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Staying Motivated in Seclusion

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Anyone else struggling with motivation right now?

I find that I mostly rely on external motivators to signal what I should do with my day -- am I going to teach lessons, go to a rehearsal, perform, hang out with my dog? All of those things indicate different ways that I should prioritize my time and move me forward.

With many of my external motivators removed, I am either bouncing from thing to thing like a pinball machine or I'm completely zapped of energy, lethargically staring at my to-do lists with no desire whatsoever to tackle them. (Third nap? Sure, why not!) Not many of the horn-playing actions I need to take are urgent or timely right now.

It's easy to justify being a little extra lazy ("I don't really need to practice since I won't be performing for a while...") or to focus on things that seem more urgent ("Good grief, I've got to become a Zoom pro right now!").

Here's what I'm learning AGAIN (since I've learned it many times before):

I actually like playing my horn.


Who knew? (I did! I knew! And then I forgot, remembered, forgot, remembered, forgot....)

Without the external pressure of learning ensemble music or thinking about rehearsals or performances, I've been able to sit down with my horn each day and ask myself, "What do I WANT to play?" What a fun question!! I've been exploring new warm-up ideas, old etude friends (yes, I like some etudes), and playing through solos I haven't thought about since graduate school. I'm listening to amazing classical performances online (Berliner Philharmoniker for free? Yes, please!). I'm watching old clips of Victor Borge and P.D.Q. Bach

on YouTube and snort-laughing by myself at my desk. (Has anyone else watched Hilary Hahn hula-hoop while playing Paganini??)

Classical music can be funny. And poignant. And heartbreaking. And joyful. And HOPEFUL.

In the day-to-day grind of my life (which I am lucky to have and thoroughly enjoy), I sometimes forget how much I love listening to and making music because I'm so busy doing it. I often forget how fun it is to PLAY (stressing the word "play," as in having fun messing around) the Strauss Concerto 1 because I've heard it so much and taught it so often that I mostly ignore it when I don't have to think about it. But I played it again the other day -- just for fun, just for me, just to be loud and boisterous and super-horn-hero and Romantic era over-emoting through my instrument. It's good stuff!

It's easy to get caught up in future-thinking right now. We're all worried. We're all wondering. We're all waiting. We don't have answers and we have more questions every day. Human beings tend not to like that feeling.

I am trying to focus on being present, being in the moment, being available to those around me, and doing what I can. There's so much that's out of our control right now -- it helps to look for things that I CAN do instead of lingering on thoughts of what I CAN'T.

"People sacrifice the present for the future. But life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and now." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

I refuse to let fear run my life. I refuse to let the future rob me of the present.

I refuse to stop connecting with others through music. We will find a way.

And I definitely refuse to play my horn because I need to -- I will play because I want to. I will play because it pulls me into the present moment and gives me hope.

The world still has beauty. We are still connected. We still have work to do. Does it look different? Yes. Are there hard and scary things happening? Yes. Do we have to eliminate joy from our lives and focus only on the news? NO. NO. NO.

I encourage you to pick up your horn today, turn off all of your electronic devices, look out of a window, and make a beautiful sound. One note, if that's all you can muster. A whole concert, if you feel so moved. Join the sound of the universe, even though the world might feel a bit more silent right now.

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