Creativity Sounds Important…but at the Elite Level, How Valuable Is It Really?

Whether in football, basketball, or soccer, displays of creative playmaking and shotmaking draw lots of ooh’s and ahh’s from fans, and booya’s on ESPN’s plays of the day (or at least it used to, when booya was something people still said). 

All of which is very exciting and entertaining, of course. And it certainly makes intuitive sense that creative players and playmakers would be valuable to a team’s success. 

But is this actually true? 

Is there any data or evidence that creativity leads to more wins? Or is this one of those examples of style being unfairly valued over substance? When nostalgic fans can sigh, shake their heads, and bemoan the deterioration of sound fundamentals amongst today’s younger generation (whether that’s true or not)? 

Similarly, does creativity on stage lead to more success in auditions and competitions? Or is it just about execution, plain and simple?

Peter Miksza: On the Overlooked Value of Improvisation in Musical Training

How would you react if someone encouraged you to include some improvisation in your daily practice routine?

Would you react with curiosity, and perhaps be a little excited to see what this could add to your musical and technical development?

Or would you wonder about improvisation’s relevance in your daily practice, given that you don’t have unlimited time, and it’s not like you can improv your way through Schumann’s Scherzo?

Or run away, because…eek! Improv?! Where would I even start?

If I could go back in time, I’d hold younger me by the shoulders and tell that cocky little scalawag to make a concerted effort to develop more improv, composition, and transcription chops. Not just so I could do fun stuff like this or even this (btw, you can learn more about Ken and the interesting backstory here), but so that I’d have a more complete understanding of what makes music work.

So to explore this a bit further, I caught up with Indiana University music ed researcher and professor Peter Miksza, whose work has come up on the blog in previous weeks (re: learning faster and memorizing more effectively).

In this 30-minute chat, we’ll chat about:

*why improvisation may be a more valuable part of musicians’ training than we realize
*the importance of “informal” practice in addition to deliberate practice
*how “micro-improvisation” could be used even in (or perhaps especially in) ensemble settings
*four things skilled improvisers do to get better at improvising, that all of us could incorporate into practice sessions
*and more!

Jeff Huber: On Preparing Mentally for Competition

I ended up having surgery this week (which, thankfully, went well), but I’m still unable to read normally, so a regular post wasn’t going to happen this week either (and if you missed last week’s podcast-stravaganza, you can check out the list of podcasts I was enjoying while on bed rest here).

So I thought this might be a nice opportunity to catch up with 3-time Olympic diving coach Dr. Jeff Huber, who recently retired from coaching at Indiana University, but still teaches in IU’s Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences and is also Director of Education for USA Diving.

As a former diver himself, a coach who has worked with athletes at the highest level, and with a Ph.D. in educational psychology to boot, Jeff has a unique perspective on the many facets of developing expertise, which we explore in the 30-minute conversation below.

You’ll hear Jeff share some insights on:

*the importance of making sure everything you do in the practice room is connected to what has to happen on stage (i.e. remembering that practice is just a means to an end)
*how to take practice home with you – but in a constructive and healthy way
*why tomorrow’s practice actually starts as soon as today’s practice ends
*why you may need to create or invent customized drills and exercises instead of relying on existing ones
*how to make sure you don’t “waste” your best performance in warmups
*a critical part of each competition that can easily be overlooked in preparation, but also needs attention (i.e. all the downtime)

And, if you listen closely, you may be able to hear the gears in my head turning…really…slowly at a couple points (we recorded this less than 24 hours post-surgery/anesthesia). =)


Five Podcasts I’m Enjoying Right Now

Five Podcasts I'm Enjoying Now

I was in a bit of a strange accident this week, which resulted in a concussion, some eye trauma, and a trip to the ER. So…the last few days have consisted of me sitting propped up in bed with my eyes closed, catching up on episodes of my favorite podcasts.

Since writing a normal post was not in the cards this week, I thought it might be a perfect time to share some of the podcasts I’m enjoying – and also ask you to share some of your favorite podcasts too.

So without further ado, here they are:

A Childhood Pastime That Could Help You Reduce Stress and Manage Audition-Day Nerves

A Childhood Pastime That Could Help You Reduce Stress and Manage Audition-Day Nerves

Legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock once said “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” 

Indeed, as stressful as performing could be, being on stage often felt much more freeing and liberating to me than the rest of the day leading up to that moment. 

After all, once I was in front of an audience, there was nothing more I could do to prepare – I just had to let go and play. 

But all the hours leading up to that moment were a different story. How was I supposed to keep myself occupied from the moment I woke up to the moment I walked on stage?

A part of me would be tempted to practice – even though I knew there was no use trying to cram anything more in at that point. 

I tried watching TV, but that never felt quite right to me. I was too antsy to read. Listening to music was helpful, but at some point I’d just want some peace and quiet. Visualization was great too – but kind of draining after a while. Looking at the score just made me wish I had practiced more. And meditating wasn’t even on my radar in those days. 

And aside from pacing around the room or staring off into space as the voice in my head would conjure up one worst-case scenario after another, what else is there anyway?