Note: This is a guest post by Maria Rainier, enjoy!
Personal Development for Musicians: Developing Plans for Success
As a musician, I often find that I’m struggling to remain a well-rounded person. I’m a classical pianist, and for the most part, that translates to a large number of hours spent in the practice room. While that’s great for my technique and musicianship, it’s not so wonderful when I start to think about other aspects of my life. Because I’ve focused so much on practice, it’s easy to feel that I’m underdeveloped in other areas – and that has led me to spend some time and energy on personal development. Although it got me far outside of my comfort zone, I identified several areas of my life that seemed lacking in attention and proficiency. It wasn’t easy to start developing these areas, but it’s been well worth the investment for me. Here are some of the areas of my life that I’ve been working on (besides being a musician, of course) – and I’ve found that development in these areas has helped me to feel well-rounded again.
I’ve always enjoyed creative writing as a hobby, but I’ve realized that professional writing is a useful skill to have when you’re a musician. I’m always interested in finding extra work because, as you know, it can be difficult to make a living on a music career. With writing, I’ve found a way to earn money and use my musical expertise at the same time. There are plenty of ways to do this, which include blogging and guest blogging, writing articles for music publications, writing reviews of other musicians’ performances, developing a web page, and more.
To accomplish this goal of improving my writing skills and becoming a more marketable professional, I picked up a professional writing minor while I was earning my degree in piano performance. It was extra work, but putting in that time and effort has helped me to develop personally and professionally. Other options for improving writing skills include online or distance classes, community college courses, local writing seminars or retreats, and more – just look around to find opportunities near you. If you’re not interested in developing writing skills, try putting some time into a favorite hobby that’s fallen by the wayside. Not only can this become a marketable resource, but it can also help you dissolve the stress and monotony of music practice.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve blown off steam by running. It’s just the most natural way for me to get exercise and reduce stress. I haven’t given it up yet, but sometimes it’s tempting to use that time for practice even though I know I can’t keep practicing without taking a break and expending some energy. I’ve also learned that cardio isn’t enough, so I picked up yoga on a friend’s recommendation and have been doing it ever since. Yoga helps me stay attuned to my body and its role in my performances, which has greatly improved my practice stamina and ability to focus. I would recommend yoga for any musician because of its calming and strengthening effects on the body and mind, but there are also other ways to engage in physical conditioning. Tennis is great for increased hand-eye coordination and strength, as are many other sports, so find something that appeals to you and get out there.
When I spent the majority of my free time in the practice room, I learned the hard way that friendships need significant time investments. I was unwittingly alienating my friends, erasing myself from their radar screens, and limiting my social interaction. Even outside of the personal value of good relationships, networking is an important dimension of professional success, so being able to relate to others is a necessary skill. While I was studying to earn my piano performance degree, I joined two campus organizations: one professional music fraternity and one service organization. Getting involved in the ongoing professional conversation is important, so try to find a local group that includes other musicians. It’s also socially enriching to volunteer, and there are plenty of opportunities to do that no matter where you live. You can join a service organization with some of your friends or try something completely unfamiliar, but either way, you’ll be contributing to the common good and to your own personal development.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online universities, and what an online degree means in an increasingly technological world. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.