday night off in forever so I committed to going. I was really nervous but it turned out to be kind of fun. My whole perception of my body in space was literally turned upside down. I also met a sports chiropractor who works on shoulders all the time so I think it was definitely worth going. I was in pain but practiced some more when I got home from the class. 

Attempting to take videos of my practice during this challenge often resulted in awkward selfies instead. #happypracticing

Attempting to take videos of my practice during this challenge often resulted in awkward selfies instead. #happypracticing

Day 57

My shoulder really hurt today. I played at Saint Simeons in the morning but it felt pretty terrible so I'm starting to get kind of worried.

I did the first two sessions of "Finding Flow" a 10-day yoga course led by Chelsey Korus on Wanderlust TV. I really enjoy the journaling portion of this class so far.

After teaching and Harmony Project, I did a little work on my excerpt puzzle pieces before Jeff and I went out to celebrate some big news at his work (directly related to the "We've Moved" post written prior to this one, read it here). He has been working tirelessly on a project that will finally begin soon!

I had a late rehearsal for a Good Friday service and then begrudgingly came home to practice. Starting my practice session so late always seems like the opposite of fun, but once I get in the zone, I feel like I could practice all night. I mostly worked on excerpts from Debussy, Copland, and Mendelssohn.

Day 58

I woke up and journaled, made a delicious smoothie for breakfast, went on a run and then did another segment of the yoga course. 

I played for a Good Friday service at noon and was in pain! That's it! I'm calling the Chiropractor today! I taught a few lessons before heading to Harmony Project. This is our last class before the teacher strike so we took the kids outside to play in the sunshine and enjoy the school playground for a little while. Who knows when school will resume.

In my own practice session, I worked on Don Juan but my physical practice session was pretty light today to give my shoulder some relief. I did some focused listening and really tried to delve into the musical elements of the excerpts. Thinking about the phrases and dynamics more, as I studied the parts and did the listening. It really helped me "zoom out" and see the bigger picture and not get so bogged down with all of the technical hurdles.

Day 59

We had a group violin class first thing in the morning and it was so much fun. I love these kids so much! I brought some Easter candy and we played some fun games and worked on posture, our ensemble piece for the recital, and played our solos for each other.

Recently, I have focused mostly on excerpts and audition requirements but today I concentrated mostly on solo repertoire. I spent most of my time on Bach and Mendelssohn. I'm trying to reacquaint myself with the cadenza and second half of the Mendelssohn concerto because it has been a minute since I've performed the entire thing. I'm also trying to practice in the same way that I tell my students to practice (that sounds so silly): Think of the musical elements and passages as interlocking puzzle pieces. Work to perfect one at a time the gradually connect bigger and bigger portions of the puzzle. I also focus on the technique of the excerpt. Focusing on smaller sections but maintaining the correct sound, articulation, intonation, etc. the whole time and not letting any of the variables slip to the wayside as I slowly add to and extend the passage I call this puzzle-piece practice. I'm hooked on it. Puzzle Pieces aren't just made up of notes either, they can be practicing position to position, dynamic to dynamic, 2 notes, then 3 notes, then 4 etc. in a row, they can be just open strings or bow technique. Leave a comment below if you're interested in a whole blog post about this type of practicing.

Day 60

Easter! We had a relaxing morning at Hodges Bend with a cappuccino, breakfast, and a book (it was raining outside). This is my favorite way to start a morning when I don't have anything on the schedule. 

I spent a big chunk of practice time on the Mozart concerto. It was nice to have a full day off with no gigs, students, or other commitments, and I did glamorous and fulfilling things like laundry and grocery shopping...and practicing, obviously.

Day 61

I went to 6 am yoga this morning but my shoulder is in bad shape so I took the day off from practice. This is my 3rd day of not "practicing" during this challenge (the guilt and feelings of failure are starting to crush my overachieving soul). Instead, I did some listening and visualizing. The visualizing really helps me in horse riding - visualizing what a successful jump or course looks and feels like, imagining the correct mental state for success, and analyzing my movements and why some of them are effective and others are not when I'm away from the horse. I'm trying to incorporate more of this into my violin playing and practice as well.

I also did a very exciting interview with my friend Doris today at the barn. Doris is a writer for Sidelines Magazine. I'll write a post on that when it is published, but I got all dressed up in my performance clothes and played my violin in the barn while photographers took my photo. It felt very glamorous. 

Here's a sneak peak of a photo taken during the interview/photo shoot. This photo was taken by Jack Copeland. (more to come on this later!)

Here's a sneak peak of a photo taken during the interview/photo shoot. This photo was taken by Jack Copeland. (more to come on this later!)

After the precious barn time, I headed to my first chiropractic appointment to finally deal with the shoulder pain once and for all and then, because there is no rest for the wicked, I headed to Signature Symphony rehearsal.

Day 62

The schools are on strike but Union is hosting secret orchestra rehearsals for anyone who can or wants to come in and prep for the upcoming ensemble contest. I went in and coached the large ensemble piece, "Nimrod" by Elgar - I love this piece. I went on and on about breathing and gestures, my favorite things to talk about in regards to life, but specifically violin playing. I think the students must think I'm crazy, but I don't really care.

Majestic classical music set to cosmic video. Elgar dedicated this piece to his friend Augustus Jaeger, who encouraged him to continue when about to give up composing after a fit of depression...

Day 63

I meant to go to 6 am yoga this morning, but stayed up super late talking to my BFF in San Francisco. I practiced in the afternoon before teaching and Signature Symphony rehearsal. Its a pretty fun show, kind of like "The Voice" but for Tulsa.

After rehearsal, I had a nice long chat with my BFF in Portland. It is so nice to catch up with close friends but it does not make for very productive evenings (or mornings, if you stay up too late).

Day 64

School is still not in session because of the teacher strike. Harmony Project is now meeting in the morning which is kind of nice because now I have more time in the afternoons. I snuck off to the barn in the middle of the day for some time with Eliot but this week I am dragging and have low energy, probably due to the late night phone dates with my friends on the West Coast.

I did some work on the 5th movement of Lalo's "Symphonie Espagnol" because I have a student who is learning it right now (I forgot how hard that sucker is!), and the Glazunov violin concerto. I am learning it for the first time and love it - the harmonies are so yummy and the big fat melodies are really satisfying to play.

Alexander Glazunov Violin Concerto in A minor, Op 82 1 Moderato 2 Andante sostenuto 3 Allegro Hilary Hahn, violin WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln Semyon Bychkov, conductor

I practiced excerpts after Signature Symphony rehearsal (around 9:30) and then hung out with my Harmony Project co-teacher and stand partner late into the night/early morning. This week is full of friendship and bonding...and late nights (with no 6 am yoga the next day).

Day 65

I had a follow-up visit with the chiropractor this morning. Thankfully he said my shoulder looks much better and is impressed with my progress and recovery so far (phew!). I'm getting a little addicted to the mid-back cracks. I grabbed a smoothie afterward and went straight to Harmony Project. Michael and I planned a pretty fun field trip to the Philbrook for the near future. 

I taught private lessons from 12:30-6:30 and then went straight to a Signature Symphony performance. I had the best intentions of coming home, making a veggie burger, and practicing late into the night but instead, I accidentally drank wine with my girlfriends until way too late in the night. Oops!

Day 66

I slept in with Blanche this morning and it was heavenly after the accidental late night. I did mostly solo practice today, Glazunov, Lalo, and Bach. I don't mean to brag, BUT I really love my tone these days. I can feel my power and energy in my sound. I haven't felt like this in years! The music feels alive and fresh and personal, I am finally (again) not afraid for my musical voice to be heard and I have confidence in my technical ability again, which has been lacking for a long time. It is not that I couldn't play this stuff before, but I now have the confidence that I CAN. This newfound confidence feels so exciting and reassuring and I'm sure it will take work but somewhere inside I know that I am strong, and capable as a teacher, player, and achiever. This sense of competence and confidence was really stomped out of me during my time at OU, particularly during my Masters degree and the early stages of my Doctorate. My teacher at that time worked hard to thoroughly dismantle my self-confidence as a musician (that's a long story worthy of a separate blog post and glass of wine) and it is comforting and exciting to feel good about my playing again.

Day 67

I meant to go on a run first thing this morning but was tired from all of the late nights this week. I had a riding lesson today but I didn't do my best - I was really dragging mentally (lack of sleep maybe?)

I practiced in the afternoon and I think my Shostakovich excerpt is sounding pretty good! Now to bring everything else up to a solid level. I think my "puzzle piece" approach is working, but we shall see.

We made some brownies, watched a show, and went to bed early. I'm trying to get back on track for the coming week!

Day 68

The teachers are still on strike so there is still no school. I woke up for 6 am yoga and came home with every intention of being really productive but my mind was hazy and unfocused. I practiced for more than 2.5 hours this morning and an additional 2 hours in the afternoon but had such a difficult time focusing. Excerpt practice always gives me a certain amount of anxiety because you can practice for hours and feel like you made very little progress or that you didn't get to enough of the excerpts in a single day (especially if the list is substantial). I have a chart so I can see my progress and work but it is frustrating when I have check marks by less than 50% of the boxes every day because I spent a significant amount of time on only a few excerpts, diving into some of the details. Quality over quantity, I know, but still!

My shoulder ached by the end of the day and I think any healing progress I made has faded a little bit - what a bummer.

Cadenza from the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64 and the beginning of the Galzunov Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 82 (my newest project)

Day 69

I woke up later than I had hoped and went to Union to coach the very small number of students who showed up. I had a follow-up chiropractic appointment afterward but did some computer work at Whole Foods (I am addicted to the Almond Delight smoothie) beforehand. 

I am also kind of hooked on the adjustments and the mid back cracking. I was a little out of it after my appointment but picked up my bow from the violin shop (it had a repair and re-hair) and it sounds so good! I went on a run but really I just wanted to take a nap. I taught until 8 and then made dinner and settled in for some late night practicing.

I isolated very small sections within each excerpt and worked at tempo (and sometimes faster) mostly because my default in auditions is to air on the side of caution and play things a little too slowly. This is tough for me but kind of exhilarating and really holds my attention when I'm having a hard time focusing. I liken it to running sprints or speed workouts when you're preparing for a race.

According to my notes, this was the last day I kept a record of during the 100 Days of Practice Challenge. Apparently, I did not succeed at the "100 days of keeping track of the 100 days of practice challenge" and finally threw in the towel with all of the journalling and admitted defeat.

I guess the next post will summarize some of the things that happened between Days 70-100 as much as I can remember.

Until next time, #happypracticing