I keep track of the number of times I do certain activities in my life. This comes from a pretty severe case of perfectionism/”fear of the blank page”. Keeping track of this stuff has helped me immensely over the years, and is actually how I developed the Sticker Method: Creating a Habit of Practice.
This year saw a lot of change in my life. I moved to Marquette, MI in last November of 2019. Between Jan. 1, 2020 and Dec. 31 of 2020 I lived in five places for at least a month and, including other travel, all total I slept in about 15 different beds.
And, then there’s the pandemic.
Basically what I’m saying is, that is why my numbers are not as complete as I would like them to be. I know that I kept track of my numbers for all the months, but I can’t find where I wrote them down! I only have numbers for seven months, which is SUCH A BUMMER!
We’ll say that there were 215 days available (in the months that I have data for)
Music making = 189 days = 88% (This is the first year of collecting this data)
Visual Art/Writing = 150 days = 70% (Down 16% from 2019.)
Body/Mind Work = 169 days = 80% (Up 53% from 2019).
Skateboarding = Well, this is a sad one. I got 30 days in, in the late spring and early summer, BUT, I broke my shoulder on July 10, 2020 and I have retired from skateboarding.
In addition, I started collecting some data on how many days I work on my “business” (that is not my actual teaching.) This is a very new category and I’m still not sure how to keep track of it. I hope to have more conclusive data next year.
Quarterly Focus Words for 2019 (I got this idea from the Being Boss podcast.)
Quarter 1 = Nurture
Quarter 2 = Patience
Quarter 3 = Prepare
Quarter 4 = Clarity
Goals for 2021
Music-Making – I’d be happy to maintain these numbers. It was so helpful to re-engage with the Dozen a Day piano books. It’s so helpful to have a concrete set of musical exercises to play in the mornings.
Visual Art/Writing – I think that this will be stronger in 2021. I am much more confident with my work as a visual artist. And, I’ve found many ways to “break through” in those moments when I am feeling unsure.
Body/Mind Work – I mean, I could actually see myself being able to get to 365 days. That would really be something. I wonder. 312 days would be six times a week. 300 days would be 82%. I wonder.
Every year I teach the Music Station at an incredible sports/art/music/community-building camp called Basketball in the Barrio, in Segundo Barrio, El Paso, Texas. We couldn’t hold the camp in 2020, so Coach Denisse Franco and I wrote a theme song which, hopefully, we’ll all be able to sing for camp in 2021.
Give it a listen and we’ll sing it at camp next year!
This fall I published my latest zine, The Sticker Method: Creating a Habit of Practice. This is a method for taking a lot of the stress that can come with being a learner/do-er out of our lives. I’ve developed the method over my lifetime as both a teacher and a student.
I am a user of The Sticker Method and one of my favorite aspects of it is that the method can be used for anything. If you’ve heard my music, seen my drawings, watched my skateboard videos, or if we’ve talked about developing a habit of going to the gym, then you’ve seen The Sticker Method in action.
What are you going to practice? I’d love to know. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been playing guitar for a long time. And, I teach a lot of guitar players that haven’t played for very long (comparatively).
Learning to play is a lot of work, and for the most part it’s very solitary work, so “the public” only sees the “finished” product.
As a teacher, I can tell that it is difficult for students (especially adult students) to believe that I have had, and continue to have, all those same challenges that they have. I’m not special, I’ve just been doing it for a long time. The work isn’t any easier, I just know how to do the work.
Here is a short excerpt of a tune I recently wrote. It has a part right in the middle where my fingers need to make a move that they are not familiar with. Now it’s time for me to take my own advice! Slow down. Play with intention. Don’t let your habit take over because your habit doesn’t know it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played this very short section over the past couple days. Finally, it’s starting to come together.
It’s taken a lot of work. The work is the thing to do.
I was inspired to write this tune after a recent conversation with my friend Amanda Healen in which we were talking about my mending from some physical health challenges and about her time tending to her garden.
I wrote it on my tenor banjo.
Give it a listen below. And, you can download the standard notation of the tune, here.
The title of this tune was inspired by a banjo video that Jonas Friddle recently published on Youtube. I didn’t have an empty pickle jar to put a lager in, so I opted to include a jar of pickles. Here is Lager in a Pickle Jar!
I spent the day working on “social distance sound”; both my own and others’. I run in a community of educators and teachers who, like many people in the country, have been thrown into a world of having to have what amounts to a television studio in their apartments. We’re all grabbing all the equipment we’ve gathered over the years and we’re trying to make a go of it as best as we can. It’s been a couple weeks of experimenting with mic placement, charging and recharging our phones, moving lamps around our apartments, turning off radiators and covering windows with bedsheets to gain some control of the audio and visual of online music education and concerts.
All this work has got my mind on all of the sound engineers that I’ve worked with over the years, including one in particular; my friend Dave Unger.
About four years into our journey, the Young Stracke All-Stars (my youth folk band) was really cookin’ and we started to get some high profile gigs. And the people that were asking us to play, wanted to hear our music! We’d spent four years cutting our teeth playing small venues like the Lincoln Restaurant where we didn’t need amplification.
But, with the introduction of better gigs came the need to use a sound system properly.
With that in mind the great Chicago sound engineer ,Dave Unger, to lend us a hand. I made a vocabulary list (with a crossword puzzle!) and some drawings, the band invited some friends and Dave spent the afternoon helping us understand how mics, amplifiers and mixing boards work.
It was a very fruitful day! Over the next 7 years of the band’s travels we never had another proper Live Sound workshop, the band members who received this training were able to train the following generation. And those members were able to pass it along to the next members and on we went!
So, I write all of this just to say cheers to Dave and cheers to all the sound engineers who also got the rug pulled out from under them in this challenging situation. Us musicians already knew that you had a big job and a lot of expertise and now it’s even more clear. We’re stuck at home without you, and our sound suffers for it. I think I can speak for pretty much every musician I know when I say that we’ll all be too happy to put some of this work back in your capable hands.