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Stay Cool, Take Notes, and Use a Tomato

I've been a freelance violinist in Chicago for more than eight years now, and it’s brought me some pretty wonderful opportunities. I've played chamber music at Millennium Park, Ganz Hall, WBEZ, the Empty Bottle, and everywhere in between. As I've grown as a player, my performance opportunities have grown with me.

Career growth, and new challenges, are wonderful. But there’s a great saying that definitely applies: New level, new devil. At different stages in our careers as musicians, the stage gets bigger … and we’ve got to up our game. Maybe you’re a student whose teacher just assigned you the hardest concerto you’ve ever seen. Maybe you’re applying for graduate schools and looking at repertoire lists so long, your head is spinning. No matter who you are, sometimes what was “good enough” before just won’t cut it anymore.

Was my practice routine keeping up with my career growth? Honestly, no, and it was affecting my performances and my mental health. The need for an efficient, effective practice routine had become urgent. Frankly, getting onstage without enough preparation is so unpleasant, it might as well be a matter of life and death!

This year, I’ve challenged myself to find new ways to approach my practice. So far, I’m really happy with my results. My new approach involves three commandments: