Beating the Winter Blahs

I haven't seen the sun in 12 days

When I go without sun, I go a little crazy. I feel tired and unmotivated. I notice that it affects my students this time of year too.

My students are sleepy, and I'm dreaming about the beach. How do I make it through?

I've noticed over the years that I have to have a plan during this time of year, or my and everyone else's motivation begins to flag.

Here are a few ways I've found to inject some life into playing this time of year:

  • Schedule a January recital. This may seem counterintuitive. But it really works. Pick a Sunday afternoon at the end of January when students will come together and play. Don't overplan or expect a gala event, just a chance to play. I'm amazed at how much direction this lends to the January lessons, and helps everyone get through the month. AND, it is after Christmas so you can avoid the stress of trying to get everyone ready during the holiday season. (Why not put that on a list of things to plan for this summer as you are setting out your teaching year?)
  • Schedule a play date. Read through some new pieces with someone who you haven't played with before. Your own musical exploration will spark energy, and you might make a new friend in the process.
  • Create a game. Make up a way to teach something that is recurring among your students. Firing up your creativity is a great way to make life less boring and get through the doldrums. Did you know there is training available for becoming more creative? It's worth a look around. I'll be sharing more in future posts about creativity training, but you can get a preview by going to
  • Get a booster lesson. Sometimes a different teacher can add life back into a student's playing, just by a different voice and a different angle. Like an Institute or workshop, a booster lesson is not meant to replace one's primary relationship with a private teacher, but to enhance it. Find out more about booster lessons here.

For more creative practicing idea, be sure to go back to the practice tips. Even if you have already read them, each time you go through them you'll find something new to try.

It is important that we share creative ways to keep our motivation and energy up during the winter for this important work.  Please share your story in the comments.

How To Gain True Devotion - Let Them Invent

Butterfly Scroll

One of the ways we unwittingly destroy motivation in children is by teaching them that there is only one right answer.

Usually, in music and in life, there is more than one answer, more than one approach. When children are allowed to explore all the options available to them, they can take personal ownership of them in a deeper way.

Children are more likely to engage and commit to something they have discovered on their own. If they are allowed to experiment and realize for themselves what is good, effective, beautiful, they are more likely to engage with it and remember it long term.

Because beginners don't know the technical skills required for getting started, these must be taught and practiced. By necessity much of this teaching is done in a "do-it-this-way" approach. But this rule-based way of doing things needs to be replaced as quickly as possible by a more exploratory framework, or the creative soul of music is dulled.

Moreover, many children are perfectionists. They already assume without our telling them that there is one right way, and immediately feel like a failure when they don't get it. That's a sure way for them to lose motivation and stop practicing.

By recovering a spirit of invention and exploration, you can overcome this loss of motivation. By changing the framework. you will make it easier for your child not to assess self-blame, and eliminate the fear of doing it wrong. 

Letting your children invent is an important life skill. They will use it not only in music, but in every other area that they are trying to learn and master. By framing goals in terms of creating, exploring, and moving toward what is good, instead of only conforming to what is correct, we establish a long-term mindset that guarantees true devotion and love for one's work.