Finding and Embracing a Higher Ceiling
Imperfections in our practice are a fork in the road. The run-down, overused path is that of frustration. It’s incredibly easy to reprimand ourselves in the practice room, as if someone were actually listening and we had to justify our mistake to them with an external showing of anger, making excuses, or humor. It’s a quick get-out-of-jail free card because, sure, we missed the note or took a bad breath or played in a rest- but we acknowledged it! We stomped our feet! We let out the most authentic of groans to share our displeasure! In doing so, we have relinquished ourselves of the burden of responsibility for committing the error…. Or so we’d like to think.
By taking the road less travelled, we get to see our mistakes from a new perspective- one of excitement and possibility. I get excited when I discover something in the practice room that I can’t do yet. While I may not be playing the way I would like to, I know I can get there with patience and effort. Knowing how high the ceiling truly is, the level of attention to detail that can really be achieved, to me is one of the greatest thrills in music. How do we do that?
When you find yourself making a mistake, stop. Imagine exactly how you want that passage to sound, and come up with ways to get there. Do you need to make up an exercise to supplement it? Is there an etude that’s reminiscent of the style? Come up with as many ways as you can to practice one thing from different angles. Doing these other activities will not only improve that one section of music, but will undoubtedly sharpen other areas of your playing, and could even lead to new discoveries and solving issues you weren’t thinking about. The deeper we dive, the more music we put under the microscope, the more opportunities we give ourselves for success and discovery. The possibilities in practice are limitless when we acknowledge and embrace a very high ceiling instead of accepting that something may not improve.
Ben Vasko recently finished a one-year appointment at Valdosta State University as Lecturer of Tuba and Euphonium and principal tubist of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra in Valdosta, GA. During the summer, Ben is a brass instructor with the 19-time DCI World Champion Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps. He has had success as a semi-finalist and finalist at various national and international competitions.
Ben holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Texas and a Master of Music degree from the University of Georgia, both in Tuba Performance. Ben has performed professionally with groups throughout the US and Mexico. His jazz and commercial playing are also regularly in demand. Ben’s playing/arranging can be heard in commercials for companies like Ford and State Farm. Additionally, he has been a finalist for tuba positions in multiple premiere military bands, the Walt Disney World Main Street Philharmonic, and the Boston Brass.