RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • Time Management for Percussionists by Dr. James T. Lindroth

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | May 18, 2022

    Time management can be a struggle for many people. There is often not enough time to get everything done. Many people feel stress, anxiety, and even burnout due to the overwhelming responsibilities of being a professional musician, teacher, or music student.

    This article aims to help percussionists become more productive with their time by recognizing long-term goals for their careers and developing effective time management strategies. It is important to note that this article focuses on work-related activities and not personal or family priorities. However, concepts and techniques in this article can be modified to these additional non-work priorities and responsibilities.

    In Stephen Covey's groundbreaking 1994 book, 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, he developed a matrix to help people understand how they use their time, prioritize activities, and use time proactively. It is an easy system to understand and use for educators.

    Box 1

    Things that require your immediate attention
    Meet important commitments / deadlines
    Something you have postponed
    Most things here cause stress and eventual burnout..

    Box 2

    Long term goals
    Important things that will get you closer to being the educator you want to be in the future.
    Focus and plan proactive actions to reduce box one items. 

    Box 3
    Urgent, but not important

    These things are short term focused.
    Things that need attention but are not necessary.
    Things that appear to be worth doing that will not help you meet your long time goals.
    Cut these actions short, delegate them to others, or reject them.
    Box 4 
    Time Wasters

    Activities that distract you from being productive at work.
    Social media, social emails, smartphone apps.
    Activities that prevent you from being productive at work.

    We spend our time at work in four ways, based on two factors that define an activity: urgent and essential. Box 1 is urgent activities or things that require your immediate attention. Most of the things in this box cause stress because they deal with meeting deadlines or commitments, pressing problems, critical issues that arise, or something you have postponed. These actions are urgent, but they may not be essential to your overall career goals or growth as a musician. Many percussionists spend most of their time here. They are constantly reacting rather than planning. Too much time in this box can cause stress and burnout.

    Box 2 deals with your vision and long-term goals. What kind of musician, teacher, etc., do you ultimately want to be? Where do you want your percussion studio or career to be in the future? Once you decide on your long-term goals, list activities that bring you closer to that vision. These are the essential things you find most valuable. The issue with Box 2 is that these things tend not to be urgent and can quickly be put on the back burner. The goal is to spend more time in this box, which requires proactive focus and planning to reduce as much time spent in Box 1.

    Box 3 items are things that need to be completed but are less or not important. In this box are things that are short-term focused and require you to react rather than be proactive. These things appear worth completing but do not help you achieve your long-term goals. Many of the actions are nothing more than interruptions. Examples of these interruptions for musicians may include emails and text messages, irrelevant meetings, unnecessary performances, etc. Cut short your use of emails and text messages during the day, reduce or say no to unnecessary performances and meetings, and learn to delegate some of these activities to others. People who micro-manage struggle in this box because they feel the need to do everything and not trust others to complete the task.

    Box 4 is all the activities that waste precious time. Today, we have more options to divert our time than ever before. Social media, internet browsing, online shopping, and smartphones tempt us to stray from the essential things we should be doing at work. These activities are time wasters. Too much time in Box 1 dealing with urgencies and deadlines can cause high-stress levels such that any free time we have is usually spent in Box 4 to forget about work. The goal is to avoid Box 4 as much as possible.

    Time is the most valuable resource. Once it is gone, you cannot get it back. Once you have placed all your activities into the four boxes, you can begin to plan. It is crucial to work from your calendar and not a to-do list when planning. To-do lists only work in Box 1, dealing with things that are urgent. Organize your schedule on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. If you organize daily, you are right back into Box 1. The focus is to eliminate and manage your activities, so most of your planning will include your Box 2 activities that are important to you. Remember, these are the actions that will bring you closer to achieving those long-term goals.

    Journals and notebooks can also be a positive resource for identifying and developing long-term goals. Carry a notebook or use an e-notebook app to write down important ideas, performing or teaching tips, or even thoughts to help you reach your long-term goals in Box 2. Then, go back and read through them often. Our minds are best used for processing ideas, not just storing information.

    Time management does not have to be a long and tedious effort. Focusing your energies on reaching your goals requires a constant re-evaluation and balancing of priorities and responsibilities. You cannot control the universe or consequences of actions. What you can control are the principles and goals you set for yourself. They are the compass to help guide you to success and happiness.

    LindrothDr. James T. Lindroth is Associate Professor of Music Education at Northeastern State University, where he serves as the Percussion Chair and Coordinator of Music Education. Dr. Lindroth earned his Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of South Florida and his Masters of Music degree in Music Performance and Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is an active performer and recording artist and is a member of the Central States Judges Association, where he adjudicates music festivals throughout the United States. He is a member of the Vic Firth Education Team and serves on the PAS Health and Wellness Committee. Dr. Lindroth’s scholarly research has been published in regional and national peer-reviewed journals, and he has presented research and workshop sessions at music conferences in the United States and internationally.

  • Interrupting the Comparison Culture by Hannah Weaver

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Mar 23, 2022

    The music world is competitive. Whether it’s competing for a Grammy, a spot in an orchestra, a graduate school T.A. position, or finals in a competition, much of our work as musicians is held up in direct comparison to our peers. While this can serve as motivation and inspiration, it also can take a toll on mental health and happiness. It is essential to find a way to interrupt any negative thought processes and redirect this competitive energy into creative channels.

    When we spend our time comparing our achievements with others, it is easy to lose sight of the communal aspect of the music world. It is easy to view the music community as a zero-sum game, imagining that one person’s success is at the expense of others achieving that same result. Instead of begrudging others their success, we should be excited to see others achieving great things, and work to find ways to expand the audience community for music. We shouldn’t fixate on simply competing for existing jobs; we should be envisioning new opportunities.

    Granted, this is easier said than done; we all fail into the trap of comparing ourselves to others from time to time. Rather than allowing this to spiral out of control, I propose we work to interrupt the comparison culture. Three simple ways to do this are to know yourself, look deeper, and reframe your perspective.

    It’s important to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Everyone brings something unique to the table. This may be a lyrical sense of phrasing, fast hands, a talent for improvisation, an affinity for memorization, or anything else that musically distinguishes you. Recognizing our natural abilities can allow us to make the most of these talents. 

    Likewise, it is important to recognize your weaknesses. This is important not simply because these areas will require more attention, but because they also have the potential to become even greater strengths. Just as you build larger muscles by tearing the fibers so they grow back bigger, you can use targeted practice to correct and improve your weaknesses to make them even stronger. The detailed analysis and intense practice involved in correcting deficiencies can give you a deeper understanding of the issue.

    In this digital age wrought with shiny images on social-media platforms, it’s easy to mistake the polished, seemingly perfect images and performances for reality. The fact is, even before the advent of Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, public performances still had a “filter” applied to them: the practice room. Hours and hours (10,000 hours, according to Malcolm Gladwell) are spent developing proficiency, honing techniques, learning notes, and carefully crafting phrases before mastery can be achieved. Most of the time we don’t see the laborious process of getting something stage-ready, and this can create a distorted metric against which we measure ourselves. 

    It’s time to demystify what happens in the practice room and to revel in the messy, ugly, frustrating process of improving. While it may not always be a fun process, it can certainly be satisfying when approached with consistency and a positive mindset.

    Perhaps the most important tool in interrupting the comparison culture is choosing to reframe one’s perspective. By viewing situations through a more positive lens, we are empowered to take positive action instead of feeling hopeless or wallowing in disappointment. One of my favorite pieces of advice I received was from Julie Spencer in a master class she was giving at the University of Michigan. A student asked her about her practice strategies for increasing accuracy. In response, Julie said, “I don’t think about practicing until I don’t hit wrong notes; I just think about practicing because I care enough to hit the right ones.”

    Instead of worrying about the abundance of things to learn, the hundreds of ways to improve, try to view your development as a musician as an opportunity to continue learning your whole life. Instead of envying another person’s success, be excited to see the arts thriving. Great artists don’t begrudge one another a place in the spotlight; they are confident in their abilities and unique voice and allow others the space to shine as well. By supporting each other and making room for all to reach their fullest potential, we can reap the benefits of a positive community and maintain a healthier relationship with our own art.

    Explore this idea further by checking out these incredible Ted Talks:

    Hannah WeaverHannah Weaver
    serves as Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Percussion at the University of Nebraska–Omaha and is a passionate teacher committed to cultivating her students’ individual musicianship. During the summers of 2016-18, Weaver was percussion fellow with the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, and she previously attended the Lake George Music Festival, Texas Music Festival, and National Repertory Orchestra. In November of 2018, Weaver advanced to the semifinals in the TROMP International Percussion Competition in Amsterdam. She also placed in the semifinals of the 2009 Paris International Marimba Competition and won the PASIC 2014 Mock Orchestra Competition. Weaver has performed with internationally renowned artists Renee Fleming, Augustin Hadelich, Orli Shaham, Audra McDonald, Jennifer Koh, Sō Percussion, and Carol Jantsch. She has also performed with the Indianapolis Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and Syracuse Symphoria.

  • Imposter Syndrome by James Vilseck

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Feb 23, 2022

    Everyone has experienced self-doubt at some point in their lives. It is a perfectly normal part of expanding your comfort zone. Taken to a higher level, these feelings can make you feel unworthy of your success or like a fraud, almost as if you don’t deserve what you have or your achievements were complete luck. It might even be possible that you are “found out” — not fit for your position or the expectations brought upon you. This mentality describes imposter syndrome.

    Coined by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in their 1978 founding study, imposter syndrome is more than just extreme self-doubt. Rather, it is wondering whether you belong in the first place. It is not an official psychological disorder, but instead an extreme mindset that affects an estimated 70% of individuals at some point in their lives. Originally believed to mainly affect women, recent studies have shown that both men and women can experience imposter syndrome, though the experience seems to be more common in minorities. The main culprits of imposter syndrome are high-achieving individuals. Regardless of their success, these individuals may feel like they do not belong, feel a need to constantly prove their worth, and seek approval from outside sources. They typically discredit any actual success achieved by their own efforts and believe that any credit they deserve is due to the excessive anxiety, luck, or the kindness of others.

    Dr. Valerie Young studied imposter syndrome extensively and identified five different types: Perfectionist, Expert, Natural Genius, Soloist, and Superwoman/man.

    The Perfectionist: These individuals focus mainly on the “how” and create excessively high goals. They can be control freaks and rarely celebrate success because their work could have been better. Even in impressive accomplishments, a minor flaw equates to a complete failure.

    The Expert: These individuals focus on “what” and “how much” they know and can do. They feel an endless need to acquire knowledge and experience, thinking that they will never know enough, even if such knowledge serves no immediate purpose. A small lack of knowledge in the moment feels like a great failing.

    The Natural Genius: Measures success not only about the “how” and “when,” but mainly based on ease and speed. Like perfectionists, they set very high bars, but judge themselves upon succeeding the first time and succeeding easily. Any form of struggle leads to the feeling of defeat.

    The Soloist: Worries about “who” completes the task. These individuals feel like they must be the one to accomplish each task to prove their worth. They struggle working with others and feel that the result is less stellar when they do. Asking for any help is a sign of failure.

    The Superwoman/man: Focuses on “how many” roles they can fulfill. These workaholics find satisfaction while working, but not in the work itself. They work extra hours, even when all their tasks are completed. Failure in any one role means complete failure overall.

    The music field is filled with highly successful individuals at all levels: students making all-state or auditioning into their school’s highest-ranked ensemble, young composers publishing their first piece, a professor receiving a reward for years of service, etc. Imposter syndrome can affect any of these individuals. It is not uncommon for those experiencing imposter syndrome to mask their feelings. Instead, they may strive to make their work more obvious to those around them.

    Another group that commonly experiences imposter syndrome are those starting a new role. This may be freshmen in college or high school who are under higher expectations and feel a need to prove themselves, or graduate students who are in a unique part of their career development. As teachers and supervisors, we should be aware of those who are most susceptible to these thoughts or those displaying signs of imposter syndrome.

    Musicians work in a very competitive field. Much of what we do, through auditions, competitions, proposals, etc., involve direct comparisons to others’ work. It can fuel a drive to be better than others rather than focus on the development of the self. Any time self-satisfaction and self-confidence becomes reliant on external factors, bad mental habits can be formed. Knowing that these factors can lead to a possible increase in imposer syndrome in musicians allows us to form strategies for ourselves and our students.

    First and foremost, attacking feelings of imposter syndrome requires a change in mindset. Dr. Young states that “Rewriting your inner rule book is the best place to start.” Changing habits is a difficult process — especially mental habits. It requires time, patience, support, and likely lots of failure. While imposter syndrome is a mental issue, mental problems can be created by physical issues, such as a lack of good exercise, sleep, and dieting habits. Those already dealing with anxiety or depression are also particularly prone to imposter syndrome.

    Talk to Someone: If you have feelings of imposter syndrome or even moderate amounts of self-doubt, talking to a supervisor or mentor is a good first step. Communication is a great way to validate accomplishments, create realistic expectations, and develop accountability. You should also consider counseling from a therapist or psychologist who can provide specific, personalized guidance.

    Realize Your Accomplishments: Creating a list of accomplishments is a great way to realize what you have achieved. The list can be as big or small as needed to achieve the intended effect. Something big, such as a great recent performance of a new work, all the way to something as small as reaching your practice goals for the week all work on this list. Feel pride in each accomplishment and think about the work you put in for each one. As you work through these accomplishments, avoid comparisons to others and try to stay focused on the self.

    Embrace Failure: Learning from failures is one of the best ways to grow. Failure is inevitable; it is fruitless to try to avoid failure and none of us aim for it. That said, knowing it will happen instead of allowing it to shock us can put failure in perspective. Most of the time, mistakes are minor and will not cause any major concerns. Think about what you can learn from each failure and use it as an opportunity to grow.

    Achieve Your Personal 100%: With only 24 hours in a day, only so much can get done. Taking out time for sleep, food, travel, etc., provides us with even less time. Achieving your personal 100% means to have done everything in your power to accomplish your goals considering your ability to do so. For example, if you are experiencing forms of tendonitis in your wrists, you probably will not practice as much as you want to. Instead, you practice what you can, study your pieces, watch videos, etc. If your car breaks down, you probably won’t get your to-do list done at a normal rate. You aim to do what you can, but the world often has other plans. If you have an overload of tasks to achieve, it may not be possible to finish them all. Utilize what you can to achieve what you can, and if you do that, it is okay to dismiss any further feelings of shame and start understanding your limits. Adjust your commitments from there.

    Take it One Step at a Time: Everyone around you is trying to get better. No one is perfect; you are not perfect. We are all a work in progress and we are all human. Find one thing you want to be better at and start working on it. You can even create a list of things you want to improve and slowly incorporate each into your daily routine. Give each item time to develop.

    The feelings of impostor syndrome are common, and those experiencing them are not alone. There are plenty of online resources that can help you identify if you have imposter syndrome, which type it may be, and specific strategies to work on it. Don’t let these feelings hold you back in your career or schooling. Acknowledging these feelings and making slow adjustments will lead you away from your imposter and eventually to your real self.

    “Do You Have Imposter Syndrome?” by Jannifer Tzeses.

    “Feel like a fraud?” by Kristen Weir. American Psychological Association.

    “5 Different Types of Imposter Syndrome (and 5 Ways to Battle Each One)” by Melody J. Wilding.

    “The 5 Types of Impostors.” By Valerie Young.

    The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young.

    James Vilseck 2022Dr. James Vilseck is Adjunct Professor of Percussion at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he is the Percussion Coordinator and Percussion Arranger for the Lumberjack Marching Band and the Director of the “Jacks of Steel” Steel Band. He is also Adjunct Professor at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas and was previously Adjunct at Morehead State University. A marching percussion specialist, he is a sought-after clinician at universities and has presented at state music conferences and PASIC. His compositions have been published by Tapspace, and he is a member of the PAS Health and Wellness Committee.

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