This article was published in the November 2017 issue of the Southeast Michigan Flute Association newsletter.
Suffering a bad case of the mid-semester blues? You're not alone. November usually means "crunch-time". Students are preparing for annual concerto competitions, final projects, exams and juries, and recording prescreenings and submitting applications when applicable. It can take some serious time management skills and an incredible level of focus and motivation to push through and keep your passion alive. Through a series of trial and error from years past, I have found some tips and tricks to keep myself from burning out during the heat of the fall semester.
1) Take time (or make time) for yourself!
While we are maintaining extremely busy and demanding schedules, it is very important to build in some self-care during this time of the year for both your physical and emotional well-being. Self care can be anything from making time for a few good workout sessions or yoga classes each week, sitting down and enjoying your meals without being preoccupied by a million different tasks, watching one episode of your favorite TV show or reading a chapter of a good book before you go to sleep, meeting with a friend for coffee once a week, or going for a walk in nature. Studies have even shown that watching a short, funny YouTube video during a ten minute practice break can help clear your mind and make you more focused when you begin to practice again. Allowing yourself time to breath and unwind, even if it is just for a short amount of time, can help you be more focused and productive when you come back to working and practicing later in the day.
2) Sight-read duets with friends!
Making music with your friends is a foolproof way of lifting your spirits while also spending time with people you enjoy being around. During a practice break, find a friend and sight-read some easy duets for fun! It will help improve your sight-reading skills and give your mind a crucial break from practicing your Mendelssohn Scherzo excerpt a thousand different ways. It will allow you to focus on the art of music making and maybe even give you some inspiration to apply to your practicing later on!
3) Find a mentor, talk to them!
Find somebody you admire and trust. This could be a private teacher, an ensemble coach, an advisor, even an older friend who has been through what you are going through now before. Start a dialogue with them, ask them for advice and ask them about their musical path as well. Tell them about the struggles you are going through, and ask them if they have ever experienced anything like that before. This person should not become your therapist, but asking them genuine questions about how they got to where they are now and what obstacles they may have had to overcome in their careers can be very beneficial and can help you get to know them better. It is helpful to know people who have gone through it all before and who want to watch you succeed. In turn, you will likely become someone else's mentor later down the road :)
While it is easy to become burnt out and lose motivation, try as best as you can to remind yourself daily why you are pursuing music and why you cannot live without it. Be grateful of this pressure you are under, because "pressure is a privilege"! Always try to be optimistic and have faith in yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to in this world - your potential is limitless!
By: Francesca Leo