I had just arrived the day before in Alaska to teach piano for 2 weeks at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Fairbanks is a moderately-sized town in the middle of Alaska, and there is a buffer of at least several hundred miles outside of town in every direction before you come to another population center. (That’s one reason why people come to Alaska – the wilderness is vast!)
Realizing that I needed to withdraw some cash from an ATM, and not wanting to pay an extra fee, I pulled my borrowed car into a parking lot, took out my phone, and asked Siri where the nearest branch of my bank was located. The first news was good – Siri announced “This is what I’ve found” and showed me my bank’s website on the screen.
But when I clicked on the directions, it said:
Travel Time: 2 days and 15 hours
Whoa!!! 24 + 24 + 15 = 63 hours???!!!
I quickly chuckled and realized that Fairbanks, Alaska didn’t have any branches of my bank, and Siri was showing me one hundreds if not thousands of miles away – in Washington state. I’d have to drive all the way through Canada to make a withdrawal!
Well, obviously, none of us is going to drive for 63 hours to save a few dollars in bank fees. But when it comes to learning a piece of music, 63 hours isn’t so long. For some pieces, it’s actually a bargain!
Yes, it might take 63 hours to become able to solo easily on John Coltrane’s “Countdown.” (Coltrane himself reportedly spent a year practicing his “Coltrane changes” before bringing them to his group.)
Yes, it might take 63 hours to learn a lively ragtime piece well enough to play it at a good speed.
And yes, it might take 63 hours to develop the hand independence to improvise over a progressive rock bass line.
In the case of my encounter with Siri, the time spent wouldn’t have justified the result. But with music, the journey is so much fun that we don’t mind the time spent practicing.
Even if the Travel Time is 2 days and 15 hours!
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