Sandy's Story - When deep practice becomes a lifestyle.
"Deep Practice" (based on Daniel Coyle's book, "The Talent Code"), has become a very common phrase in my studio. My students are embracing the concept and people are taking their practice more seriously and seeing some great results! In my first two stories, I highlighted Lisa and Katie. Lisa saw huge growth in her voice in just a few weeks when she applied deep practice to a few tools that helped her overcome some bad singing habits! Her skills improved so much that she went in for a competition and won a spot at Nationals! Katie saw some amazing growth in her attitude and her skills because she realized that making mistakes, and then working through them, is the key to becoming better! She changed from being a perfectionist, and having a fixed mindset to a now having growth mindset! She is an amazing singer but keeps growing leaps and bounds, and she is much happier in the process.
This blog story revolves around another wonderful student of mine, Sandy*. Sandy came to me with a pretty voice but had some inconsistencies and wanted to learn skills that would enable her to earn a lead role in her school's musical. When she started taking lessons with me, she was a high school sophomore, and it was mainly the seniors who got the lead roles. We had about 4 months to prepare her voice and her audition songs. The musical was already chosen, and they already had another older actress in mind for the lead role, so she knew it would be a challenge.
Sandy had a growth mindset (as explained in Carol S. Dweck's book, "Mindset") as natural inclination
already. She knew that she had to work hard to get the results she wanted, she was eager to learn and not easily frustrated. When something went wrong, she knew it was just an opportunity to grow.
I taught her the deep practice tools anyway, because I wanted her to be intentional in her practice and in her performance. When she made an technical or musical error, we stopped, broke it down to isolate the problem, we applied the proper tool to fix it, we slowed it down and repeated it different ways until she felt the change. She took that knowledge with her and practiced her music so much that in just a few months, she had overcome her bad habits and gained the skills she was looking for. She was ready for her big audition!
Well audition day came and when she walked in to sing, nobody was expecting to hear what they were about to hear. She opened her mouth and completely blew them away! So much so, that they were in a dilemma. They had already assumed the role would go to someone else, but now they had to reconsider. She went though a week long round of call backs with the other student, and they eventually decided on Sandy for the lead role! She was ecstatic, so was her mom, and so was I!
She performed that role so well, that she was nominated for best supporting actress out of a number of actresses from about a dozen or more other high schools in the area. She knew she still had another year of high school left and the upcoming musical was even more challenging. She was in a pattern of deep practice already, so she kept working on her voice, but started to apply deep practice principles to other areas, like deeply studying the character for the role she was about to audition for. She worked really hard and was awarded the role, which by now was no big surprise! However, when I saw the performance last weekend, I was amazed! She's not primarily a dancer, but every move she made, every note she sang, every thing she did was so well polished, finished, well thought out. I would watch some of my other outstanding students, but my eyes kept being drawn back to her. She stood out. She was breathtaking.
Sandy came in for her lesson this week, and I asked her what she did to prepare for that role. I only helped her prepare her vocals, but she prepared her character on her own. She did it so well that she became that character, which is not all that typical for a high school performer. She didn't just sing, act or dance that role, she embodied every bit of it's personality. Her character became larger than life. She said there wasn't much information in her script about her character, so she read blogs and watched videos and learned what the character thought about all the other characters. She knew how she should act around them, even though it was never spoken out loud or taught to her. She studied her character so much, that she knew her role inside and out. When she came to practice her singing, she would practice her moves and expressions in my mirror, while she sang. She would deep practice through her trouble spots and would fix them quickly. She applied deep practice to every area of her performance, singing, acting, dancing, personality, and her performance was inspiring. It's too soon to know if she will be nominated or win any awards for her performance, but she can rest assured knowing that all her hard work was worth it and people noticed!
I share these stories because I hope they will inspire you to. My students are normal kids! They are just passionate about their interests and have discovered the best way to practice is to be deliberate, intentional. My hope is to inspire anyone who wants reads this, who wants to improve a skill, change their mindset and have a successful, productive life, to go for their dreams. Through deep practice, a growth mindset, and a deep passion to work hard, you can achieve or even surpass your biggest dreams!
*The student is real, the story is true, I've just changed her name for privacy purposes.