if you took music lessons as a child, you were almost certainly enjoined to practise regularly. that’s how you progress to a decent level of proficiency—you’re assigned a challenge, and you chip at it until you’ve mastered it and you’re ready to move on to the next one. as a sometime music teacher myself, i certainly try to instill the value of regular practice in my own students.
but there’s another sense to the word. when a doctor practises medicine, she’s not making repeated attempts to master a skill until one day it goes well. rather, she’s engaging in the field to which she’s been called.
when we talk about spiritual practice, we sometimes get the meanings of this word confused. as in, “the more i practise meditation, the better i get at it.” that’s using the first sense of the word. but meditation is really a practice in the second sense—a significant commitment, one of the meaningful things i do with my life.
music, too, is such a practice. it’s a discipline you live out in a committed way—with colleagues, in the moment, on the stage. or less publicly, walking down the street open to the rhythm of your heart and the birdsong in the wind.
it’s good, i think, to commit yourself to the practice of music. whether or not you go home after and practise.
(repurposed from myspace, march 15, 2009)