If I had a dollar for every time someone has said “marching band is a sport!” I could by the entire S&P 500. It is a truly silly argument. It’s like saying a tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable—it may be technically correct but it doesn’t have any real-world implications. You can put tomatoes in a salad or in a salsa—one of which is mostly composed of vegetables, and one that is mostly composed of fruits. See—it’s just a point of view for the sake of having a point of view. This is not an editorial on such matters—it IS an editorial on approaching music performance like an athlete instead of purely as artistic expression.
World-class athletic performance has a few key tenets: extraordinary preparation, seeking out the best coaches, and a lifestyle entirely devoted to being the best. Does that sound familiar? The best musicians in the world follow a nearly identical pursuit: extraordinary rehearsal time, seeking out the best teachers, and focusing their life to allow them to become extraordinary musicians.
Musicians and athletes are much more alike than they are different! Great athletes show up for conditioning at 530am a lot like conservatory students head into the practice room at 8am.
Great athletes pursue not only the best groups and organizations for play for, but also the best coaches than condition their muscles, the best nutritionists to align their dietary needs to sustain great performance, and the best doctors to make sure their body is healthy and prepared for an athletic event. The best musicians seek out not only the best lesson teachers, but also the best directors, the best mentors, and build an environment conducive to success.
What are some of principles of athletic greats that musicians can adopt?
1. Seek out great mentors
Seek out great teachers and mentors. There is more to the artistic world than simply sticking with your specific band or orchestra director, or your current private lessons teacher. Take a lesson or two with a professional. Audition for All-State Honor Band. Play at a university camp over the summer. Seek out great mentors and play with them! Diversifying your experience will give you new perspectives on how your approach your instrument and music generally.
2. Learn more about Health
Health and wellness isn’t just for athletes. It’s for everyone. Great health in the form of real nutrition, great sleep, and a more controlled mind will transform your life: it will increase your focus, you will recover more quickly, and it will make your life a little bit easier. Not to mention you will likely be happier, in better physical shape, and have a better life. A good place to start down the rabbit hole of good health and wellness is the Genius Life podcast hosted by Max Lugavere. Apple Podcasts Spotify
3. Personal Growth
Personal growth is much more than “New Age” gurus and horrible life advice. Great personal growth starts with simply wanting to be better, going out and learning, trying, and experimenting with new things to find what and what does not work for you.
We are in a true Renaissance-era when it comes to personal growth. There are some truly great books and podcasts that have changed my life and the lives of great musicians and great athletes.
My previous blog post 3 Books for Crushing It in the Practice Room, and in Life is a great place to start.
Here some of my other favorite sources:
Music performance has never been in conflict with athletics. They are lifestyles, not merely hobbies or a way to pass the time. They are both attempts at living a good life.