Frank Almond: On Work, Fun, and the Importance of Both in Dealing with Adversity

NBA coaching great Phil Jackson once said “Not only is there more to life than basketball, there’s a lot more to basketball than basketball.”

I think the same could be said for music.

It’s easy to get sucked into the daily grind of warmups, scales, etudes, metronome work, slow practice, and simply think of it as warmups, scales, etc. But consider what is happening under the surface while we’re navigating impossible shifts and solving vexing intonation issues.

We’re developing the ability to set goals and self-monitor progress towards them. Prioritize. Manage time. Be patient. Persevere, and develop a high tolerance for frustration. Become self-motivated. Solve complex problems. Concentrate. Focus. And remain resilient in the face of setbacks and adversity.

These are all valuable skills not just in the practice room but outside as well. Perhaps even more so, because as someone1 once said, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”

Say hello to Frank Almond

Violinist Frank Almond has enjoyed a varied and diverse career, from being one of the youngest prizewinners in the history of the Paganini Competition in Italy at age 17, to his longstanding role as Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony, chamber musician , and columnist.

If you’re thinking his name is familiar, it may also be that you read about the violin he plays on  – the “ex-Lipinski” Stradivari – and the story of how he came to be connected to this instrument. Or perhaps, more recently, how Frank was tased in the parking lot after a performance and had the violin stolen from him.

Either way, you’ll gain some valuable insights about what it takes to become, and what it means to be a musician in the interview with Frank that follows. But also, I hope you get a sense of who he is – a thoughtful artist who takes his craft seriously mashed up with that cool guy you’d enjoy eating wings and watching a game with.

Which at least to me, suggests that being a pro doesn’t necessarily mean we should always spend 12 hours a day locked up in a room surrounded by scores and recordings with single-minded focus. That while we could do this (and perhaps must on occasion) – it might also be ok to explore our diverse natural curiosities and discover how they intersect with our craft.

Listen now

Click the play button below to listen, or use the download link to get it onto your computer or iDevice.

Download (Duration: 44:42 – 85.8MB)

Things you’ll learn

  • Frank’s “origin story,” or how he got started with the violin, and found his path: [0:20]
  • The two things it takes to do anything on a high level: [12:43]
  • That there are different kinds of practice – like “deliberate play”: [15:41]
  • The importance of having fun in music, and how he does this for himself: [18:55]
  • The “play Bach every day” principle, and why he thinks this is a good idea: [21:08]
  • A touching story which illustrates how we form emotional connections to our instruments, and how they almost have a life story all their own2: [32:19]
  • The one thing Frank wishes he would have learned earlier in his career: [35:11]
  • Thoughts on how to bounce back from bad performances: [42:34]

Want more Frank?

We spoke a bit about Frank’s violin, its previous owners, and the recordings that Frank has made of/with the violin.

That latest recording – Volume 2 of A Violin’s Life – will be released this coming Friday, May 6th3, which you can learn more about here: A Violin’s Life, Vol. 2; or pre-order directly here: Pre-order AVL2 @Amazon

For more about the violin, its history, and Vol. 1 of A Violin’s Life, check out the violin’s website: A Violin’s Life

Photo credit: Jennifer Brindley


  1. Not John Lennon.
  2. BTW, the “red violin” reference is to this 1998 movie
  3. Also, the opening date of Captain America: Civil War. Woohoo!

Ack! After Countless Hours of Practice...
Why Are Performances Still So Hit or Miss?

It’s not a talent issue. And that rush of adrenaline and emotional roller coaster you experience before performances is totally normal too.

Performing at the upper ranges of your ability under pressure is a unique skill – one that requires specific mental skills, and perhaps a few other tweaks in your approach to practicing too. Elite athletes have been learning these techniques for decades; if nerves and self-doubt have been recurring obstacles in your performances, I’d like to help you do the same.

Click below to learn more about Beyond Practicing – a home-study course where you’ll explore the 6 skills that are characteristic of top performers. And learn how you can develop these into strengths of your own. And begin to see tangible improvements in your playing that transfer to the stage.


3 Responses

  1. thanks, Frank and Noa, for a good interview, filled with all kinds of useful ideas and concepts. in particular, i appreciate what Frank had to say about “fun in music.” just a few days before reading this post and listening to the interview i began to suspect that it might be easier for me to get into practicing mode if i simply allowed myself to play some pieces that i like because they are just fun to pay, as opposed to approaching my practice sessions with all the humor of a surgeon getting ready to do a heart transplant. i tried it (playing something just for fun), and it worked. made it much easier to get into practicing on those days when i don’t really feel much like practicing. and then i listened to the interview and heard Frank say the very same thing. very reassuring…

  2. Something I would like to read an article about is : Differences Between Elite and Non-Elite Athletes on Cognitive Appraisal of Stressful Events in Competitive Sport.

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