Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rests Are Essential

Photo by wiccked.

School is out, and my studio is closed until June! I'm sleeping in, taking it easy, and making no apologies for it! I wrote this post about five years ago, and I believe it even more today, so I'm sharing it again.

Rests are good - quarter rests, half rests, whole rests, even eighth rests if that's the best you can do.

Several years ago, what I most wanted was to find a commercial space to rent so that I could set up a little piano academy, offering early childhood music classes in the morning and piano lessons in the afternoon. Thank goodness I realized that in order to afford my expenses, I would have to enroll many more students than I really wanted to have. I would have to teach into the evenings, maybe before school, and certainly on Saturdays. All of that work would have meant more child care expenses. I wouldn't have been able to ease up on teaching during the summer since leases and utility bills don't take holidays. Ultimately, I might have become burned out on work that I truly love.

I think we all, students and teachers alike, need to honor our natural rhythms. This year, I encouraged my students to schedule 4-6 lessons during our 10 weeks of summer. Most are doing just that, and it's working well for us. It's enough that they don't forget everything, but allows for some relaxation. Sometimes they haven't practiced much, but we use the lesson time to practice together. We are all more creative. I can hear myself being a better teacher when I'm not teaching non-stop. Yes, my income took a dive. But, for me at least, it's worth it to budget ahead for summer and scrimp a little in order to slow down and recharge.

Life has a rhythm. There is day, and there is night. There are seasons for growing, and seasons for (gasp) not growing but gathering energy to support future growth. Living things are cyclic - plants die back in the winter and shoot up in the spring. Bears hibernate. Why do we humans believe that we are not subject to the same forces of nature? It's too bad that our culture expects us to behave as though we are machines.

A musical composition needs rests. It needs slow movements to offset the fast ones. An effective performance needs changes in tempo and mood. To craft our lives well, we need to allow some balance between fast and slow, sound and silence. Musicians ought to be the first to understand that, but (and I'm speaking for myself) sometimes I think we may be the most driven ones of all.

Food for thought:

Wayne Muller's book has strongly affected my goals for crafting a life (and schedule) that makes sense.

Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives

Here's an article that I think makes a good case for taking breaks while practicing your instrument, or scheduling a few minutes of a break into your teaching day:

Relax! You'll Be More Productivev

I hope you're having a restful summer!


Heidi said...

This is so true! It made me think of one of my ancestors- Jesse Knight who ran a mine and gave all his workers the Sundays off but paid them more throughout the week to compensate for the lost day. They were actually more productive/successful than workers in neighboring mines because they got the necessary rest to work harder throughout the week.
I'm enjoying the "rests" during this summer too!

Jenny Bay said...

Thanks for this wonderful post!

Anya said...

Ahh... this is refreshing, Laura. Thanks! [...I've been a reeeally lazy blogger this summer, too! :-) ] It's good to slow down, though, -- thanks for reminding us!