Practice Challenges: No leader boards or trophies; little and often habits get you there!

Crush your goals and learn a valuable life hack. In my experience as a private lessons teacher, the bulk of practice challenges rely heavily on leader board status and group motivation and interaction. Usually, there is physical documentation of progress that is publicly displayed in the teaching space of the private teacher. Everyone in the studio, all students and parents, can see what their position is in relation to others as the challenge time period progresses. What I have learned from my own inter studio challenges is not everyone responds to the same carrot and often the goal of instilling a positive and consistent rate of progress through practice is second place to the prize of a concert ticket or ice cream cake. Almost all students respond positively to raising awareness and or funds for a humanitarian cause. In past years we have centered our practice challenges and concerts towards the support fellow musicians in our Suzuki community live Puerto Rico and our local Chattanooga Area Food Bank.

This year I specifically want to focus on setting unique goals for each student with the support and participation of ALL parties: student, teacher and parent. The goals will be a combination of long and short term goals and will have several components. We will begin the challenge on the first day of Autumn, Tuesday, September 22, 2020 and the final day of the challenge is Saturday, December 12, 2020.

Pre-plan practice time: This is an important SELF DETERMINATION and needs to be realistic in order for it to be sustainable. At any time during the challenge, the student may practice MORE but never less than the agreed upon amount. There are three tiers: the first tier is the 15-30 minutes per day, the second is 30-45 minutes, and the third is 45-90 minutes. The goal is to be realistic and to be able to meet and regularly exceed your expectations! We all know the hardest part is just getting the instrument out of the case.

Piece of Music or P.O.M. Challenge: Since most of my students are primarily Suzuki method students, the repertoire is graded and sequential and squarely within the Classical Music realm. There is a whole wide world of music beyond the Suzuki repertoire and this aspect of the challenge explores FREE WILL. Together a P.O.M outside of the Suzuki repertoire will be selected. These days I am on a Dimitri Kabalevsky kick and currently have 4 students already learning a new P.O.M. What music you want to learn is limited only by your imagination and resourcefulness. It can be from Television or Film, a Pop song that you love, or a brand new P.O.M. created by YOU with help from your teacher during the challenge.

Memorization Goals: Memory is a muscle and we all need to use it or we will lose it! Even the longest piece by Bach like the C Major Fuge can be broken down into small sections. It is the setting of short term memory goals that builds a rock solid basis for long term memory of even the most complicated pieces ever composed. With each day that you work on your memory of pieces (both NEW and REVIEW) your ease of playing progress grows, as well as your confidence. Similar to setting a realistic time for practicing, it is important to plan a short segment to memorize and let that be the goal for the week. Reviewing older pieces are also a brilliant way to work the memory muscle while reinforcing positive habits, not to mention, a whole lot of fun to see how easy the pieces are NOW, versus just a few months ago. Make practice at home more fun by playing with the backing tracks on your Suzuki CD or visit the shared google drive folder for other recordings and videos to play with.

Big Goals: Want to learn how to read music or be more fluent in your sight reading? How about you really want to do that fun wiggly motion that makes the sound glow called VIBRATO? What about a 3 or 4 octave scale? These are all LONG TERM goals and they deserve their own mention here. Depending on where you are in your process, this level of goal may or may not be achievable within the 100 Day time frame. What I do know for a fact is considerable progress towards a BIG GOAL can be made in a little more than 14 weeks. Achieving this level of effort consistently will strengthen your determination to set even bigger goals in the future!

Creation in Progress: Practice Beads: For those that love to see evidence of their hard work in action, this year we are debuting a creation in progress activity using practice beads. Each week at your lesson, you will collect your progress beads and at home, add them to your creation. Once you have determined your minimum practice amount, you earn as many as 6 beads for practice plus 1 bead for crushing your memorization goal and another for progress on your P.O.M challenge. Many people enjoy checking off the practice chart as well!

Performance goals help to add fuel to the fire of a developing practice habit! During the last 7 months there has not been many performances to look forward to and that has dimmed the collective will to practice. Looking for a friendly way to get back into performance shape? Join the Chattanooga Suzuki Collaborative as they celebrate Dr. Suzuki’s 122nd birthday on October 17, 2020 in a socially distant concert at Hamilton Place Mall. The repertoire list is available and even if you can’t make the concert in person, you can join in at home or in zoom review class. The physical act of ticking off boxes on to do lists applies to a review list as well. As you get more and more secure with each day, so does your confidence and the more checks there are, the greater the satisfaction that you are getting to performance readiness again! Interested in learning more, please get in touch with the author, Bryony Stroud-Watson via email.

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