The Three “P’s” and One “B” of Success

Practice, Patience, Perseverance & Belief in Yourself!

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To inspire greater forward progress and more resolve in meeting our goals, I wrote this “Fox Fireside” back in 1995 for the student, parents, directors, and family members of the South Hills Junior Orchestra (SHJO). This “pep talk” was motivated by reading anecdotes from my favorite series, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, and begs these three essential questions:

  1. “Why were there so many people who “put down” the achievements or aptitude of these historical figures?”
  2. “What would have happened if these individuals had received more encouragement and support along the way?”
  3. “Are you living up to YOUR potential?”

We are very optimistic about the future! Perhaps if we all “put down” our tech devices (instead of each other) and focused more time and energy on making music together, we can attain new levels of creative self-expression and artistry. Really, all you need is a little practice, patience, and perseverance… so lets make a New Year’s resolution to “play more music,” “attend more rehearsals,” and “share more of our love of music!”

Paul K. Fox, SHJO Founding Director

 

Life is full of course corrections, not failures! Throughout our learning in school or at a job, we face many challenges, some that do not immediately bring us the just rewards for our time and hard work. Every one of us occasionally gets a little discouraged, but we must not give up hope nor fail to commit the resources to continue our pursuits. Consider many of history’s great geniuses who faced similar “bumps” along their pathway to fame:

  • After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the memo from the casting director of MGM, dated 1933 said, “Can’t act! Slightly bald! Can dance a little!” Astaire kept that memo over the fireplace in his Beverly Hills home.
  • An expert said of Vince Lombardi: “He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation.”
  • Socrates was called, “An immortal corrupter of youth.”
  • When Peter J. Daniel was in fourth grade, his teacher Mrs. Phillips constantly said, “You’re no good. You’re a bad apple, and you’re never going to amount to anything.” Peter was totally illiterate until he was 26. A friend stayed up with him all night and read him a copy of Think and Grow Rich. Now, he owns the street corners he used to fight on and has published a book, Mrs. Phillips, You Were Wrong!
  • Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was encouraged to find work as a servant or seamstress by her family.
  • Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him hopeless as a composer.
  • The parents of the famous opera singer Enrico Caruso wanted him to become an engineer. His teacher said he had no voice at all and could not sing.
  • Charles Darwin, father of the Theory of Evolution, gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat catching.” In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, “I was considered by all my masters and by my father a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.”
  • Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lack of ideas, and also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.
  • Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was too stupid to learn anything.
  • seriestoshare-logo-01Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and didn’t read until he was seven. HIs teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift in his foolish dreams.” He was expelled and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School.
  • Louis Pasteur was only a mediocre pupil in undergraduate studies and ranked 15th out of 22 in chemistry.
  • By all accounts, Isaac Newton did very poorly in grade school.
  • The sculptor Rodin’s father said, “I have an idiot for a son.” Described as the worst pupil in the school, Rodin failed three times to secure admittance to the school of art. His uncle called him ineducable.
  • Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, flunked out of college. He was described as “both unable and unwilling to learn.”
  • Playwright Tennessee Williams was enraged when his play Me, Vasha, was not chosen in a class competition at Washington University where he was enrolled in English XVI. The teacher recalled that Williams denounced the judges’ choices and their intelligence.
  • F.W. Woolworth’s employers at the dry goods store said he had not enough sense to wait upon customers.
  • Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded.
  • Babe Ruth, considered by sports historians to be the greatest athlete of all time and famous for setting the home run record, also holds the record for the greatest number of strike outs.
  • Winston Churchill failed sixth grade. He did not become Prime Minister of England until he was 62, and then only after a lifetime of defeats and setbacks. His greatest contributions came when he was a “senior citizen.”
  • Eighteen publishers turned down RIchard Bach’s 10,000 word story about “soaring” seagull, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, before Macmillan finally published it in 1980. By 1975, it had sold more than seven million copies in U.S. alone.
  • Richard Hooker worked for seven years on his novel, M*A*S*H, only to have it rejected by 21 publishers before Morrow decided to publish it. It became a runaway bestseller, spawning a blockbuster movie and a highly successful TV series (still airing today on cable channels as reruns!).

 

A Modern Day Parable…

There was once a wise woman who lived by herself near a small village. Rumor had it that she could always accurately predict when the rains would come, or help heal a sick child with herbs, or calm angry neighbors and help them to resolve their fights and arguments. People came from all over the land to meet with her and seek her advice on matters both small and great. Her reputation was such that was said she was never wrong — not ever.

Some of the children of the village didn’t believe that it was possible to always be right. Surely she could not know everything! They decided to test her knowledge. First they asked her to answer questions about the planets, the animals, and the world. No matter how hard the questions, she always answered correctly.

The children were amazed at her knowledge and learning and most were ready to stop testing the wise woman. However, one boy was determined to prove that the old woman couldn’t know everything. Hatching a devious scheme, he told all of his friends to meet him at the woman’s home the following afternoon so he could prove she was a faker.

All through the next day he hunted for a bird. Finally he caught a small songbird in a net. Holding it behind his back so no one could see what was in his hands, he walked triumphantly to the wise woman’s home.

“Old woman!” he called. “Come and show us how wise you are!”

The woman walked calmly to the door. “May I help you?” she simply asked.

“You say you know everything — prove it — what am I holding behind my back?” the young boy demanded.

The old woman thought for a moment. She could make out the faint sounds of a birds wings rustling. “I do not say I know everything — for that would be impossible,” she replied. “However, I do believe you are holding a bird in your hands.”

The boy was furious. How could the woman have possibly known he had a bird? Thinking quickly he came up with a new scheme. He would ask the woman whether the bird was alive or dead. If the woman replied, “alive,” he would crush it with his hands and prove her wrong. If she answered, “dead,” on the other hand, he would pull the living bird from behind his back and allow it to fly away. Either way he would prove his point and the wise woman would be discredited.

“Very good,” he called. “It is a bird. But tell me, is the bird I am holding alive or dead?”

The wise woman paused for a long moment while the boy waited with anticipation for his opportunity to prove her wrong. Again the woman spoke calmly, “The answer, my young friend, is in your hands. The answer is in your hands.”

The boy realized that the wise woman had once again spoken correctly and truthfully. The answer was indeed in his own hands. Feeling the bird feebly moving in his hands as it tried to escape his grasp, he felt suddenly very ashamed.

The answer was in his hands — slowly and gently he brought his hands to the front of his body. Looking into the eyes of the delicate bird he apologized, “I am sorry little one,” and he opened his hands to let her go free.

https://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/children/tales/session11/story1

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Is this fable a little too deep for you? Well, remember: the answer is in your hands.

Only you have the power to succeed or fail. Regardless of what others say about your present or future worth, your “wins or losses” are in your hands. You need to trust your mentors/teachers/parents and especially believe in yourself!

Then, the application of practice, patience, and perseverance (never giving up!) will make all the difference!

What are your goals and ambitions for 2019?

Happy New Year!

PKF

 

hi-res logo 2018The mission of South Hills Junior Orchestra, which rehearses and performs at the Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, PA, is to support and nurture local school band and orchestra programs, to develop knowledge, understanding, performance skills, and an appreciation of music, to increase an individual member’s self-esteem and self-motivation, and to continue to advance a life-long study of music. Members of the Orchestra learn, grow, and achieve positions of leadership to serve their fellow members.

(For more information about SHJO, please visit www.shjo.org.)

This and all Fox’s Fireside blog-posts are free and available to share with other music students, parents, directors, and supporters of the arts.

Click here for a printable copy of The 3 Ps and 1 B to Success

Other “Fox Firesides” are available at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/foxs-firesides/.

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

Photo credit from Pixabay.com: “Ember” by VIVIANE6276 and “bird” by Pezibear

 

Stress, Burnout, & Stage Fright in College

Resources for Music and Music Education Majors

Increasingly,  in some parts of the country there are new shortages of qualified, experienced, skilled, and engaging public and private school teachers, even in the fields of Performing Arts. (For examples, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/08/28/teacher-shortages-affecting-every-state-as-2017-18-school-year-begins/?utm_term=.c599b1d39405.)

At the same time, although it may not seem to be hustle-and-bustle-1738072_1920_geraltdocumented to a great extent, stress, burnout, and stage fright have become real concerns for music education majors completing their coursework, juries/recitals/concerts, methods exams, student teaching, and other field experiences. This may be affecting statistics on college enrollments, graduation rates, and job placements!

It would seem we should be recruiting more music educators (not losing them as “failed” music/music education majors). Where should we look for answers to this problem?

“Burnout is fatigue and diminished interest caused by long-term stress. It is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of personal accomplishment. In the university music atmosphere, stress and burnout are prevalent accepted as part of the culture. Symptoms and causes of general stress and burnout have been well researched, but much less has been presented on college musicians’ burnout, let alone how to deal with it.” — Helen Orzel

 

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The purpose of this blog-post is to share studies, surveys, and articles of research on the causes for stress and “drop-outs” of music and music educator majors, along with proposals of remedies for reducing college student anxiety and recommendations for alleviating the problem of attrition.

An overview of collegiate performance anxiety elucidates numerous emotional triggers:

  1. anxiety-2019928_1920_WokandapixCollege funding
  2. Academic pressures: acquiring new knowledge, understandings, skills, etc.
  3. Competition (both in self-perception of achievement and in relation to peers)
  4. Trends in seeking perfectionism
  5. Coping with being away from home
  6. Sleep deprivation
  7. Challenges with personal relationships
  8. Development of new strategies and systems of personal organization and time management

If you find additional sources or statistics, please pass them on. Click on the above comment link so we can add them to this discussion.

 

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College Student Stress

The best summary I have found on this subject is from the recently released Fall 2018 issue of the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) – PMEA News. (For full access, become a member of PMEA.) Read the article on page 52, “Music Major Anxiety – Causes and Coping” by Kevin Shorner-Johnson, National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Society for nafme_society_research_music_edMusic Teacher  Education (SMTE) PA State Chair and Director of Music Education at Elizabethtown College. He talks about anxiety as “the leading mental health issue among adolescents and college students,” and examines the stressors of academic expectations, time management, “perfectionism,” and amygdala and cortex-rooted stress disorders, as well as cultivating practices of self-care and coping skills.

Shorner-Johnson recommends the book, Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry by Catherine Pittman and Elizabeth Karle (2015).

“Pittman and Karle provide beautiful guides and checklists that may assist students in building coping skills such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, prayer, yoga, exercise, and chanting. Coping strategies can allow us to enter into tension, getting to know origins and triggers, and transforming anxieties into new forms of centered awareness. Like music, coping strategies are skills that can only be cultivated through practice. When we practice self-care, we rewire associated connections and empower new responses.”  — Kevin Shorner-Johnson

 

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For a comprehensive survey on the stressors of music majors, peruse the illuminating thesis of H.J. Orzel (2010) “Undergraduate Music Student Stress and Burnout.” She states that her study has a two-fold purpose:

  • Examine sources of stress and burnout for undergraduate music students, and
  • Examine existing methods of controlling stress and burnout.
  • This information can also be a tool for college music students needing
    help with stress and burnout.

“A college musician’s environment can significantly influence stress levels. Environmental stressors include overworked professors unable to provide support,
competitive peers, lack of resources such as practice space or counseling services,
overburdened schedules, and high standards and expectations set by institutions…
Developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the effects of environmental stress, promoting resilience.” — Helen Orzel

In her conclusion, she mentions these possible strategies to alleviate stress:

  1. stress-391657_1920_geraltLearning to “manage your burdens,” class schedules, assignments, calendar, etc.
  2. Improvement of personal time management towards greater work/life balance
  3. Development of coping skills for new environments
  4. Exploration of new practice venues and study routines
  5. Allocation of more time with supportive peers
  6. Learning to make manageable choices, setting of limitations and reasonable expectations for making future commitments
  7. Practice of relaxation, slow breathing, and meditation exercises
  8. Strategies for reduction of performance anxiety and “stage fright”
  9. Reflection on and rehash of personal mission, goals, and motivations, and “what first inspired them to pursue music”

 

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H. Christian Bernard II from the State University of New York at Fredonia offers his research-based article Contemplative Practices in Music Teacher Education, describing efforts to incorporate contemplative studies within a music curriculum (Sarath 2006), mindfulness instruction on the music listening experiences (Diaz 2013), mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention instruction (Shapiro, Schwartz, and Bonner 1998), short-term meditation practices on attention and self-regulation (Tang lonely-1510265_1920_PoseMuse2009), “deep listening” as “a way of hearing in which we are fully present with what is happening in the moment” (Barbezat and Bush 2014), contemplative movement activities including methodologies of Orff, Kodaly, Dalcroze, and Gordon adapted for other music teaching contexts (Benedict, 2010), walking meditation, tai chi ch’uan, yoga, and labyrinth walking (Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, 2016), contemplative reading, writing, and other self-help practices.

“Contemplation is not the opposite of thinking but its complement. It is not the emptying of the mind of thoughts but the cultivation of awareness of thoughts within the mind. Through contemplation, the mind is open to itself.”                                               — D.P. Barbezat and M. Bush.

“Utilizing contemplative practices including meditation, reading and writing, movement, and listening can offer students and teachers opportunities for meaningful experiences while simultaneously reducing levels of stress and anxiety. While mindfulness is a prerequisite for all contemplative practices, this secular and academic application goes beyond deepening of awareness and compassion to also include deepening of thinking and learning. Care should be used when selecting resources and activities, as the use of contemplative practices should always serve as an aid to, not a replacement for, effective music teaching and learning.”   — H. Christian Bernard II

Bernard also provides an excellent bibliography for further study, and has also written many other related articles:

 

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Burnout

An outstanding series of YouTube video presentations dives into what “five different research studies have to say about burnout and the undergraduate music education major, and the implications these studies have for students, professors, and administrators when it comes to managing the stress often associated with this degree.” As a requirement for her graduate music psychology class, Meghan Johnson presented “Burnout and the Undergraduate Music Education Major: Surviving the Stress” in 2010:

Additional resources regarding pre- and in-service music teacher burnout:

 

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Performance Anxiety

Dr. Natalie Ozeas, formerly Professor and Head of Music Education at Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU), shares a new local initiative for addressing the problem of stage fright by Anne Jackovic Moskal, a member of the Pittsburgh Benedum Orchestra and solfege teacher at the CMU School of Music.

“The text that I use for my class is Musician’s Yoga by Mia Olson. We work a lot with meditation, especially focused towards the music we are currently working on. We practice by either listening to recordings or simply thinking of the whole work in their mind and how to continuously breath through it. The thought is that they will be able to move past anxious moments in performances and feel the constant breath instead. Additionally, we take meditation walks and practice the same method. Some of these methods are addressed in this book. We also have a physical practice to reinforce breathing through challenges. However, a significant part is to stretch, repair, restore, and strengthen our bodies from the damage of long practice sessions.”                            — Anne Jackovic Moskal

There are a myriad of sources on the web geared to performers for lessening stage fright, including blogposts like “A Few Things Every Musician Should Know About Stage Fright” by Noa K Kageyama from BulletproofMusician.

 

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NAfME members have free access to numerous articles on performance anxiety. Several articles published in the Music Educators Journal (MEJ) include “Stress in the Lives of Music Students” by David J. Sternbach (January 2008), “The Other Side of Stage Fright” by Donald L. Hamann (April 1985), and “Stage Fright – Its Cause and Cure” by Rowland W. Dunham (1953).

“To help your students reduce stress, address the ways they critique their practice and prepare for performance… Excessive self-criticism in practicing can be a predisposing factor for performance anxiety.” — David J. Sternbach

nafme“When musicians think about performing, they eventually think about performance anxiety — ‘stage fright.’ Performance anxiety can be defined as a physical and mental deviation from a ‘normal state’ and is perhaps one of the most misunderstood areas of performance practice… A reduction in anxiety levels especially with musicians with extensive formal training may actually diminish performance quality. For musicians with low mastery skills, the prudent approach would seem to be to undertake more formal training.” — Donald L. Hamann

“Here is the cure for stage fright. If you have strength of mind and a conscientious determination, you can walk onto the stage for a solo with almost the same certainty you have in practicing. There is the added and thrilling incentive now of an audience. By ignoring what you may fancy to be their opinion of you — which does not matter anyway — you have a new angle: giving emotional joy, spiritual nobility, or dramatic stimulation.With an honest artistic outlook, stage fright goes out the window. In its place you have the pleasure of adding something to he lives of your listeners.”               — Rowland W. Dunham

 

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Additional resources on stage fright and other anxiety issues:

 

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Finally, even though there is so much more to cover, a good “coda” on the subject of stress in music school might be to look at the article “Reality 101” by Gary C. Mortenson in the December 1991 issue of Music Educators Journal. Citing the University of Massachusetts student Erin Martin’s column “Real World 101: A Needed Course” in the October 1990 issue of U. — The National College Newspaper, college students could use help in areas not traditionally included in undergraduate curriculum:

  1. hurry-2119711_1920_TeroVesalainenJob placement
  2. Financial planning
  3. Raising a family
  4. Stress management

Mortenson creates several excellent “mock scenarios” fostering critical thinking and problem solving of teacher-student relationships, teacher-parent relationships, and criticism and stress that are issues in every teaching career.

“Life would be much easier if we could learn to handle real-world problems before we have to face them on our own.” — Erin Martin

“Teaching requires the ability to manage a variety of challenging situations. It is as complex and changeable as the society we live in. In college, future teachers assimilate a great deal of information that prepares them to share knowledge with their students. No one, however, can teach all of the skills needed to make complex decisions on all possible future real-life circumstances. These must ultimately be arrived at on an individual basis according to one’s own instincts and conscience. By giving more thought to how the problems and issues that confront students, parents, and colleagues will affect us, however, we can better equip ourselves to respond in an intelligent way to these challenges.” — Gary C. Mortenson

 

UPDATE (January 3, 2019):

Just after the release of this blog-post, the timely article “The Mindful Music Educator – Strategies for Reducing Stress and Increasing Well-being” by Dana Arbaugh Varona came out in the NAfME Music Educators Journal, Volume 5 Issue 2, 2018. (See https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0027432118804035.) You must be a member of NAfME to read the December 2018 issue in its entirety.

PKF

© 2018 and 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

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Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “stress” by TheDigitalArtist, “hustle and bustle” by geralt, “people” by tweetyspics, “anxiety” by Wokandapix, “woman” by Comfreak, “stress-2883638” by geralt, “stress-391657” by geralt, “woman” by Pexels, “lonely” by PoseMuse, “stress-22670” by geralt, “cello” by enbuscadelosdragones0, “trumpeter” by klimkin, “marching-band” by skeeze, “hug” by markzfilter, “hurry” by TeroVesalainen, and “laptop” by JESHOOTScom.