Motivating my students and myself to practice is something that constantly occupies my thoughts. In a perfect world we would all practice because we are passionate about music and devoted to our instrument enough that we do the necessary daily work to improve our skills, or, at the minimum, that we maintain them. However, we all have slumps, reach plateaus in our development and find too often that much of our time is already occupied by non-musical activities.
I get the best motivation from upcoming performances. Nothing scares me more than walking on stage unprepared and that fear has me hitting my daily tone and technique exercises with renewed focus weeks and sometimes months before a performance date. Being in shape technically is as important as knowing how to play the music before the first rehearsal. It affords me the flexibility to follow the conductor and adjust to the ensemble.
My students seem to be primarily motivated by solo performances, especially competitions. In Las Vegas, between the Las Vegas Flute Club, Music Teachers Association and Clark County School District, there is practically something to do every month between November and May. I get the best lesson preparation in the weeks preceding these events and when students participate in many events back to back we see months of accelerated development.
Now, mid-summer, really is the time to start planning your academic year or your performing season. Are there any competitions that you would like to participate in? Would planning a recital help you rev your practice engine? Do some research and planning. Set yourself up with the best motivation.