100 days

Have you ever tried to do a 100 day challenge? Or do something everyday for 100 days? Well, neither had I until this year! I got introduced to the 100 day practice challenge through a blogger that I follow, who is an orchestra teacher like myself, who has some of the most amazing and brilliant ideas! She wrote a blog post about teaching students how to practice and within the post talked about the 100 days of practice challenge that Hillary Hahn had begun on Instagram. She linked some amazing examples from Hillary Hahn’s own practice journey to show her students that practicing is not just playing a piece over and over again and if you get it wrong, going through the same passage again. But instead, there are different techniques that you can use while practicing and a ton of different ways to practice. Hillary Hahn has videos of herself playing through sections, working sections and repeating them over and over again, but she also has a couple videos up in which she is working her fingers with finger taps, working on wrist angles, playing position, or even listening and reflecting on how a certain passage sounded when she performed. Becoming more curious about this challenge, I began looking on Instagram for other musicians taking part in the challenge.

As I watched others being vulnerable, I began to think about what a cool opportunity it would be for me to be a part of this challenge. I have always been one who enjoys practicing and working on my craft, but being a full time teacher, I am very limited in my time. I so miss the days at Evangel, in which I could spend 5-6 hours with my instrument in a practice room, working, and perfecting my pieces. At first practicing 5-6 hours seemed insane, but as I began working towards that and it became a habit, it eventually felt like my new normal. Well I definitely do not have the 5-6 hours of time that I had back in those days to practice, but I have been able to do about 30 min- 1 hour of practice everyday for about 80 days, and that is AMAZING to me! (Pat on the back) I am so proud of myself!

While I really enjoy practicing, 100 days of practice has definitely been a lot harder than I anticipated it would be at the start. But i guess It’s supposed to be a challenge right,?! I mean it’s in the title! Although it has been a challenge due to my crazy schedule, I am so incredibly proud of myself for continuing. So maybe you are wondering what I have learned through this experience and/ or what I have enjoyed about it so far? Well let me tell you…

First, I have always been a hard worker and very determined, so I knew that this would really help me with this challenge. I knew that I would have to make it a priority and I would have to set aside times throughout the evenings or days to practice. That was going to be the toughest part, so I decided right away to give myself a limit for the time I was going to spend each day practicing. I have always been able to make myself do certain things… i set my mind to doing something and it will usually get done! This is a wonderful blessing and but can sometimes be a curse… for instance, if I have it in my mind that I have to knock out a blog post or get something done, but I don’t have the time in the day to do it, I don’t just shift my plan and give it more time, I usually stick to the plan and work like a beast to get it done! It is not always the best for my health. That was another reason i knew i would need to give myself some guidelines for my practices, one being specific time frames. So, I decided to limit my practice sessions each day to about 30 min- 1 hour. I knew that some days I might have more time than others and that was alright… and the days I didn’t have much time, I would have to be fine with just doing 30 min of work.

Second, there are always going to be good days and bad days and my practice sessions were the same. Some days were really great practice days, ones in which all my runs were working and my fingers seemed to play everything really well, and then there were others in which I couldn’t play anything well. On the days that were rough, I wouldn’t want to post anything on Instagram, but I had to realize that not everything in life is perfect and I am being vulnerable and real. Not every day would be a great day and that is alright… I am practicing and working through concertos, reviewing materials, and working on etudes for personal growth. This was also an opportunity for me to share my journey with my students and let them know that it is alright to not always be perfect- Some days may be harder than others when it comes to practicing. Although there have been rough practice sessions and sometimes a challenge to post, I have still found a way to post something in regards to my practice journey.

Third, I have had to work on not comparing myself to other instrumentalists doing this challenge. It is so easy to look at others, hear their practice sessions, listen and see their growth, or even the number of views they are receiving and compare myself to them. I guess it is just like anything else on social media, we can always find others to compare ourselves to. Seeing others posting videos every day, made me feel pressed to post a video every single day. As far as their playing abilities and growth, I had to realize that others may have more time in their day to practice and to record themselves and post. Since I have limited time and some days have been filled with performances and/ or rehearsals, I had to realize that on those days I would have to be alright with just posting a picture and discussing my practice habits that day or what i was working on. As far as comparing myself to others and the pieces they are performing, I changed my mindset to thinking about my growth. I know that by working so hard, challenging myself to practice each day that I will be getting better as a violinist and that should be my aim!

I have enjoyed doing this challenge and giving myself something to work on and grow through. I have also really enjoyed watching other people around the world join in and participating in this challenge. I have also been able to meet some new acquaintances and have been challenged through their playing. I will be working on auditioning again this year for the regional symphony in my area, which has been a daunting task for me. I have been let down every time I have auditioned for this group, and while I know that I am a good violinist, the feeling of not being good enough and inadequate has clouded my brain. It has caused me to think less of myself as a performer and has caused me to become very negative, and loose confidence that I may ever get in. This has been a huge struggle in my life… I have auditioned for this group for the last 10 years and have been an on-call violinist for them going on 6 years now. So this is my next challenge and why I am practicing so hard! I think as people, whatever area or season of life we are in, we should always be striving to get better or grow through something. If you don’t have anything you are working towards right now, I challenge you to find a challenge online or create a challenge for yourself. This challenge has also helped me find new ways of challenging my students and seeing them grow.

Here’s to the next 20ish days and who knows maybe I’ll do another round of the 100 day challenge. ErinRuscel

Interested in watching my journey- look on Instagram @erinruscel

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