In sixth grade, my homeroom teacher had a poem on the wall that stuck with me over the years:
All too often “good enough” is where the weak hearts stop.
It keeps the very best in them from rising to the top.
“Enough” implies just getting by, and “good” falls short of best.
So “good enough” is average stuff and seldom meets the test.
But you don’t have to settle there; you have what it takes.
Push yourself to do your best, it’s how you get the “breaks.”
Remember that the choice is yours, and you alone choose either,
but those who win are those who know that “good enough” is neither!
That teacher was known for walking around saying, "Good enough is neither!" in class and to students and I'd guess it took me quite a few years until I finally "got it."
In our practice sessions, we have to find a way not to settle for "good enough." Meh, that will get me by! Eh, I just want a B in lessons (or on a jury) anyway! Or as one of my best buds used to say - "Close enough for jazz!"
One of the things I find myself talking to students about a lot is why we should be pushing ourselves to get better as university music students. What a lot of younger students don't seem to have realized is that everything they are working on to get better is to help themselves. Yes, of course, there is a practical side to things - students want to get As, they want to do well in lessons, they want to ace that jury, they want to impress their colleagues and friends, but in the end, the goal is to better yourself as a musician and person so that you can have a successful career. Everything you do is for YOU. Not for me, the teacher, the department head, or your friends. Everything is for YOU. The glorious thing is, if you work towards bettering yourself, the other "practical" items will take care of themselves. If you are working towards becoming a great musician and person, then you don't even have to worry about lesson grades, jury grades, recital hearings, etc. All of that will be aced naturally because you care about what you are doing and are making a concerted effort to better yourself!
The same applies to ensembles. An upset student approached me one week saying that he overheard students complaining about an ensemble that they didn't want to prepare for because they didn't think it was good enough. In the heat of the moment, he told them something like, "It's bad because of that attitude and people not preparing - if you're not a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem!" Now, there may have been a more tactful way to handle the situation, but perhaps that student is right. How can we complain about the mediocrity of an ensemble when we ourselves are admitting to mediocrity? Showing up prepared and excited to a rehearsal benefits the entire group - the group sounds better, a positive attitude is contagious, and the ensemble can forge ahead on making music instead of fretting about individual parts. It can be a truly exhilarating experience! But once again, being prepared and participating in ensembles at a high level helps YOU. Most of my students here are music education majors, and very soon their lives will BE ensembles, whether that is conducting, running a band, or even gigging - and being prepared and excited for ensembles, and becoming a better musician and person, is going to prepare YOU for your future.
I remind students occasionally that yes, they have to remember that lessons and tuba/euph ensemble are classes, and they get a grade for attendance, preparation, etc., but I am not the type of teacher that wants to enforce attendance or preparation rules and guidelines. I consider those items a given, simply expected, and I want people excited and prepared to make music because they want to, not because they want a grade.
This stems from what I call "The Three Bs," which I think I will cover in my next post!
Until next time - go practice! For YOU!