Practice Makes Progress

BWALPHA copy

Jessica Latshaw hits some really inspiring points about practice, progress and patience in this month’s installment! We’d love to hear some secrets/tips you’ve found for committing to regular practice or hear you talk about your struggle getting to practice!

Practice-makes-progressWe’ve all heard it: Practice makes perfect.

You know what is the best part of that saying?

Practice.

You know what is the misleading part of that saying?

Perfect.

I am reading a book by Dr. Brene Brown. The words she writes resonate in my soul. Reading them feels a little like coming home. Perhaps it is like finally looking at a real, honest-to-goodness photograph of that fabled land, Narnia. True, I have never been there and seen it with my own eyes, but I’ve read enough of C.S. Lewis’ books about it, that, were I to get to see it, I am sure it would be familiar. It’d be deja vu and then some.

Brown writes, ‘Bulletproof and perfect are seductive, but they are not a part of the human experience.’

What, then, are we reaching for?

Why the constant struggle? Forgive me for ending with a preposition, but–what’s it all for?

Progress. Journey. Maturation.

I think it’s easy to see that there is a plan in all of creation. An apple tree bears fruit. A bee makes honey. Sea otters play games and fall in love and hold hands while swimming so as not to lose track of each other. Are any of these things perfect? I guess it depends on what you mean by perfect, right?

UnknownPerhaps the apple tree has some nicks in the bark. Perhaps one season does not yield as many apples as previous seasons had. And yet the next season doubles the number. Is this perfect? I don’t know. Is the apple tree being an apple tree? Is it being exactly what the Creator intended for it? Yes.

I am currently training an eleven week old puppy (Oh, you didn’t know? Oh, so you don’t follow me on Instagram?). Every book that I have read on the subject–from the elite Monks of Skete to the no-name articles I look up on my phone at three in the morning–say the same thing: be patient; be consistent.

Guess what Luna, my pup, finally did tonight?

Her down stay.

I have a feeling that it will take a lot more of the same training tomorrow to get her to do it again, but it happened tonight, and when I saw it, I just about did the kind of Irish jig you saw being executed in the bowels of that great ship, The Titanic, in the movie with the same name.

Unknown-1After I gave her the treat, of course.

Is Luna perfect? No. Is she progressing and maturing and growing?

YES.

I MEAN, SHE DID HER DOWN STAY, GUYS!

And we’re practicing, together, all the time. Every day. Multiple times a day.

When she misses a cue or doesn’t reach a goal, I think to myself, Next time, Luna-Loo; it’ll happen next time.

Dr. Brown says something to the effect of using the same kind of self-talk that you would use with a loved one. Patience and kindness. Encouragement. A you’ll-get-there attitude.

Just today I was talking with my good friend, Grace, about her performance on stage. She’s constantly asking me what I think she could do to make it better. So I tell her, but not without first saying that she’s amazing. That I am splitting hairs. That I am finding the tiny bit of rust in a sea of brightly shining metal. And then I tell her to be patient when she is frustrated that her craft is not yet perfect. I tell her she’s on her way–and, more than anything else, to be herself and enjoy the process.

The professors I admired most in school critiqued from a wide, beautiful place of love. Ruthie, especially, a fiery and beautiful blue-eyed woman who was one of the great American choreographer, Paul Taylor’s, muses, would begin every criticism with a compliment.

“You have such a beautiful way of moving, Jessica,” she’d say, “Why not try it with a greater sense of groundedness? Can you imagine your pelvis closer to the floor as you initiate your movement with an undercurve and always, always, always a plie?”

She thinks I have a beautiful way of moving? I will do anything she asks. Anything.

Ruthie brought the best out of me. Her kindness and patience actually motivated me to work harder, believe it or not. It wasn’t that she didn’t have standards–no! Her class was hard and everybody knew that her warm-up alone would either get you in shape or have you die trying. But somehow her words had a way of encompassing every kind of dancer–all sorts of shapes and sizes and talents and abilities–and setting us up for success, rather than failure.

She led us to believe that success looked differently on a dancer who is 5’2 with tree trunk legs and a contraction for days compared to a dancer who is 5’8 and more comfortable in pointe shoes than anything else.

The word perfect wasn’t mentioned, yet the word math–in the sense that there would be problems and here are the tools to solve them, class!–was mentioned quite a lot.

Like I said before, it was a you’ll-get-there-attitude, and I always left class feeling like maybe, just maybe, if I worked hard enough, I really would get there.

661629c3758da54cf762d0121a6ba33bMy point is that we could try these same things on ourselves. I am convinced that the battles we fight in this life are won and lost first in the mind. Why not set ourselves up for success? Why not practice patience and kindness within, just as we practice those same things with those around us?

 

 

And perhaps we will fall so in love with the journey of practicing and where it takes us, that we will forget about the static old goal of perfection. We’re movers and climbers, anyway. You can pull out your flag and stake it on a small plot of earth that you dub PERFECT and then stay there forever, if you’d like. And, yes, I am going to admire it for all its loveliness, for sure, when I visit, but I won’t be staying. I will keep going. Because there is always something up ahead. Something right around the bend. Something more in this journey that we are on, whether we like it or not. Whether it feels good or not.

So practice makes progress.

And patience is made of more durable stuff than roadblocks, my friends.

001 copy-001

 

img-26Jessica Latshaw  is a monthly contributor to The Broadway Warm-Up Blog.  For more information on Jessica go to: www.jessicalatshawofficial.com

BWALPHA copy

A Completely Syncronized Vocal and Dance Warm-Up for performers

Now available on DVD! 

www.broadwaywarmup.com

The Top 7 Signs You’re Working With THE BEST Voice Teacher or Vocal Coach

The Top 7 Signs You’re Working With THE BEST Voice Teacher or Vocal Coach

83336438.1

It goes with out saying that we would all love to be working with THE BEST. We do our research online, ask our friends who they study with, find out who works with the stars we love and try to make an informed decision as to who is THE BEST Voice Teacher out there. While most of this seems like good sense when looking for a teacher– there is an element missing in this equation that is crucial to your success as a vocalist. That element is YOU.

I’d like to believe that in the city of New York (or most any city for that matter) a person who has set out to make their life’s work to teach or coach voice will have something extremely valuable to offer their students. Hopefully, they will have spent years doing their own exploration, studying several different techniques and pedagogies and making discoveries with their own instrument. They may hold certificates of study or be members of a teaching association such as NATS or NYSTA. They will have gained a reputation by slowly building their clientele and benefitting from positive word of mouth about their teaching. They may even have reputable clients that you recognize.

"Hey Elphie, I found THE BEST voice teacher!"

“Hey Elphie, I found THE BEST voice teacher!”

Of course, these qualities are desired in a teacher and when your friend tells you their teacher is THE BEST– that’s probably a fantastic referral source that you should take very seriously .

With all this in mind, the most important element in finding THE BEST teacher is finding out whether or not they are the best teacher for YOU.  The following is a list of signs that the teacher you are working with is working for you and you are a THE BEST match:

 

weinstein_goals1. MUTUAL GOALS:  You feel like your teacher understands and supports the goals that that you have set for your instrument and for your career.

 

SO HOW DO WE OVERCOME COMMUNICATION BARRIER

2. COMMUNICATION: You feel as though the way in which your teacher communicates is clear to you. You’ve found a common language and way to express ideas. You don’t have the sense that  your teacher understands something and you’re just not getting it.

 

3. CONFIDENCE:  You feel confident that your teacher has an understanding of your instrument and you as a person and will be able to help you achieve your goals.

4. TEAM SPIRIT: You feel your teacher has your best interest at heart and is on your team.  

Quote-Productivity-is-never-an-accident5. PRODUCTIVITY: You feel that the time spent in your lesson is well structured and productive towards your goals. Whether your working purely on technique or on repertoire, you feel that the time in the lesson is geared towards helping you move forward. 

 

 

6. INSPIRATION: You generally leave your lessons feeling motivated and inspired.

images-1

7. FUN:  You look forward to your lessons and consider them an exciting and special part of your week.

Your voice teacher is an important member of your support team and the right teacher can be key in helping to reach your goals and stay motivated and focused. When it’s a good match you will feel supported, confident and like you are consistently making progress— it’s great! Whether you are looking for a new teacher or have been working with your teacher for years, it’s important to check in and see where you are and if these dynamics are working for you.

Keep in mind that sometimes we go through plateau phases or set back phases while other times we are growing exponentially. If you are feeling stuck with your teacher, that does not necessarily mean you need to move on. However, it would probably be a good idea to have an open dialog and discuss the situation. Most of the time, if you are feeling frustrated, your teacher is feeling that as well and would like to help you find a way through that frustration.You may make some exciting discoveries within that discussion. Other times,  you may discover it’s time to move on and explore your work with someone else– even if it’s just for the time being to discover a new perspective.

With the proper research you will be able to find several teachers who have a ton of great technique, inspiration, experience and resources to offer. The only person who can really know if you’ve found THE BEST teacher is YOU.  Whether a teacher or student, we are all artists and we got into this industry because we are passionate about music, theatre and creativity. It’s part of our life force.  We all want to be inspired and we all want to use our gifts and creativity to contribute to the world of music and art. The best teachers learn from their students and are there to offer their experience , knowledge, guidance and support. When those elements are in place and communication and inspiration is flowing… it is truly THE BEST. 

Be Warm, 

Kim Stern

The Broadway Warm-Up: 

A Completely Synchronized Vocal and Dance Warm-Up that can be completed in under 30  minutes!

BWALPHA copy

www.broadwaywarmup.com