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Practicing: A Musician's Return to Music.

* Practicing: A Musician's Return to Music, by Glenn Kurtz. Vintage, a division of Random House, 2008.; (800) 793-2665; 239 pp. $13.95.


From the title, one would think Glenn Kurtz wrote a "how to" book on the art of practicing. Yet, this book is an autobiography, Kurtz's exploration of what it means to practice and his poignant struggle with ideals and disillusionment. It is an interesting read for a practicing musician wishing to relive the times he or she went through as an undergraduate, striving to become the best performer possible and perhaps achieve that elusive goal of a career in music. For us, as professional musicians (a singer and a pianist), this book inspired a discussion about how musicians think about their careers, the attitude it takes to pursue music and what it means to enjoy the process of practicing, studying and spending our lives with music. For a beginning musician, Practicing is a touching story of a journey that leads to emotional turmoil and personal decisions of what a career in music can mean. It is a story of a love affair with an instrument, but as we see at the end of the book, a one sided affair.

The book begins with Kurtz's love for the guitar and the lessons taken, and the hours of practice a student of music must undergo. It is chock full of marvelous quotes about practice and art by Casals, Menuhin, Segovia, Rousseau, Landowska, Martha Graham and many others from all fields of artistic endeavor, showing Kurtz's aspirations of achieving the heights with the stars of classical music. Perhaps this is why in the end he was not able to attain his goals of a professional career.

We also follow Kurtz through his days at the New England Conservatory and his senior recital, and then his experiences during his two years in Vienna. He studied in Vienna, which he had put on a pedestal of importance in music history and which, after his first Don Giovanni, was also lessened because the performance was not perfect, maybe foretelling his disillusionment with music and the guitar. The reality of the world of music did not seem to match the world of musical dreams and imagination.

Kurtz enters a professional world removed from music but does come to realize that perfection is an unattainable goal. He returns, after years of not playing, to his instrument, his "love" again. In fact after the publication of this book and the glowing reviews it has received, he has begun a new start to his guitar career, judging and taking part again in the world of the guitar.

Practicing is perhaps most valuable for classical guitarists, in that there is always a comparison of the guitar to the rest of the music world; indeed, there is a long history of the guitar and other strummed or plucked instruments, along with analysis of guitar compositions and brief biographies of guitar virtuosi and composers. As teachers and performers, we also found this book could be valuable as a text for group discussion in career development courses or even applied studios.--Reviewed by Donald George, Crane School of Music--SUNY Potsdam and Lucy Mauro, West Virginia University

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Author:George, Donald
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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