The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness.
In the fall of 2004 a group of medical professionals, musicians, music educators, and representatives from over twenty music organizations and associations came together in a historic conference, Health Promotion in Schools of Music (HPSOM), in Fort Worth, Texas. They focused their efforts on research and collaboration, and on methods for integrating wellness information into the university music curriculum. Since that time, many of the participants have been motivated to further these goals, and as a result workshops, courses, and publications have proliferated in the ensuing years. Gerald Klickstein, one of the HPSOM participants, shares what he has learned in over thirty years as a performing musician and music educator along with adding a comprehensive synthesis from the research and experience of many of his colleagues in The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness.
The work goes beyond wellness issues; it lays out a systematic approach to preparation for musical performance. Klickstein covers the gamut of issues, tips, and ideas that make up the world of the serious musician. His section on "Artful Practice," includes organization skills like scheduling practice and choosing materials, as well as guidance in forming good practice techniques and habits, warming up, the various processes of learning music, memorization, musical collaboration, and the like. "Fearless Performance" includes information about performance anxiety, as well as guidance in becoming a performing artist with information such as backstage techniques, connecting with the audience, dealing with errors, designing concert programs, auditions, and working in the recording studio. "Lifelong Creativity" covers details on injury prevention, wellness, creativity, and tips for succeeding as a student and professional musician. Even though there is a separate section on wellness issues, wellness tips and ideas are skillfully integrated throughout the work. Klickstein backs up each section with a good list of resources which allows for further exploration. As I have found in other mature works that have fully digested the existing literature from a variety of fields, he includes wise advice and illustrative anecdotes, all framed by inspirational quotes from famous musicians and other artists and wellness practitioners. There are other works that go much more deeply into many of the issues and topics covered, but none covers as broad an array in such a concise and informational way.
The Musician's Way is likely to become an important addition to every musician's reference shelf as well as an excellent tool to use for supporting some interesting course work. It is formatted so that it may be applied to classroom use, as is noted by some vendors who are advertising it as a textbook. Klickstein provides a methodical presentation which is outlined with numbered lists that make it easy to preview the main points of a section or to review the material at a later time. He includes models for each step of the learning process and uses many pictures, charts, and music examples to illustrate the lessons. While the book is certainly full of prescriptive lists, it also provides a flexible foundation which allows for individual modification and interpretation. Although Klickstein frames his work "around the learning environment of first-year, university-level music students performing in the Western music traditions" (p. vi), it reads easily enough for the sophisticated beginner, includes a level of substance and organization that can also guide the more advanced student, and provides good tips and reminders for the professional musician.
Klickstein brings his work into the twenty-first century by providing an accompanying Web resource (available at http://www.musiciansway.com/ [accessed 17 February 2010]) that offers additional information and updates to the material. He has included links to resources for instrumentalists and singers, a place to sign up for his newsletter, and access to his accompanying blog, which allows musicians and music students to interact with the author and share their own insights on the material. The Web site also includes an area related to the promise of a future course titled "Foundations of Creativity" which will use The Musician's Way as a text and provide musicians with an opportunity to "acquire comprehensive musical skills in a dynamic group setting" (http://www.musiciansway.com/foundations.shtml [accessed 17 February 2010]). Klickstein's goals for this work are to "enhance practice and performance skills, expand musical knowledge, overcome performance anxiety, foster creativity, collaborate amicably, build music careers, boost health and prevent music-related injuries, and become productive artists" (http://www.musiciansway.com [accessed 17 February 2010]). This is a tall order!
In his inaugural blog entry from 22 July 2009 (http://musiciansway.com/blog/?p=18 [accessed 17 February 2010]), Klickstein says that his work seeks "to help close the gap between what we musicians typically learn during our schooling and what we actually need to know." In my own experience and that of many music students and faculty I have taught, performed with, and assisted for more than three decades, I would say this statement hits the mark. While I was presented with many of these ideas over the course of studying in several music studios over the years, the information was never as clearly and meticulously articulated as in Klickstein's work. Most of the wellness information students of my vintage learned came from the school of hard knocks along with good medical practitioner karma when luck was with you, diligent research, and lots of hard work. The existing wellness literature written by musicians reflects similar experiences to my own along with an impassioned need to help educate fellow musicians by sharing their hard-won knowledge. I have found in the course of helping music students do research and in teaching my own musician wellness course that students hunger for this kind of knowledge.
While most of the information can be utilized directly by students themselves, some of the ideas may not be easy for music students to realize on their own. For example, the setup of practice rooms comes more into the purview of the music department's responsibility. Klickstein's work has the potential to help fill educational gaps identified by the participants of the HPSOM conference and to become a major resource and catalyst for change if the ideas are adopted by musicians, music educators, and especially institutions that educate musicians.
Klickstein's title has a certain familiarity that gave me pause before I dove into my reading. I wondered about its purpose and possibly its marketing motivation. Although the work may not be as poetic as the Tao Te Ching or as focused on spiritual restoration of the creative spirit as Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (New York: J. P. Tarcher, 2002), Klickstein does manage to keep some of the spirit of these works to which his title implies a familial relationship. Both modern works are methodical in their presentation, use outlines, boxed lists, and other pedagogical tools; and both are filled with copious quotes from famous creative geniuses whose wisdom punctuates the pages and underscores well-made points. Cameron has sold well over one million copies, launched an entire movement, trained others to spread her work, written additional books, and has become well known in the field of art. Will The Musician's Way be the catalyst in the field of music teaching and learning that makes the changes many, including those who attended the HPSOM conference, would like to see? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, I suggest you enjoy a good, thought-provoking read!
DEBORAH L. PIERCE
University of Washington
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|Author:||Pierce, Deborah L.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2010|
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