For musicians, if you think about it, most of our time is spent practicing. In fact, one could argue that 80% of our time is spent practicing/rehearsing while only 20% is spent performing, and that may be high. As a result, it is easy for rehearsals to become routine – even mundane – without remembering one from another. I have always tried to fight the tendency of treating rehearsals as routine by challenging this mentality and telling my students and myself, “If you’re not going to be productive, if you’re not going to take advantage of our time, if you’re not here to get better, you might as well go home and sleep.”

I believe you perform how you practice. For better or worse, your performance is the result of the sum total of your work in practice/rehearsal. For example, an excellent concert is always the result of excellent rehearsals. Similarly, a mediocre concert is the result of mediocre rehearsals, or at the very least, inconsistency with some good practices combined with others that were a complete waste of time, perhaps due to lack of focus, apathy, or attendance or punctuality issues.

Many years ago, one of my students came up to me on the way to the practice field and said, “So Dr. Buyer; what are we doing in rehearsal today?” I looked at him puzzled. How could he not know? There was so much work to be done. So much to clean. So much learning to take place. Although I can’t remember my exact words, I said something along the lines of, “Well, we’re going to get better today. That’s our goal. Today and every day, we’re going to work toward excellence.”

One of my heroes is John Wooden, arguably the greatest coach in history and winner of 10 NCAA Men’s Basketball national championships at UCLA. I have read almost all his books and am forever inspired by his leadership standard. One of the lessons I have tried to apply from Coach Wooden is the mindset, approach, and process he used in practice to build a championship team year after year. This is what he taught me about the goals of practice, reaching your potential, and making each day your masterpiece.

Feel free to share it with your team. I certainly have.

My performance ideal for the team was a gradual continuum of improvement-
better and better, not up and down, one day good the next day not so good.
I sought slow, steady, sure improvement.
It does not come all at once, but rather hour by hour, day by day.
Each day some progress, always moving forward, teaching and learning, better and better,
until finally the team performs at its full level of competency when it counts.