Thursday, January 19, 2017

Talent Isn’t Everything!

It is a common myth that only the most talented musicians “make it” in the music business.  But recent research (which I find so inspiring) shows that natural ability is a small part of what sees people through music programs and on to stable work in the industry.  Instead, hard work and dedication are the most important factors to success. So, if you're into setting New Year's goals for yourselves, look no further than revitalizing your good, old-fashioned work ethic! Best wishes for a fruitful 2017--NR


“Hard work will beat talent if the talent doesn’t work hard.”--Etieno Etuk

Studies conducted in a wide array of fields in the past 30 years have changed what we think makes a person great.  Some researchers now argue that the existence of specific, innate abilities is a myth.  No one is naturally born to do anything.  In studies of successful professionals, researchers have found athletes who were terribly clumsy in childhood and international chess masters with below-average IQs.


Deliberate Practice (William Chase and Anders Ericsson) states that it takes at least ten years to show results.  Practice must be lengthy,  regular, and intelligently designed in order to lead to improved performance.

Practice Tricks: visit "Tips for Creative Practice" for advice from the UWYO flute studio!

PUTTING IT INTO ACTION: the need for mentors

The teacher is crucial in guiding correct kinds of practice by assigning useful exercises, teaching for efficiency, and being persistent with a firm but flexible structure in lessons.

Identify promising performers early: starting early allows the body and brain to develop in advantageous ways (not to mention developing good habits from the start).

Chunking of material expands memory, and repetition is crucial: the development of myelin around nerve fibers and neurons in the brain, which makes those fibers and neurons more efficient, occurs by sending the same signal through the nerve fibers again and again.

Choose exercises for your students that push them beyond what they can currently do and allow them to build the skills that are important.

Allow students to not always be perfect so that they learn to continue striving and learn how to cope with failure.

Students need frequent, rapid, and accurate feedback.

Inspiration, not authority, is the best model for motivating your students.

Lead by example, and get parents on board, as well.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, University of Chicago, studied adolescents who were academically outstanding and found that an environment which is both stimulating and supportive at home was a salient feature.

Intrinsic motivation is the only sustenance in the end (but extrinsic motivators can reinforce)

Tips from the graphic design world (from the Design Consortium “Boxes and Arrows“):

1. Practice a lot
2. Attend to details
3. Be versatile
4. Make an effort to learn
5. Anticipate problems
6. Set goals
7. Have a positive attitude

From George Leonard’s Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment.  (1991)

Five Keys to Long-term Success and Fulfillment

1. Instruction
2. Practice
3. Surrender
4. Intentionality
5. Pushing the Envelope

Mastery is:

-the process in which what was difficult becomes both easier and more pleasurable.
-long-term dedication to the journey, not the bottom line.
-gaining mental discipline to travel further on your journey.
-realizing that the pleasure of practice is intensified.
-knowing that you will never reach a final destination.
-being diligent with the process of mastery.
-maintaining your commitment to hone your skills.
-after you have conquered one hurdle, jump the next one.
-being willing to practice, even when you seem to be getting nowhere.
-being patient while you apply long-term efforts.
-practicing for the sake of practice.
-winning graciously, and losing with equal grace.
-placing practice, discipline, conditioning, and character over winning.
-being courageous.
-being fully present in the moment.
-maintaining flexibility in your strategy and in your actions.
-a journey.

Suggested reading:

Colvin, Geoff.  Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World Class Performers from Everybody Else.  New York: Penguin Books, 2008.

Daniel Coyle.  The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown.  New York: Random House, 2009.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success.  New York: Little, Brow, & Company, 2008.

Greene, Don.  Fight Your Fear and Win: Seven Skills For Performing Your Best Under Pressure--At Work, In Sports, On Stage.  New York: Broadway Books, 2001.

Leonard, George.  Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment.  New York: Plume Books, 1991.

Loehr, James.  The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental, Emotional, and Physical Conditioning from one of the World’s Premier Sports Psychologists.  New York: Plume Books, 1994.

Mack, Gary and David Casstevens.  Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence.  New York: Contemporary Books, 2001.

Werner, Kenny.  Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within. New Albany, IN: Aebersold Jazz, Inc., 1996.

Nicole Riner ©2016

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Looking back, looking ahead

Good old Wyoming driving. 

One of the things I love most about being a musician is the opportunity to travel and make new friends, and 2016 was certainly rich in opportunities. 

February was the beginning of my travel with a presentation at the Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention in Virginia. I gave a workshop, "Finding Our Inner Voices as Flutists", which precipitated my slow-moving work on a tone workbook based on vocalises (more on that soon, I hope!). While I was there, I also gave master classes at Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University, where fabulous teachers Tabatha Easely and Julianna Nickel (respectively) have two very positive, talented flute studios. In April I taught master classes at the Oklahoma Flute Society Flute Fair and University of Southern Mississippi, and in September the Montana Flute Association sent me on a whirlwind tour including stops in Missoula, Great Falls, Malta, and Billings. I was and am always so grateful for the warm hospitality I am treated to by hosting teachers and their students alike, everywhere I go.  Anyone who says the music world is cold just hasn't looked in the right places yet! 

Talking about breathing at VCU!

I traveled with my chamber group, Verismo Trio, to lovely University of Jamestown in January (really, it was lovely, just shockingly cold). I don't know that I've ever visited a small town with a population so totally happy to be from there! We also served as the resident ensemble for the New Music Festival in Kearney, Nebraska, where we were lucky enough to hook up with composers Anthony Donofrio and Jason Emerson, whose music we had already been playing for ages. In the fall we stayed closer to home with concerts in Sheridan and Casper, Wyoming, where it was wonderful to reconnect with old friends and meet a couple of news ones, too.  Our most exotic gig might have been Southern Arkansas University, where we were part of the festivities for their first-ever saxophone festival (a very different animal than a flute festival!) and we each ate our weight in fried food. Even the green beans were fried. 
At the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, ND

At University of Wyoming, we organized some great instructional videos on the All-State audition materials, in keeping with our mission to serve the greater musical community of Wyoming, and got some wonderfully appreciative feedback for our efforts. And while hunched over the computer here and there, I have begun a collaboration with Alry Publications to publish my transcription of a fantastic Dvorak violin sonata along with poking through a new kind of tone book, as mentioned above, which I hope to have ready for preview in the coming months. 

In 2017, look for me, often generously sponsored by Altus Flutes, at the Women in Music festival at Mississippi University of Women in March and giving master classes at colleges in Pennsylvania and Alabama, so far.  My full schedule is continually updated on my website here

Thank you to all of my gracious hosts and willing students, near and far, in 2016, and here's to an equally inspiring 2017!  Wishing you all the best in your artistic endeavors this year...