Saturday, October 06, 2007

Goal Setting Part 3 of 3: Long Term Goals

In the last two days we've looked at ways to set viable practice goals for the short and medium term. What are some goals that we can set for the long term, ie. one year or more in the future? This is an important stage of the goal-setting process, but one that is fraught with danger, as one has to walk a fine line between valid outcomes and self-delusion.

Generally, the more ambitious the goal (performing at the Met, Carnegie Hall, signing a DG contract), the more it needs to be broken down into many, many more smaller, digestible goals in order for the final outcome to come to pass.

Let's take an entirely manageable ambition for many students--getting accepted into a university music program. Here are some ways that you could break a big goal into a bunch of smaller ones:
  • Research universities on the internet
  • Send away for information
  • Figure out the application process
  • Fill out application forms
  • Get letters of reference
  • Write cheques for application fees
  • Fill out financial aid forms
  • Learn correct repertoire for each audition
  • Make pre-screening audition tape (more and more common these days)
  • Send out applications well before the deadline process
  • Schedule audition once called by university
  • Get cheapest flights to college destinations
  • Book hotels at college destinations
  • Do auditions
  • Once accepted, send in acceptance letter with deposit
  • Look for more financial aid
  • Go to college program
I'm tired already after writing that list and glad that I'm finished with my college education. But looking at that large list, you discover that one big dream can be easily managed if it is broken up into a bunch of smaller, manageable tasks.

I can't emphasize how important it is to be realistic when setting long-term goals. Here are some examples that depend on individual initiative and can be realized with determination and hard work:
  • Learn a concerto
  • Learn the arias for a role that is a bit too large for one's voice, but which one will grow into in the future
  • Learn how to make kick-ass oboe reeds
  • Learn the whole Well-Tempered Clavier (Angela Hewitt did it and is in the midst of her Bach World Tour this fall)
  • Play the violin with deadly accurate intonation
  • Develop into a professional-level singer
  • Develop a stylistic breadth of experience in multiple percussion instruments from many cultures
However, when our goals depend on the actions of others, it is much easier to experience serious disappointments. Here are some goals that have the possibility of setting oneself up for disappointment:
  • Getting into that world-famous school of music
  • Getting that elusive tenure-track college position
  • Getting a high-paid position in an orchestra
  • Having a concert career
  • Getting a top agent
Nevertheless, if we never have goals like these, we will never have the drive to succeed that jump-starts our practice routine in the first place.

I am noticing that this post is quickly turning into an article on life goals in music in general rather than just getting something out of practicing. But I feel that the urge to improve your playing through practicing often parallels the urge to develop oneself, to make a mark, experience satisfaction, and live a fully realized life. Therefore, I'm going to end this post with another long-term goal, one which I feel has no higher calling:
  • To be able to play one's instrument at a high level, giving pleasure to oneself and others, and with a healthy technique that will last into old age.
At its core, the art of playing an instrument depends on the level of enjoyment one has in playing both great music and the process of playing the instrument itself. At this level, the degree of professional success one has is immaterial. From Rueckert's "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen":

Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgetümmel,
Und ruh' in einem stillen Gebiet!
Ich leb' allein in meinem Himmel,
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied!

I am dead to the world's commotion, And I rest in a quiet place. I live alone in my heaven, In my love, in my song.

Tomorrow I'll be posting some cool practice links from around the internet.

Next: Practice Links

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