The concept of discipline, it came up a lot today. Nate Wooley came to McGill and gave a masterclass and I had a couple conversations with some students and I think James Victore made a video about art practice and discipline, like, in the last week or so, and so it’s been on my mind a lot and I wanted to make a video about it. I have a funny relationship with discipline because I don’t really believe in it in the way that a lot of people think of discipline.
The conversation I had today with this young trumpet player, um, she was under the impression that practice shouldn’t be fun. Discipline is work. And a long time ago I decided that I wasn’t going to not have fun in my life anymore. A lot of people know that I did a physics degree when I… I finished when I was 21 and that was a really, really hard time in my life, and I was really disciplined in the way that a lot of people think of it. I was really rigorously working; readings, assignments, like, no fun, just work all the time. By the end of it, I didn’t want to pick up a book, I didn’t want to think about work, it was just not on my radar whatsoever. And so even though I became a musician shortly after that I didn’t spend a lot of time practicing because I decided that if it wasn’t fun I wasn’t going to do it. And I don’t think a lot of musicians share this attitude, although it’s funny to be because why else would anybody become a musician if not to have fun? I mean it doesn’t have a great health plan and there’s not a bunch of financial security. The only reason I’m a musician is because it’s so fun. It’s a wonderful, expressive, joyful way to spend my life, not because I love hard work.
So anyway, Nate Wooley came and he talked about a concept that really spoke to me. He talked about honesty in your playing and in your practice and asking yourself the question all the time, “Is what I’m doing the most honest and does it reflect who I am right now in my life and who I want to be?” and I don’t think that the music I want to make is going to require painful discipline.
For me, having a discipline is something I do as a way to care for myself. I feel best when I wake up every day, and I write in my journal, and I write a poem, and I do a little bit of yoga, and I eat a good breakfast, and then I do my practice, my art practice for an hour. That gives me the best feeling in my life. I don’t do it because I’m afraid of playing badly, I do it because I love watching myself get progressively better as time goes on and it’s joyful to practice now, because I’m approaching it from a place of joy and not a place of fear, and not a place of worrying about, you know, being good enough. I practice because I love playing music and I love practicing. It’s fun to play the piano, it’s fun to sing, it’s fun to check a little box every single day and watch as the boxes start to stack up.
So that’s my take on discipline. I hope that’s illuminating for some people out there. I think that everybody has a really different relationship with it just based on the conversations I’ve had, the masterclasses I’ve been to, and all the videos I’ve been looking at about it. So, yeah, let me know what you think in the comments below and thanks for watching.