I was home alone for about an hour yesterday and so I decided to continue working on a particularly challenging Beethoven Sonata that I had started earlier in the summer. As I sat at the piano, working through some tricky passages—taking them apart and putting them back together again—I noticed that the front window beside the piano was open and that two kids from the neighbourhood had stopped in front of the house to listen. At first I was a little self-conscious—I’ve always done most of my practicing in private—but for some reason I continued playing.
As I went on practicing, I began to wonder about how the act of practicing one’s art or craft is often hidden from public view. While our culture idolize psrofessional musicians, dancers and actors, I suspect that their admiration is based, for the most part, on the finished product: the CD, the performance on a televised competition or the final edit of a movie. We value highly the work of the professional sports figure, but we seldom get a sense of the hours necessary to get to that level of performance.
I’m thinking that there might be a whole lot of value in exposing our young people to the idea that high quality performance takes hours of practice: 10 000 hours, in fact, if you listen to folks like Malcolm Gladwell! I would love to be able to get my hands on resources that clearly demonstrate the discipline (and even the drudgery) involved in achieving excellence.
I fear that people, both young and old, might be too quick to dismiss the possibility of pursuing a particular line of work or leisure simply because they believe that proficiency is something that is innate—something that doesn’t entail a great deal of effort or practice. If we could somehow deprivatize the idea of practice by giving our children insights into the tremendous amount of work that needs to go into the “finished products” with which we are presented, we might open up some new ways of thinking.
What do you think about a reality show called, “Practice Makes Perfect” where viewers are taken behind the scenes into the practice life of people from various walks of life? Would this be compelling enough for prime time? Could it be an effective educational resource? Whose practice life would you like to site down for an hour to watch?
Next: Making Practice Public: Becoming Vulnerable