What are some goals that you can work towards satisfying along a longer time line, say, three to six months?
- Exams. One of the best ways to measure progress is by taking standardized examinations for an accredited organization such RCM Examinations (known as the National Music Certificate Program in the US). Preparing for these types of examinations requires you to play several pieces from different styles, studies, and technical exercises, as well as take ear training and sight reading tests. The effort required to build the skills to pass each level can provide a very real challenge, and can provide benchmarks for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students.
- Festivals and competitions. Playing in classes specific to age and level at festivals sponsored by MTNA, NATS, Kiwanis, and Rotary clubs, can provide the challenge of competing against other musicians and receiving an adjudication from an authority in the field. This second opinion can often give you the reinforcement (or kick in the rump to keep you) moving along to the next level. And what can compare to the thrill of winning a class against stiff competition? Even if you don't win, the work you did in preparing for competing will have a lasting effect on your quality of playing.
- Recitals. If you don't like competitive playing, I highly recommend playing in recitals. These include formal recitals organized by schools, teachers, and organizations, in addition to impromptu occasions for family, friends, etc. If you're learning an instrument, why not share your love of playing with others?
- Auditions. If you're doing well, why not take it up a notch? Opportunities abound for honor bands, orchestras summer festivals, operas, and musicals. Prestigious programs such as the RCM's Young Artists Performance Academy or Juilliard's Pre-College Division are tough to get into, but offer a rewarding education for those able to pass the tough audition.
- Personal milestones. Learning all the Grade 10-level technique, playing your first Beethoven Sonata, getting through your graduate recital from memory a month before the concert, hitting that high C with a solid vibrato, or playing through the concerto in public are all goals that depend not on other's acclamation, but on beating your own personal demons. Claude Debussy once said that "In art, one has more often to fight against oneself, and the victories one wins are perhaps the most beautiful."
Tomorrow I'll be looking at long-term goals.
Next: Long Term Goals