Jean Croker Petke

When Hard Work Shows Up

I’ve often written on this blog about doing our work, doing our practice, taking small steps, one after the other. Our small, consistent efforts accumulate over time. Eventually we can see the difference.

In 2015 I began learning Beethoven’s sonata, opus 109. Since then I’ve learned and memorized both the first and second movements. I was hoping to skip the third movement (a theme with six variations) because I believed it was beyond my ability. The theme is simple, lovely, and slow, but variation VI has pages of trills in one hand while the other hand plays “thousands” of thirty-second notes. In my opinion, such music is best left to professional pianists. But Dr. B believes in learning an entire piece of music, so I had my assignment.

I delayed starting on it for several days. I felt defeated even before I began. Finally I began my feeble attempts to play the notes at a snail’s pace. After a few weeks of  work, I said to Dr. B, “I need help! I just don’t know how to play this.” He patiently explained techniques and practice methods, and explained the fine details of the tough spots.

During the few years I’ve been Dr. B’s student I’ve learned his practice techniques work. So I continued to work according to his suggestions.

After practicing variation #6 week after week, I finally began to see the possibility of actually playing it myself. Something  had clicked. Something had changed. A few hints of real music came from my piano, sounds that were more than a jumble of notes haltingly played. With a bit of progress, I felt encouraged to work even harder.

At my last lesson Dr. B and I worked for an hour and a half on Beethoven’s theme and variations. Page by page I played, he commented, then I played again, trying to incorporate his suggestions. After I played variation #6, the dreaded impossible variation, he said, “You’ve really improved! Good work!”

I was thrilled that my weeks of hard work had actually showed up at my lesson. My “home playing” and my “lesson playing” were the same. That doesn’t always happen — but that day it did.

He knows, and I know, I still have a long way to go. We both know I will continue to work hard and eventually I will get there. What was once impossible is now possible.

I write about music because it’s what I know best. What’s true of learning new music and the discipline is practice, works for anything else you want to accomplish.

Show up. Do your work. And keep doing your work. And then work some more.

Claim the results when they show up in your life.

Until next Tuesday . . .