Re-Calibrate

It’s hard to believe that winter break is about to start; time has flown by as I have practiced my trumpet and written music theory reviews. Although the break signals that my time in Propel is ending, I am glad that I am going to have time to both rest and practice my trumpet. Both of which are things that I have felt I needed to do more of over the last month, with my busy schedule.

My current plan for my practice over the break is to spend an hour or two in both the morning and evening every day. When practicing I want to take my time and have short breaks as I need to prevent my lips from wearing out. These breaks will also give myself time to think about something else so I don’t drive myself crazy and allow me to refocus so I can enhance my performance in practice. In addition, I want to incorporate one or two days where all I do for the day is practice. When I get back from the break I would like to have one of my two pieces finished and be a majority of the way through the other one.

I want to make sure that I also use the break to relax. Over the last few months, I have felt overwhelmed with all the activities I have been taking on inside and out of school like the school’s musical, choral celebration and the open houses for the Canadian Mennonite University and the University of Manitoba. I am also going to try and get plenty of sleep with this time off.

The holiday break is going to allow me to relax and re-calibrate my brain while also getting even more time to practice. When I come back well-rested from the break, I’ll be ready to tackle the last month of Propel with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

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Organization?

A few weeks ago, the class was asked to find and implement three strategies to keep us organized when working. This request came about because students had let some of their B tasks slide until the point where they had become A tasks and were taking priority over their work on their projects. The three strategies I found were: scheduling breaks to give me time to refocus so that I can approach whatever task I am working on next re-energized and ready to work, Using the reminders or calendar app on my iPod to make sure I don’t forget important dates, and preventing myself from getting sucked into conversations happening around me and getting distracted from working. Looking back, I wonder if I implemented these strategies effectively and if I have been organized these last few weeks.

 

When working throughout the day, I have implemented times where I can refocus my thoughts. An example of one of these times is the break I will take before I head off to band at lunch. This has provided me time to straighten out my thoughts so that when I return to class after band I can get right back into work. I have also occasionally taken short couple minute breaks after working on B tasks like creating PowerPoints for Phys.Ed assignments, and I felt that it has had a positive effect much like the break I take before lunch. However, the only situation I have found that this strategy doesn’t work as effectively is when I am working at home. I have found that when I take a break at home I have the tenancy to continue extending the amount of time I am breaking for. This has lead to situations where I didn’t get any work done because I had pushed back going back to work until I needed to go to bed. I believe that this problem stems from the amount of distractions I have at home like video games, and TV in general. I believe this strategy has worked well for when I need to work at school, but could use some changes to be more effective at home. An example of a change I am considering is to use breaks a little more like a reward at home and withhold playing video games until I finish research for a health assignment, or study music theory, etc.

 

I have used my calendar an increasing amount the last few weeks to keep myself on top of important dates and events, like the University of Manitoba open house. I have also used reminders frequently to remind myself of little details, like returning my in-term report for Drivers Ed. This has helped me keep track of all the things that I have going on in my busy life. The only time I have ever had problems with this strategy is when I forget to create a reminder or input a date into my calendar. However, I believe this problem is due to being new to setting reminders and using the calendar app, so I imagine that this problem will go away with more frequent use of the apps.

 

To get more work done I have been trying my hardest to prevent myself from being drawn into conversations happening around me. To achieve this, I have listened to music to block out what’s going on around me, moved to a place where I am not as close to the people I chat with, and simply willing myself to not pay attention to what other people are doing. Implementing this organizational strategy has been a bit rocky because I am naturally a very social person but have found that when I am not paying attention to what other people are doing, my productivity has skyrocketed. I have had some challenges with listening to music to block out distractions, and simply willing myself to not be distracted. This is because I find that I start focusing on the music instead of my work, and willing myself not to be distracted doesn’t do anything. However, when I move to a location where I am further away from people to talk to, I have found the most success. If I more frequently move away to an area without distractions I believe this strategy would be more effective into the future.

 

I believe that I have been fairly organized over these last few weeks because of my use of the three strategies I chose. However, like most things, I believe that there is room for improvement specifically in how I implement these strategies into my day.

Staying On Track!

On Tuesday I had a short conference with Mr. Hansen. The purpose of this was to look over my Gantt chart and see if I was on schedule with my project. This has been a big concern for me because I have spent a lot of time out of the classroom for events, in addition to the mound of after school activities I am apart of. So when Mr. Hansen informed me that I was keeping up with my timeline I was exceedingly happy. However, I am going to need to take that happy and put it aside because I need to work harder towards completing some of my milestones.

I haven’t checked off as many boxes as I would have liked to this week and I communicated this fact to Mr. Hansen. To be specific I need to up my game in terms of my music theory studying because I have yet to find the teacher who is going to mark my end of chapter reviews. This is an integral part of my theory studying that isn’t yet in place so I am going to go out and talk to the candidates I have lined up for it so that I can keep my Propel machine moving. A smaller problem I have is that haven’t incorporated theory time into my schedule. My schedule is in itself problem because I need to rejig it a little bit so that it is more focused on practicing as opposed to being “Everything that Kelsen Hadder is doing today and for the rest of his time on our measly planet”. I have already brainstormed what I want the schedule version 2.0 to look like so I am going to get to changing it promptly, and placing theory time into it.

I was really happy and satisfied with how I’ve been staying on track when I left my Propel meeting. The truth of the matter is that I’m not going to stay on track for long if I don’t address what needs to be done and start checking off some boxes on my action plan. I’m barely out of the class next week, a revelation that would have saddened “Elementary School Kelsen”. However “High School Kelsen” is glad he can bunker down and check off some boxes on his action plan, because he realizes that if he doesn’t he’s  going to go off the tracks right into the pit of failure.

 

Lessons Out Of Lessons

The beginning of the 2016 summer break, my dad and I are in the car driving around a young neighborhood. Freshly built houses surround us as we navigate, each of them with a similar brown-beige paint adorning their cookie cutter exteriors. As we traverse the ocean of sameness, we spot our destination across from the construction site of a new elementary school. I get out and grab two folders filled with sheet music and my trumpet. My dad and I approach the house and knock on the front door. A kind faced man sporting a beard answers the door and lets us in. Before I know it, my dad has driven off and my first trumpet lesson has started. The lesson was 30 minutes but it went by remarkably fast. We talked about my playing experience, my goals with lessons, I played some pieces to give my teacher an idea of where I’m at, and before I knew I was back in the car with my dad. As we drove back home a feeling of excitement and the drive to improve had overtaken me. I couldn’t wait for my next lesson. 

Leaving my most recent lesson on the 17th what I felt was the furthest thing from the excitement that I had experienced before. The lesson started at 9:30 and was to go until 10:30. I sat down with my teacher and went to play the scale studies I had practiced throughout the week. Unlike my first lessons and any other before it I was anxious. The study that I had practiced for hours sounded horrible and to make it worse teacher noticed that my playing was being affected by my tension. We transitioned to rhythmic studies. I played through the first of the rhythmic studies without too much of a problem but when I got to the studies focusing on off-beat rhythms I started having problems. my counting was getting off causing me to play the rhythms incorrectly. My teacher brought out some simple sight reading  exercises to get me to really think about counting. Despite their simplicity I couldn’t play them correctly.  

My lesson time ran out, my  teacher told me to focus on playing through the simple exercises during the week, and I left my teachers house. Stepping out into the night with my trumpet in hand, I noticed that my dad hadn’t come back to pick me up yet. I sat on the curb and began to wait, alone in the dark. The newly built school was in front of me and my trumpet sat beside me in its case. In their company, I broke down. I was angry at myself for not playing the study I had practiced all week, for not being able to play the rhythm studies correctly, and most of all for not being able to play a simple exercise right. I began to tear up. How was I supposed to play an audition for the University of Manitoba when I was incapable of playing a simple rhythmic exercise?  

Headlights approached me from down the road. The car they came from I recognized as my dad’s. With help from my sleeve I dried my eyes, grabbed my trumpet and stood up. My dad pulled up to me and I got in the car. For the ride home and the rest of the evening I didn’t feel like myself. I stared out the window of the and avoided conversation or eye contact with my dad because I kept tearing up as I would think about the money that he and my mom had spent on me because I wanted to pursue music. Guilt swelled within me as I entertained the thought that I was wasting their money. When we got home I went straight to my room and into bed. As I passed into an unhappy sleep I thought of just giving up on music altogether. 

I woke up the next morning, and to my own surprise I felt excited. I was ready to go back to practicing my instrument. Anger and unhappiness from the night before were gone, and in their place sat the drive to improve. I wanted to practice what had been assigned to me until it was perfect. As I went through my morning routine I realized I felt the same way I had leaving my first lesson. I thought about this, and I realized that I needed to approach my practicing as if I was starting from the beginning again. I needed to acknowledge that I was still improving and that I wouldn’t be perfect at everything I play. Most importantly I needed to keep moving forward and not my shortcomings and failures prevent me from practicing and improving. 

Ready, Set, Work!

I can’t believe it’s already October. September zoomed by like a bullet train and left me wondering if I’ve done enough work on my project so far. I have received permission to use the band room in the afternoon which has allowed me to practice my trumpet more during school hours, and I have been experimenting with recording trumpet using a handheld recorder lent to me by Mr. Hansen.

These small successes have had their fair share of challenges associated with them. I had to completely change my big picture goals after my session of working on my project after discovering that recording your audition for university isn’t possible. This meant that I had to shift my project focused on learning how to record brass correctly and creating a university audition tape to demonstrate what I’ve learned to a project focused almost entirely on preparing for the university audition with a little bit of recording sprinkled in. I am thankful that I had this shift early into my propel experience because it prevented the creation a project that wouldn’t serve a purpose while also derailing my project plan.

Coming into October I’ve gotten my project back on the rails and I’m excited to get working. In this first week I have plans to get into a more rigorous trumpet practice schedule getting a minimum two hours of practice a day focusing on beautiful sound and articulation, recording a trumpet piece using the handheld recorder lent to me, and drafting an email to a U of M trumpet major to get advice on entrance auditions. The biggest challenge I can see in this next week is my lips getting tired and preventing me from practicing so I’ll have to break up my practicing sessions with intermediate breaks. I have a feeling that this month is going to go by just as fast as the first and I’ll left saying:

“I can’t believe it’s already November.”

Impressions

If I was to use two adjectives to describe my first two weeks in Propel they would be: “Exciting” and “Strange”. Exciting because I am experiencing a type of school that is completely new to me and because I have been able to connect with new people and make friends. Strange because I am completely separated from the normal classes at Nelson McIntyre. The isolation of the program makes me feel like I’m missing out on what’s happening in normal classes. For the first time, I feel sad that other students are in Chemistry and I’m not. However, this strangeness is to be expected with the drastic change in my class structure and schedule.

I am lucky to be surrounded by my fellow Propellers who have been some of the kindest people I’ve met. It was surprising when I awkwardly sat down in class the first day and could have a conversation with someone that I didn’t know at all. By the time that we left that day I felt comfortable talking with a small group of people, and at the end of the week I felt like I could strike up a conversation with anyone in the class.

The friendly Propel community is going to be a great support for working on my project and I’m excited to start laying out a project plan and start working. Planning is also the part of the project process that I’m the most worried about. This is because I’m scared of creating a bad plan, or planning too much and create a sub-par project because of bad time management. These worries don’t mesh well with the strangeness that I already feel from starting Propel, but I know that once I get working all these negative feelings will evaporate into thin air.