The (sometimes) surprising value of “showing up”

If I had to pinpoint what holds most aspiring pianists back, I’d say that it’s not “showing up” enough.

I mean this on many levels:

Not “showing up” at the piano to practice enough.

Not “showing up” by taking piano lessons and learning from someone who can help you get better.

Not “showing up” by going to jam sessions or organizing them yourself.

And so on and so on.

Now if you’re reading this, you may respond with things like “Well, I don’t need piano lessons.” Or, “I don’t get any better, even if I practice more.” Or maybe, “Yes, I know there’s a jam session tonight, but it’s always boring when I play with those musicians.”

All of this may be true on some level, but it’s missing one point. A big point:

We don’t actually know what’s going to happen at any given moment.

This became clear to me again this morning.

I’ve begun offering free 10-minute Skype “check-in’s” each weekend for my video course students. It’s a great way to connect for a few minutes and they can ask me a question, show me what they’ve been practicing, and I can give them a practice suggestion for the coming week.

Well, last night I received an email from one of my online students who said that while he hadn’t actually prepared anything to play for me, he’d still like to schedule a 10-minute Skype session in order to touch base. It turned out to exceed both our expectations!

I began the session by asking him to simply play something for me. He started playing the jazz standard “How High The Moon” and at a certain point, he hit a wrong chord. Although he quickly corrected the chord, I stopped his and asked him to repeat it. He played it again and I told him that I liked that “mistake” so much that he should keep it in, perhaps finding a similar chord that worked even better in that spot. We then discussed the principle of “chord substitution” and I suggested that he find 2-3 places in “How High The Moon” that he could play his own chord instead of the original harmony. He was already playing the tune with his own, unique rhythmic concept and I thought that changing a few of the harmonies would truly make the song “his own.”

The amazing thing is that neither of us went into the Skype lesson realizing that “lightning would strike.” But we were both open to seeing where it would lead us, and as I’ve just described, we came to something wonderful and unexpected.

But none of this would have happened if he hadn’t “shown up.” None of this would have happened if he had given in to the usual thought that “well, it’ll just be a waste of time since I haven’t practiced enough.” None of this would have happened if he hadn’t recognized the incredible value of “showing up.” Even if he didn’t know how it would go.

Please, make the effort to “show up.” For whatever you value and are interested in. For it’s only by showing up again and again and again and again do we get anywhere. Yes, it’s possible to attain your musical goals and play piano like you’ve always dreamed, but only if you “show up.” Go ahead, “show up” and play your heart out!

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