Last month in performance classes, I introduced avant-garde musician John Cage as our new Name That Tune composer. “Why John Cage?” my husband asked. “Because it is an opportunity to do 4’33”,” I said. Cage’s most famous piece, 4’33”, is a piece that is “played” by sitting at the piano bench for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. Cage’s intention was to open up our definition about what music is: that it can be found in any sound, regardless of how mundane, every day, or ordinary. My students are both fascinated and annoyed by this idea. “Is this a trick?” they ask me. That depends, perhaps. Repeatedly over the last few weeks, my students and I have “played” 4’33”, trying to notice and hear all the different sounds captured during that time. I realize that this means I have sat quietly with students for over two hours practicing active listening. Although Cage may have never intended it as such, these minutes have opened up much needed space in my hurried life. His ideas have given me a moment’s pause.

Just yesterday nine-year-old Ashley was playing a piece with a repeat. When she reached the end of the first section, I prompted her, “Good. Now repeat.” She stopped and gasped, “Wait. I’ve got to take a breath. I forgot to breathe that whole time.” Suddenly it occurred to me that stopping and observing is just another form of meditation, which might have been Cage’s intention all along. But, too often, we forget. We plunge forward. We cheat the whole notes, and skip the rests. It’s not a trick. We quite simply forget to breathe.

Sometimes I think the only reason I teach or write is so I can remind myself how I need to practice. I was thinking about this just this week as I was preparing for a workshop I am giving in two weeks. The title of the workshop (with all respects to Marie Kondo) is “The Life-Changing Magic of Practicing: Redefining Practice in a World Gone Mad” and every day as I fumbled through my work and routines, I found myself thinking, “Yeah, Amy, you really need to take this workshop, not teach it.”

If you are interested in joining this conversation, you can register for this FREE on-line webinar here (By the way, it is not directed at pianists, or piano teachers, or even musicians. If you simply are a person interested in the spiritual discipline of practice, this one could be for you.). The workshop is hosted by my dear friend and colleague, Ingela Onstad, who in addition to being a fantastic soprano, is a therapist with a performance coaching business called “Courageous Artistry.” (Find more about the fantastic work Ingela does here.) The webinar will be LIVE on Sunday, November 14 at 2pm MT, but if you are registered for the workshop, you can view the link anytime.

Or if you want to just give the workshop in my place, contact me. I’d like to attend. I need it.

Keep breathing, friends.

 

 

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