The Power of Persistence
How cold, hard commitment helped me find even more freedom and joy in music
Posted Feb 11, 2019
I’ve played piano all of my life. By ear. Meaning, that when I hear a song, I’m able to play it without needing to see the music.
I can sight read single vocal lines, which is a necessity as a singer. And when pressed, I’m able to sit down and read a piano or orchestral score. But it’s painful, plodding work. My musical mind gets relegated to the sidelines while my intellect tries to translate all of those black and white dots into the notes I’d already be playing if I just YouTubed the darn song.
That’s why I’ve never prioritized learning to sight read well. Despite how useful it would be in my coaching practice (oh, the accompanist fees I’d save!), I’ve long chosen the immediacy and joy of music over what always appeared to be a frustrating path to some far-in-the-future literacy.
That changed this January, when I committed to sight reading every day, and to be proficient doing so on piano by the end of the year.
A little over one month in, I’ve learned a few things:
1. For me and many others, joy and pleasure are imperative in (and inseparable from) creativity. But they’re not always the best catalysts for progress. It’s not joy that brings me to the piano every day to practice. It’s commitment. And while perhaps not joy, there is enjoyment in the routine that my commitment has inspired.
2. Making this commitment allowed me to surrender my expectations. My job is not progress or pleasure– it is just to show up. And by doing so, I’ve actually been reminded of how much I love hard work. Putting all of my energy and concentration into something has been its own kind of gift and reward.
3. Because I’ve surrendered a desire for progress, I haven’t been thinking about it. Which is why I was so shocked the other day when I realized that I’d read and played an entire song without pause. Perhaps counter-intuitively, by letting go of my desire for (and fixation on) progress, progress came.
And that progress makes me very, very happy.
I can’t wait to see what the next 11 months will bring!